After a nearly two-month pause, the city of Napa is resuming the process of effectively banning medical marijuana dispensaries within city limits.
On Thursday, the Napa Planning Commission is scheduled to sign off on the repeal of the city’s medical marijuana dispensary ordinance, making it illegal for dispensaries to operate within city limits. The move, which will need to be finalized by the City Council, follows an August decision by the council to proceed with a ban.
In August, the council voted 4-1 to begin the process of repealing the ordinance that would have allowed a dispensary. Except for Peter Mott, who voted against the ban, the council took the position that the move was the safest way to protect the city from federal prosecution.
Shortly after the council’s action, the U.S. Department of Justice issued a memo to state attorneys detailing the way they should prosecute dispensaries and the jurisdictions in which they operate. However, the latest memo states the federal government’s priority moving forward will be to ensure dispensaries adhere to a set of standards.
Jurisdictions that allow dispensaries should have laws that prevent the distribution of marijuana to minors, prevent revenue from marijuana sales from going to criminal enterprises, prevent marijuana distributions from being a cover for other illegal drug distribution or trafficking, and prevent violence and the use of firearms from being involved in marijuana distribution, the Justice Department said.
In 2010, the council passed an ordinance that would allow one strictly regulated medical marijuana dispensary to open in town. A year later, just as the council was about to name a collective that could open in Napa, the city put its law on hold due to a court battle over a similar ordinance in another California city and aggressive prosecution of dispensaries by the federal government.
City Attorney Michael Barrett was not available Tuesday to elaborate on why Napa’s ordinance would not be safe from prosecution based on the latest Justice Department position.
A city staff report on the matter explains that the city could still be taken to court over a dispensary. Additionally, the law surrounding marijuana dispensaries is “rapidly evolving and convoluted,” according to the city staff report.
“Regardless of the (federal memorandum), implementation of the ordinance would still be complicated and potentially legally vulnerable due to patent conflicts between federal and state law,” the staff report says.
The federal government still holds any use of marijuana as illegal, and the memo notes that jurisdictions that have legalized medical marijuana dispensaries may still be subjected to legal action. The federal memorandum does not give cities any new rights, according to the city attorney’s office.
The Planning Commission meeting will begin at 7 p.m. on Thursday in City Council Chambers at City Hall, 955 School St.