City Council Pass Last Ordinance to Ban Medical Marijuana Dispensaries

City Council Pass Last Ordinance to Ban Medical Marijuana Dispensaries

After two years of debate, City Council took the last step to ban medical marijuana dispensaries within city limits.

Though 56 percent of Imperial Beach residents voted in favor of Prop 215 and medical marijuana in 1996, City Council took the final step to ban marijuana dispensaries from operation within city limits at their July 20 meeting.

Upon Council’s recommendation, city staff amended the definition of what constitutes a medical marijuana dispensary.

Original language in the ordinance defined a medical marijuana dispensary as two or more persons that supply or cooperatively cultivate marijuana between qualified patients and primary caregivers.

In the amended version, the ordinances exempt interactions between medical marijuana patients and caregivers and the definition applies only when marijuana is supplied to four or more persons and when marijuana is cooperatively cultivated within the city by four or more persons.

Violating the ordinances may result in administrative citations and fines, civil lawsuits and penalties and nuisance abatement actions.

These ordinances do not ban the use of medical marijuana in the city for qualified patients and caregivers that have the right to possess, cultivate and use medical marijuana under state law.

Marcus Boyd, vice chair for the San Diego Chapter of Americans for Safe Access, said he has seen the first hand benefits that safe access brings to both sick and dying patients and the community at large.

He said that for two years he presented council facts of why a ban on collective cultivation is not the way to go for the city as it hurts the most vulnerable people in the community.

“After two years, you still choose to ignore them,” he said.

Boyd said council heard from several attorneys on why this ban of this nature is not legal, including City Attorney Jennifer Lyon who concurred with the San Diego Office of County Counsel.

“After hearing all of their legal advice and hearing the pending decision in the Anaheim case, it really is surprising, shocking and a little embarrassing that you would still proceed with this ordinance as it currently stands,” he said.

Boyd said though Imperial Beach is small, its citizens deserve equal representation under the law and respect for the people living and voting here.

City Manager Gary Brown recommended the Council adopt a ban based in part on the belief that dispensaries may increase crime and the cost of drafting an ordinance would be expensive.

“Although you may be done with this issue, I and the community of Imperial Beach are committed to creating regulations for safe access that comply with the San Diego County Jury’s recommendations and bring clarity to this issue, once and for all.”

In August 2009, Council adopted a moratorium for medical marijuana distribution facilities in the city which is set to expire next month.

On July 7, 2010, Council considered a response to the San Diego Grand Jury, and introduced and adopted an ordinance to extend the moratorium. Staff provided a timeline for the consideration on permanent regulations and Council reviewed and adopted the timeline in September 2010.

Staff provided Council with three options related to distribution facilities: regulate, ban or allow the moratorium to expire. After a 45-day public review process and a postponement, Council held a public hearing on June 15, 2011.

In public comments leading up to a final decision, the City Council heard from residents for and against a ban, including cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy like Briana Bilbray, Councilman Brian Bilbray’s sister. Councilman Bilbray cast the lone dissenting votes in favor of medical marijuana.

A zoning ordinance adopted by Council July 6 takes effect upon approval by the California Coastal Commission.

This is agenda item 4.1 on the July 20, 2011 City Council Agenda Packet.

Do you feel city council has given this process the due diligence it deserves? How do you think this decision by city officials could impact 2012 elections? Tell us in the comments.

2011 U.S. Open Sandcastle Competition, Imperial Beach, California

Leash-Free Dog Beach Hits Opposition at Public Hearing and Faces Uncertain Future

Leash-Free Dog Beach Hits Opposition at Public Hearing and Faces Uncertain Future

After public testimony from residents for and against the idea, City Council took the idea of a leash-free dog park in IB back to the drawing board.

The idea of a six-month leash-free dog beach trial period came to an abrupt halt after several residents living by the site location voiced their concerns at Wednesday evening’s City Council meeting.

