San Bernardino Seal

By Ryan Hagen, The Sun
Posted: 07/22/14, 12:13 AM PDT | Updated: 54 secs ago

SAN BERNARDINO >> City Attorney Gary Saenz called Monday for a council committee to immediately begin studying alternative ways to enforce its medical marijuana dispensary ban, including allowing — and regulating — a small number of dispensaries.

“We will present a plan which essentially acknowledges the futility and high cost of attempting to completely eradicate marijuana dispensaries with our current system, by which we will continue to spend hundreds of thousands and eventually millions but will never significantly achieve success,” Saenz said, reading from a prepared statement. “Instead, by conceding to California’s policy of allowing marijuana use for medical purposes, and permitting dispensaries that are highly regulated, we can move the distribution of medical marijuana from the black market to the regulated market.”

Alongside that, Saenz had a message for illegal medical marijuana dispensary owners, operators, employees “and, most importantly, real property owners who persist in defiantly allowing their property to be used in violation of San Bernardino’s land-use regulations.”

“Know that it is now time for you to leave the city of San Bernardino,” he said. “… Know that formulating a new plan to effectively eliminate the operation of illegal medical marijuana dispensaries in this city has become a top priority of this city attorney.”

Penalties, fines and liens against property owners and landlords “will not be reduced, but instead aggressively imposed, enforced and collected by all appropriate legal actions,” Saenz said.

The City Council agreed to have the legislative review committee — three council members who make recommendations to the full council — discuss details of Saenz’s plan and any other input at a meeting Monday, then have the full council consider it at the next meeting, Aug. 4.

Establishing a medical marijuana dispensary has been illegal in the city since 2007, when a temporary moratorium was passed and followed by an extension of the moratorium and then a series of ordinances passed as recently as 2011.

Violators were assessed fines of $1,000 a day, but those weren’t collected and the ban wasn’t enforced its constitutionality was uncertain alongside state voters’ approval of medical marijuana use — until last year.

Only days after the state Supreme Court’s unanimous decision that cities could ban dispensaries through land-use bans such as San Bernardino’s (and Riverside’s, the city that went to the state Supreme Court), San Bernardino began raiding dispensaries and then-City Attorney James F. Penman announced an intention to shut them all down.

Administrative, criminal and civil remedies continue, Saenz said.

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