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Napa Votes 3-2 To Repeal Medical Pot Ordinance

Council members in favor of the repeal said the dispensary would increase access to marijuana for youth.

After a three-hour debate, including speeches from more than two dozen citizen commenters, Napa City Council voted 3 to 2 in favor of repealing its three-year-old medical marijuana ordinance.

As they did in August, Mayor Jill Techel and City Councilmembers Juliana Inman and Alfredo Pedroza voted in favor of the repeal.

Techel said she would have no problem granting medical marijuana to the seriously ill in Napa who could get pain and symptom relief. A total of 271 people have medical marijuana cards in Napa, according to testimony Tuesday.

"It's the 90 percent (who have cards but who are not ill) that concerns me," Techel said.

Voting against the repeal and to move forward to implement the ordinance were  City Councilmen Peter Mott and Scott Sedgley. Sedgley said he was changing his position from his vote in August in favor of the repeal because of new research he has done in the intervening months, he said.

The ordinance, which has never been implemented, would have permitted one city-regulated medical marijuana dispensary in Napa.

At least a half-dozen prominent Napa County educators -- including Napa County Superintendent of Schools Barbara Nemko --  testified Tuesday in favor of repealing the ordinance, saying that area youth didn't need anything else  to make access easier.

Law enforcement was also heavily represented in Napa County District Attorney Gary Lieberstein, Napa Police Chief Rich Melton and Napa Special Investigations Bureau Lt. Gary Pitkin.

Pitkin said 73 percent of marijuana cases his unit investigates involves people who are illegally using, growing or selling pot "under the auspices of the Compassionate Use Act," he said. The other 27 percent are legitimate medical pot users.

Speaking in favor of keeping and implementing the ordinance were Bill Iverson, head of Harmony Health and Wellness, the preferred conditional applicant to run the dispensary, and Spencer Smith of the Napa County Green Party.

"As a political party founded on the values of social justice, we believe patients have a right to safe access of medical marijuana and that this right should not be overridden by federal law," Smith said in reading from a prepared statement.

Tuesday's vote was the second time City County polled itself on the issue. In August, they voted 4 to 1 to direct the Planning Commission to begin the repeal process. At the time, Sedgley said he agreed with the majority that he didn't want to place the city at risk of violating federal law.

However, a short time after that, U.S. Attorney General James Cole issued a memo, that, in effect, said that states and local governments should handle their own regulation of medical marijuana and that the federal government was not looking to prosecute cities or counties on that issue.

Napa City staff, in recommending in favor of the repeal, said the "Cole memo" didn't really change any federal law that prohibited marijuana use -- but other speakers disagreed, saying it showed some general relaxation on the part of the federal government around the issue.

On Oct. 31, the Napa Planning Commission, in reviewing the repeal ordinance, voted 3 to 2 to recommend against the repeal, sending the matter back to the City Council for possible reconsideration.

Napa initially passed the ordinance in 2010, but didn't act on it due to pending legal problems that arose as other cities and counties grappled with the issue. Instead, the city placed a moratorium on medical pot dispensaries until the legal issues could be clarified.

As the moratorium was due to expire this year, staff asked the City Council to decide whether to repeal the ordinance, to move forward with it, or to come up with another solution, such as a de-criminalized zone for dispensaries. That request from staff for direction from City Council led to the first vote in August to repeal the ordinance.
Jasper Trout December 04, 2013 at 03:38 AM
Pathetic and cowardly city council! So disappointed in you!
MICHAEL WILSON "TEA PARTY 2014" December 04, 2013 at 11:42 AM
Great job city leaders.
Unfiltered Steve Simoneau December 04, 2013 at 02:52 PM
Listen.... You hear that? It was a collective sigh of relief from all the people who rely on illegal pot sales as income. Next up: Napa City Council attempts to stop a speeding train by building a brick wall. "We've done our research, and have found the best contractor and materials to succeed." reports Mayor Jill.
BonV December 04, 2013 at 03:49 PM
There is a very interesting article in The New Yorker a few weeks ago about the State of Washington trying to implement legal pot sales. There are dynamics to a legal pot trade that the normal person would never think about. I would highly recommend the article whether or not you are for or against a legal pot trade.
Robert Ceballos December 05, 2013 at 12:23 AM
Youth have had access to marijuana for decades (well, centuries actually) and, like it or not, will continue to find it through whatever channels they can; if someone wants it they'll get it. I'd rather young people accessed it through a dispensary than via a cartel lackey on the street. This is a loosing battle, so full of righteous pompous bluster, signifying very little in the way of stopping youth from using. like alcohol, barring some essential change in our species, marijuana won't cease to be a way to express rebellion nor a path of recreation or dealing with the difficulties in life. People use both because they feel good and augment their life in some way. But really, if you want to talk about a 'gateway' to lifelong addiction and destructiveness, a path to complete thralldom, let's be fair and give alcohol it's well-earned due. And to that point, do alcohol dispensaries (liquor stores, bars, wineries etcetera) make it easier for youth to get alcohol? Again, if youth want it, they are damned resourceful - remember being young?

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