Leash-free dogs and the mixture of everyday beach use by residents, visitors, tourists and attendees of YMCA Camp Surf and the Imperial Beach Junior Lifeguard Program as well as a local designation of the test area as a “Children’s Beach” resulted in Council reversing its support of a trial period between Palm and Carnation Avenues.

After much discussion and public comment, Council voted unanimously to direct city staff to explore previously proposed and new possible sites within city limits and away from the beach. To read more about the issue check out item 3.1 in the meeting’s agenda.

Areas of consideration before include Veteran’s Park, navy land on the corner of 9th Street and Carnation Avenue and an empty lot on Holly.

Erin Fitch, a resident since 1975, said the city needs a dog park and encouraged those in opposition to go to an established dog park and see how successful they are. She said dogs on-leash are naturally antagonistic when meeting other dogs.

“Dogs truly seem to know how to get along with each other,” Fitch said. “Even more so without leashes. I hope this moves forward. I don’t think we have much to lose but a lot to gain.”

Opposing the trial, John Warner said there is a grandmother named “BeBe” in his neighborhood gave him a riddle the other day that made him think.

“Where does a Rottweiler take a crap on the beach? Anywhere he wants,” Warner said.

He said the relevant point is there are good dog owners but conversely many irresponsible dog owners. Warner said he helped gather more than 60 signatures in a couple of afternoons from residents opposed to a dog beach in the area. He said every petitioner had his or her own story about dog encounters on the beach. “Injuries ranged from broken bones, bruises and bites to just abject fear,” he said.

Warner said the San Diego County Department of Animal Services reports 2,700-dog bites annually. He said it is essential that protection of the public be priority. He said BeBe calls that area “Children’s Beach” and it’s where she loves to take her granddaughter to play.

“If the city adopts an ordinance to compromise the health and wellbeing of this granddaughter, in the words of Bebe, ‘That would be dumber than ditchwater,'” he said. “You don’t want to litigate, you don’t want to mitigate. You don’t want to mess with an angry granny from Texas.”

Kimball Dodds said considering the idea of turning unleashed dogs loose on the beach is not smart or reasonable. State law exempts the city from liability from dog bites, placing full responsibility on the dog owner, he said.

“I would argue that poor planning with equally poor enforcement would not exonerate the city legally or morally when we have intentionally created a situation that does not address the potential for injury or loss of life,” he said.

Dodds said with thousands of dog bite reports in the county yearly, laws requiring leashes reduce the amounts of injuries. He said other dog parks and beaches in the county provide fenced in areas or natural barriers that protect the public and this proposal offers none of those safeguards and that dog issues could detract lifeguards from their primary purpose or raise the potential for injury during peak hours. A leash-free dog beach, Dodds said, is unacceptable.

“The idea of letting dogs loose in this area at any time conflicts with the traditional use of this area and introduces a situation of unreasonable hazard,” he said. “Before we establish any new test periods, we need to assess the current situation. Beach use is popular and crowding is an issue.”

Shannon Johnson, a resident, dog owner and representative of a group supporting the trial period called IB Yappy said it has collected more than 700 signatures in support of an off-leash dog park. There are approximately 1,200 licensed dogs in the city and IB Yappy has held monthly publicly advertised meetings so far and previously found little opposition.

“We have been working proactively with the city to provide us residents with a safe and healthy area for their dogs to run leash-free,” she said. “We take our commitments very seriously and have worked with whatever the city has put forth.”

Johnson said they went beyond their commitments and have support from local businesses to raise awareness, collect signatures and money to support an off-leash site.

The group Ocean Blue also agreed to provide more dog-waste bags dispensers in the area. If approved, IB Grommin’West Coast Cafe and Seacoast Pet Clinic are strong supporters of IB Yappy’s mission, she said.

Johnson said it is evident after speaking with several opponents that they had never been to any leash-free dog park.

“If they had they would realize that dogs are there to play with each other and not attack or molest human beings,” she said. “I would like to remind everyone that this is a trial, which means we are testing its suitability and usefulness. Leash-free dog areas make a better city with better neighbors, because well exercised dogs are less likely to create a nuisance, bark excessively and destroy property.”

