Card-carrying medical marijuana patients won't be able to get the controversial substance in Mountain View for the foreseeable future.
In a close vote on Tuesday, the voted 4 to 3 to extend the current prohibition on the establishment, maintenance and operation of marijuana dispensaries in Mountain View. Members cited as their reasons staff recommendation that the draft ordinance, which would allow the dispensaries, still needed more work because of a lack of guidance from county, state and federal laws—and also new public safety concerns raised by the .
“I didn’t support it last year and I don’t support it now,” said Mayor , who voted in the majority along with Margaret Abe-Koga, Ronit Bryant and Laura Macias. “It doesn’t mean it will go away forever, but it will for right now.”
The issue of whether to allow dispensaries in Mountain View came before the City Council again because the temporary ordinance that prohibited them, and which passed in April 2010, sunsets on April 8, 2011. The council, which had tasked city staff to research and draft a new ordinance after a study session in June 2010, now needed to decide how to proceed.
The city attorney’s office, the community development department and the MVPD recommended to the City Council that it extend the moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries. Staff wanted to allow time for the inclusion of potential guidelines being prepared by the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office, and also wanted to see the outcome of pending criminal cases in the county and in San Jose.
Staff presented the council with certain alternatives: Extend the prohibition for a year, extend it indefinitely, or bring to council the current Environmental Planning Commission recommendation and draft ordinance. For a moment, the votes appeared to be split among the alternatives 2-3-2, respectively. But the proponents, who pushed for the third alternative, couldn’t swing the votes their way.
"The general consensus last year was that they were going to go ahead with a compassionate ordinance. Now they've changed their mind," said Brian David, a Mountain View resident who wanted to open a dispensary in the city. He said he felt the city "dropped the ball" on this issue.
"Ronit, I believe, was key on that, and she decided to go against it," he said.
Out of all the council members, Bryant seemed to have had the greatest change of heart. She shared publicly her sympathy for people in pain, because she herself survived cancer. However, “I’ve had a year to think about it,” she said.
“People should be able to go to a pharmacy and get it there,” Bryant said, adding that though she voted for Proposition 215 in 1996, she didn’t realize that 14 years later, the state still wouldn’t have a clear law. “I don’t want staff to spend time on this without federal or state guidelines.”
Those in the majority also agreed that if Mountain View did move forward with the consideration and approval of an ordinance, the city would become the only municipality between San Francisco and San Jose to have done so—bringing unnecessary attention to city.
"I don't know if we want to be first," said Abe-Koga, who implied that this may not be the best thing for Mountain View. "This is a moving target. We should wait. I don't think we should be the first out of the gate."
Among the dissenters, Tom Means and John Inks supported alternative three, while Mike Kasperzak wanted to extend the prohibition between six months and a year.
The majority of the council members had not seen the draft ordinance and voted for the extension regardless.
"It's really disappointing to see that again we have a City Council that's really just being cowards about it. They don't want to be the first ones," Rutherford said, as she emphasized that the state guidelines have been in effect for 15 years. "They are afraid to even bring the ordinance up for a read!"
Rutherford dismissed some of the comments by the council that the majority of residents who showed up from Mountain View to speak on the issue were opposed to the dispensaries.
"That's kind of ridiculous," she said, and added that though people may be qualified medical patients, they don't have employee rights here in California and could get fired. "So, of course, people aren't going to want to come out and say, 'Hi, I'm a medical marijuana user.'"
The next step for patients of medical marijuana and their advocates, according to Lauren Vásquez, the attorney and former director of ASA, will be to try to get ballot measures in the different cities in Santa Clara County, including in Mountain View.
Raising the "political hot potato" again during election season was one thing Kasperzak sought to avoid. However, Macias, who clearly stated her opposition from the start, didn't seem concerned with the politics.
"At the end of the day, we need to see what's best for our city," she said.