Dick Howe is a resident on Ocean Lane and said even with leash laws, dogs run freely and continuously come to his front door from the beach. He said owners seldom follow their dogs but rather yell from the beach as his family and friends “are subjected” to the presence of unknown dogs.

“Free ranging dogs will cause families and visitors to stay away at a time when the city needs visitors to help financially,” he said.

“As far as I know there are no dog beaches in California with residences located right next to them,” he said. “Please find a location that does not negatively impact those of us who live adjacent to the proposed site. The beaches of Imperial Beach are our greatest assets and should be treated as such.”

Candy Unger spoke as a resident of Ocean Lane and member of IB Yappy and said that originally IB Yappy proposed a dog park off the beach within the city.

When staff came back with recommendation of this area of the beach, she immediately began to address her concerns with this location at the monthly meetings.

After speaking with members of the group and researching dog beaches, Unger said she put her own reservations about this location aside and did what she believed to be in the best interest of the city and the hundreds asking for an off-leash area.

“My main concern with dogs off the leash at the beach is by far safety,” Unger said. “Since development of the Old Palm Avenue street end, it seems our side of the beach, north of the jetty, has become more frequented by beach goers. During the summer, there can be thousands of people on the beach, many of them families with children. Crowded beaches with kids running and screaming, along with dogs off-leash, doesn’t seem like a good combination for anyone, especially lifeguards.”

Unger proposed specific hours for dog owners to utilize the beach early in the morning and later in the evening, to avoid crowded beach populations. She said a split shift of 6 a.m.-9 a.m. and 4 p.m.-8 p.m. is a reasonable alternative, and could avoid conflicts with the rest of the beach population, junior lifeguards and Camp Surf. “Having set hours would be a win-win situation for everyone,” she said.

Unger said an off-leash dog beach will attract more visitors to the city and that more visitors equals more revenue.

“I think we should give the trial period and the people of Imperial Beach the opportunity to test the viability of such a project,” she said.

Unger said to help mitigate the cost to the city she designed a flyer for IB Yappy’s dog beach ambassadors and volunteers to pass out on the beach to help educate visitors. The flyer contains information about the pilot program, rules of the off-leash area, important phone numbers, location map and tips for dog owner’s on their first visit. Unger left ad space on the flyer in hopes to generate money to pay for the flyers. She said along with the handout ambassadors will be educated on several dog beach topics to help the public learn the rules.

There are plans to team up with the local high school looking to fill their fulfillment for community service hours needed to graduate. IB Yappy is in contact with dog trainers and food suppliers to give classes at local businesses on dog park etiquette.

“This type of information and resources provided to the public will help make for a safe, fun and healthy trip to the beach for our dog owners,” said Unger.

Councilman Ed Spriggs said there is a large group of dog owners in the city and views are different on each side. He said the night’s discussion brought something to the table that the community had to come to grips with.

“The one thing that strikes me as important here is the proposed area for this pilot program is a multiple use area,” he said. “There is really no way to separate the dogs from beach users in this area and this is not something that I really thought about until hearing the pros and cons this evening.”

Spriggs said the fact that other dog beaches and the parks in other areas are away from residences is a second important point. Spriggs said as long as there is the issue of multiple uses there is the potential for conflict that is reason for concern.

Councilman Jim King said the ability to separate the leash-free area from the public is essential. He said the dog parks and beaches he visited separated parks from other public uses. Camp Surf and the Junior Lifeguard program are also a concern and the conflicts might be impossible to address, he said.

“At this juncture, I tend not to be able to favor this because of the issues addressed here this evening,” King said. “In particular, the separation issue presents an insurmountable problem.”

Councilwoman Lorie Bragg said from the get-go she has supported a dog park in the area, but, since the beginning, she opposed this location due to its open location to the public.

Bragg spoke to Camp Surf regarding the trial period and said their employees had no problem with dogs on their beach though they travel down the beach daily. There are no records of dog bites and fights in their part of the beach.

Camp Surf’s lifeguards do all the policing and its largest problem is marijuana smoking and teenage sex on the beach.

“Through the week, Camp Surf hosts 500 participants daily during the week and 250 on weekends,” Bragg said. “They take two trips a day from the camp to the estuary, walking all along the beach. So far they have no problems with that, but if they do they are prepared to go around the test area.”

But due to the location and its openness to the public, Bragg said she could not support this trial period at all.

Mayor Pro Tem Brian Bilbray said he is the “odd man out” again and understands the concerns that everyone has on the issue but could not just say no, because of what could happen.

“I still feel that we should go ahead and try this. It is not my top spot for the location, but this is still our only spot and I support it all the way,” he said.

Janney said he could not push for this trial period in this area because of residences in the area.

“The biggest thing here is that people live right on top of this beach,” Janney said, the owner of two dogs himself. “I think that changes the way that we look at it.”

Janney said the size of the beach has limitations and he is disappointed this is not working out as planned. He said the residential part of this makes it difficult to support.

“When we look at what we do in this community, we have to consider the immediate effects to what we are doing to next door neighbors,” he said. “I don’t know if we are going to be able to find anything else.”

Spriggs said Council needed more time to think about this before voting. He said Unger’s proposal of times was something he is willing to consider.

“Considering it is still an experiment, drastically limiting the times to diffuse the mixed use conflict are reasons for further thought and discussion,” he said.

Bragg said she was not ready to “put this issue to bed, yet” and believes a site off the beach is possible with the many recommendations from the public and staff.

“If we could bring back our list of optional sites,” she said “I think we still need to give this a bit more of due diligence.”

Do you support a leash-free dog site within city limits? Where is the best location for this? Tell us in the comments.

Long-Range Plan Looks at Imperial Beach’s ‘Big Picture’ and Redevelopment Projects

Long-Range Plan Looks at Imperial Beach’s ‘Big Picture’ and Redevelopment Projects

In the Big Picture, quality-of-life visions foresee an economically self-sustaining, pollution-free, small-town community.

As a private consultant, Greg Wade worked on “Imperial Beach-The Big Picture” in October 2000. Now as the Community Development Department director this month, he updated the City Council on the progress of the foundation he laid for the city’s vision at a meeting earlier this month.

Wade called it a community-based effort, prepared with a lot of research and community involvement.

“Included in the plan are several main objectives,” he said. “The vision remains clearly the same in many areas.”

Counciwoman Lorie Bragg said many people present were part of the plan’s creation. She said looking back, the vision never deviated and seeing so much come to fruition was “remarkable and an immense sense of joy.”

“One thing that sticks out to me is how much of this was done through redevelopment funds and we would not be where we are now without that,” Bragg said. “That to me is a really scary issue. Without a redevelopment agency we could not have accomplished three quarters of this.”

Wade had a more “emphatic picture” of redevelopment in the city, with a conservative guess that 90 percent of successful work is due to the Imperial Beach Redevelopment Agency.

“Through redevelopment expansion and fiscal planning the city maintains a balanced budget and a healthy general fund reserve,” he said.

In looking at a list of primary target areas, the city completed, made significant progress on or scrapped ideas due to circumstances beyond the city’s control, Wade said.

One main element is a hotel to replace the Seacoast Inn.
Wade said it is a viable, top-notch visitor accommodation for the city to expand upon. The 78-room, four story hotel is currently under construction and will include a restaurant, rooftop patio and conference rooms, with construction expected to be completed in late summer 2012.

Councilman Ed Spriggs said the timing was perfect with the new hotel and the project reflects ongoing efforts by the city and community. He said it addresses the balance of a family-oriented beach community against the need for growth and expanded development in San Diego’s South Bay.

“It ties in with our proposed zoning plan and so many of the developments we have been talking about,” Spriggs said. “Seacoast Drive with the new hotel surely has to be a high priority due to the amount of tourism it will attract and support our businesses that are there.

“It behooves us as a Council and a community, in keeping with this vision, to do everything we can to create this walkable, attractive, safe and enjoyable environment now that this hotel is a reality,” he said.

Mayor Jim Janney said finding a way to push absentee property owners to meet the challenge of a developing area is essential for the future of the waterfront.

“They just sit there and I cannot understand it,” he said. “I wish there was a way through redevelopment, zoning or some kind of code that could force these people to seize the opportunity.”

Many goals set for the Palm Avenue Commercial Corridor are complete or under way, Wade said.

Redevelopment of the 9th Street and Palm Avenue area began first with Wally’s Marketplace and the Imperial Beach Promenade Shopping Center, complete with a major tenant, CVS Pharmacy and commercial businesses. This was the first joint project between the city and the Imperial Beach Redevelopment Agency in 2001.

“The vision for Palm Avenue was a neighborhood-friendly, active, beautifully landscaped, well-designed and vibrant commercial corridor supporting community residents and visitors alike while generating property and sales tax and business improvement,” Wade said.

For Seacoast Drive and the waterfront, the vision includes a quaint, casual, pedestrian-oriented waterfront district with widened sidewalks to provide visitors, residents and tourists with shopping and dining opportunities, hotel accommodations and well-designed, low-scale structures with an oceanfront vibe.

One major goal of the project that was scrapped is seeking the closure of Naval Outlying Landing Field Imperial Beach or Ream Field as it used to be known.

Wade said the vision in 2000 was to develop a master plan for Ream Field that would accommodate for the city’s public works yard and work towards the closure of the Navy base and future redevelopment of the site that serves the city of Imperial Beach. Then the ideas were to develop a new college campus, industrial park, research and development facility, resort and golf course, potential housing and additional ecotourism opportunities.

“Since 9/11, events have taken a different course,” he said. “There has been an increase of operations, Navy activity and is likely no longer a base realignment and closure candidate.”

Border Field State Park plans included use as an ecotourism and cross-cultural activity area, tourist-oriented development, working with Mexico on beach improvements and shuttle service.

“Again, after 9/11 the construction of the double border fence significantly altered the park,” Wade said. “Physical access has been compromised over the past few years. Many things are a thing of the past due to heightened security.”

“The partial relinquishment of State Route 75 has been recorded,” Wade said. “We are now the proud owners of a portion of that right-of-way. That will be designed as we move forward with the Ninth and Palm Avenue Project, creating a Main Street feel for what is now a state highway.”

Keeping the Tijuana River and Pacific Ocean clean is an ongoing active mission, Wade said.

After two successful sand replenishment projects, Wade said, efforts to fight erosion have paid off. A SANDAG Regional Beach Sand Project II is scheduled to begin in April 2012 to add between 120,000 to 650,000 cubic yards of sand to the beach.

A much larger project, the Silver Strand Restoration Project with the US Army Corps of Engineers, is a federal project, congressionally authorized and awaits federal funding. This project is not expected to progress with the current state of the national economy, Wade said.

Completed in February 2009, the Palm Avenue End Project includes new sidewalks, Portwood Pier Plaza and additional on-street parking.

On Fridays, the Farmers Market at Pier Plaza is an additional attraction for residents and visitors.

For the Miracle Shopping Center on 9th Street and Palm Avenue, Wade said the city is currently negotiating a disposition and development agreement with developer Sudberry Properties. National chains like Fresh and Easy, Starbucks and Panda Express have made commitments to be tenants.

Implemented along the Palm Avenue Corridor, the Facade Improvement Program has completed renovations of 11 storefronts, two are in progress, with 15 more businesses on the waiting list. The Old Palm Avenue Streetscape Improvement Project was completed in September 2009.

Imperial Beach Boulevard and 13th Street facade improvements include three buildings, 12 businesses and pending applications for four businesses. Three different mixed-use projects have been and constructed since 2000 on 13th Street that have provided new commercial retail space.

The Bayshore Bikeway connection around the edges of the salt ponds and creating a major connection for the Bayshore Bikeway to the city is complete.

New projects completed along Palm Avenue include the new Imperial Beach Health Center and North Island Credit Union.

The visions for East Imperial Beach was neighborhoods free of gang and crime activity characterized by well-maintained residential structures, repaved and landscaped streets, alleys and sidewalks.

Working with the neighborhood revitalization strategy with gangs and drugs the overall crime rate decreased over the past 11 years, dropping 37 percent since 2006, Wade said.

“There has been an active code compliance program that has resulted in significant improvement of private property maintenance,” he said.

“And the abandoned vehicle abatement supports a half-time position and has been a very important finding for our code enforcement staff.”

Street improvement projects Phases 1 and 2 are complete. Phase 3 is in progress and Phase 4 is in design and preparing for bid. These improvements in accessibility and safety have been a continuous process for the last 11 years, he said.

The city’s Clean and Green Program resulted in energy-efficiency improvements to 63 owner-occupied single-family homes, 18 are in progress and 78 on the waiting list. Wade said this viable program combats, in a larger perspective, global warming, sea-level rise and greenhouse gas emissions.

Spriggs said although he is amazed with the progress, the city has a long way to go in some of the high-priority areas. He said Old Palm Avenue is “ripe” for continued effort.

Mayor Janney said he was amazed at what the city accomplished. He said even the little things make a big difference in the quality of life for residents of the city.

Councilman Jim King said Imperial Beach is like the “little engine that could,” making it up the hill all the way despite obstacles.

What projects are most important to you in The Big Picture? Tell us in the comments.

Dog Beach, Redevelopment Agencies and Marijuana on Wednesday’s City Council Meeting Agenda

Dog Beach, Redevelopment Agencies and Marijuana on Wednesday’s City Council Meeting Agenda

City Council will vote on ordinances pertaining to medical marijuana distribution facilities, continuing the process for a leash-free dog beach trial period and the future of the Imperial Beach Redevelopment Agency.

A public hearing could push a leash-free dog beach a step closer between Palm and Carnation Avenues. Proposed is a trial period of six months and delegation of authority to the City Manager to draft rules for use. A notice of this hearing sent to residents within 300 feet of the test area brought in more opposition to the proposed leash-free beach.

More than 50 signatures collected call for Council to reject any proposal allowing unleashed animals in public areas. Imperial Beach resident Kimball Dodds submitted a report from providing canine homicides cases in the U.S. from July 2006 to present in support of opposing the trial period.

IB Yappy entered into a cooperative agreement to assist the city with maintenance and public education during the trial period. Ocean Blue agreed to work with the city and install more dog bag dispensers as needed. Expecting an opposition turnout, IB Yappy is calling for full community support at the council meeting on its blog and Facebook.

This ordinance is a temporary lift of prohibiting dogs off leashes in public and beach areas, for evaluation of a permanent long-term off-leash area. Council will listen to public comments and staff recommends a motion to dispense first reading and place the ordinance for adoption at the August 3 city council meeting after hearing public comment. All reports, studies and recommendations are in the attached agenda packet. Fiscal impact is unknown for operation and maintenance and staff estimates between $600 and $1,000 for purchase of temporary signs.

This is Agenda item 3.1.

After a controversial decision by legislatures to dissolute redevelopment agencies, City Council is looking at the city to participate in the alternative voluntary redevelopment program.

The future status of redevelopment agencies is unpredictable as the California Redevelopment Association and the League of California Cities filed a lawsuit Monday to challenge new rules for redevelopment agencies made at the end of June as part of this year’s state budget.

Meanwhile, the city will look at two legislative options.

Option 1 is dissolution of the Imperial Beach Redevelopment Agency by October 1, 2011. Staff recommendations to council are to choose Option 2 with the city participating in the Voluntary Alternative Redevelopment Program.

Cities have until November 1 to adopt an ordinance for this program and “voluntary” remit payments through the county auditor to the State. Fiscal impact, staff estimates Fiscal Year 2011/12 payment “between $2.4 and $2.86 million” substantially dropping beyond that. Between $500,000 and $673,000 is staff’s projection for Fiscal Year 2012-2013. This ordinance will be the first step for the city to “opt in.”

This is Agenda item 3.2

Total city expenditures up for ratification by council for $414,221.21, including $176,331.02 for city payroll ending 06/30//2011. This is Agenda Item 2.1.

SDG&E Public Affairs Manager Claudia Valenzuela will address City Council and the public with the presentation “2011 Summer Outlook & Conservation Tips on Energy.” There is no staff report for this presentation.

This is Agenda item 1.2.

With zoning and business ordinances passed July 6, a second reading and adoption of ordinances pertaining to medical marijuana cultivation and distribution facilities is up for vote on Wednesday evening.

This defines a medical marijuana distribution facility as “any facility or location, whether fixed or mobile, where marijuana is made available, sold, transmitted, given or otherwise provided to four or more persons.”

And, a “facility where four or more qualified patients, persons with identification cards and primary caregivers meet or congregate collectively and cooperatively to cultivate or distribute marijuana for medical purposes.”

This is Agenda Item 4.1.

What is your stance on a leash-free dog beach for six months? Should Imperial Beach keep its redevelopment agency? What is your best tip to conserve energy over the summer? Tell us in the comments.

Brian Bilbray’s Son, Cancer-Stricken Daughter Speak Out For Medical Pot

Briana Bilbray tells her trials with chemotherapy and the needs for medical marijuana Imperial Beach, Calif. City Council.

GOP Congressman’s Son, Cancer-Stricken Daughter Speak Out For Medical Pot

Imperial Beach City Council Mayor Pro Tem Brian Bilbray

GOP Congressman’s Son, Cancer-Stricken Daughter Speak Out For Medical Pot

By Albert Fulcher | Email the author

Council voted to pass ordinances prohibiting medical marijuana dispensaries in IB, with the exception of one vote in favor by Councilman Brian Bilbray Jr. His sister Briana also spoke in favor of medical pot. Their father was mayor of IB in the 1980s.

Silence fell over City Hall Wednesday evening as 24-year-old Briana Bilbray told the Imperial Beach City Council about her struggles with Stage 3 melanoma cancer that had spread into her lymph nodes.

Her father Brian Bilbray was the mayor of Imperial Beach from 1978 to 1985 and currently represents north San Diego’s 50th Congressional District. Her brother Brian Bilbray Jr. is a City Councilman.

She said she was in the last stages of chemotherapy and was disappointed in comments made by Councilman Ed Spriggs at the last council meeting about medical marijuana dispensaries in Imperial Beach.

“I read in an article a quote from Spriggs saying that chemo patients don’t have to go that far to get the medicine they need,” she said. “Reading that comment, I can tell Mr. Spriggs really doesn’t understand chemo at all.”

She said the words nausea and fatigue are “really pretty words” compared to the actuality of its consequences.

“Tired is an understatement from what you feel, Mr. Spriggs,” said Briana Bilbray. “You feel like you just want to die. I didn’t even want to breathe I was so tired.”

Her brother, Mayor Pro Tem and Councilman Brian Bilbray, reiterated his support of allowing medicinal marijuana in Imperial Beach, unlike the rest of the City Council.

He called it irresponsible and said if the city will not provide a dispensary, it should model Chula Vista allowing collectives and cooperatives in the city.

“But something we all need to think about is that it is not our jobs to sit up here and say who and who does not need medical marijuana,” said Councilman Bilbray.

“That is between them and their doctors. Our job is just to say if people in the city actually need this, and what is the responsible thing for the city to do to avoid extra cost to the city through litigation or putting it on the ballot. It is going to cost the city more. Again, I will not be voting for this.”

Briana Bilbray brought about $200 worth of nausea medicine with her and said they are “not worth a lick” and useless for her condition.

In contrast, she said one dose of medical marijuana relieves her for an entire day. Banning dispensaries does not punish the abuser but the patients in need, she said.

“You have no idea. It is like the difference between night and day for chemo patients,” she said. “Not only are you infringing on my right as a California resident to obtain the medicine I need, but you are punishing me by making it more difficult to get the one thing I really need.

“It is one of the worst feelings imaginable,” she said.

City Manager Gary Brown presented two items before City Council on Wednesday related to the ban: a second reading of zoning regulations for medical marijuana distribution facilities and a first reading of the ordinance related to business licenses.

He said this is a result of council instructions to change the minimum or maximum number of people with the ability to cooperatively and collectively, use, cultivate and distribute medical marijuana from “two or more persons” to “four or more.”

Spriggs said council did not have the opportunity to examine the amended change of people’s ability to use, cultivate or distribute marijuana collectively or cooperatively and said the language “four or more” is an exemption of the ordinance prohibiting dispensaries for three people, and his concern is it can lead to activity the city is attempting to avoid.

“That’s the point. Four or more,” Spriggs said. “If we have this exemption of three or less, what are the worst case scenarios of three of less overriding the ordinance against medical marijuana dispensaries within the city limits? Can you operate something akin to a dispensary?”

City Manager Gary Brown said he did not think it would approach the dispensary patterns seen throughout the region, having three or fewer people operating as a cooperative.

“Probably doing it in a back yard,” Brown said. “I am not sure if it would be legal, but in effect I don’t think there would be much of a chance that a formalized business dispensary would be open. It is likely that somebody might try and have something in their neighborhood.”

Spriggs said increasing the number from two or more to four or more, cultivating, dispensing and using opens the opportunity for various trials of “these kinds” of operations. He said two or less has less chance of these types of operations to occur. “I clearly said earlier, the issue is not legitimate users, it was the abundant testimony we had regarding abuse by people that do not have legitimate medical marijuana need,” he said.

City Attorney Jennifer Lyon said the current state of law talks about an affirmative defense for those who get together to cooperatively and collectively, use, possess and distribute marijuana.

“There is nothing currently in the law that is a mandate to every city to locate a cooperative or collective in your city,” she said. “The cases and the law that is out there suggest that cities have the ability to regulate location and establishment of dispensaries, cooperatives and collectives. They have zoning power. That is one of the fundamental rights of the City Council.”

Spriggs said if this evolved into a business that only legitimate patients used, the council would have a completely different view.

“I have no ax to grind for anybody that really needs it,” he said. “But we have this huge abuse situation, demonstrated in many communities. There is no reason to think that we would be immune for some strange reason from the abuses that have taken place elsewhere.”

Marcus Boyd, vice chairman for the San Diego Chapter of Americans for Safe Access, said four cancer patients came to his office since the last council meeting June 15 and every one of them made him cry.

He said he was disappointed with the “perversion of the political process” over two years on this issue. He said council has “trampled the rights of those that are injured, sick and dying.”

Council member Lorie Bragg said it was unfair to say council had not done due diligence.

“We have all done outreach across the board to many members of the community,” she said. “When we vote on something, it is because we have talked to many people. And our vote reflects what the majority of the people want us to do.”

Boyd said council made its decision in private meetings, based on “Reefer Madness” propaganda provided by the Sheriff’s Department, overturned state law and intimidated medical marijuana patients at the last council meeting.

“At the last council meeting speaking on this issue when patients plead with you not to break the law, you ridiculed them,” Boyd said.

“And you attempted to alienate them from the political process. You had a large contingency of county sheriffs lined up outside intimidating every patient that walked through the door. And, to top it off, the deputies took out their cameras and began snapping pictures of the patients.”

Councilman Jim King said the issue boils down to providing availability for patients and determining where patients can find the substance. He said council looked at it in the terms of the size of our city.

“I personally believe in one regard it would be nice to accommodate it,” King said. “But in the other regard there are things that have not been worked out and problems that are consistent in a number of dispensaries.”

King said he read all the material. He said the constant referral to council falling under “Reefer Madness” was incorrect.

“I do not want to deny anyone’s access. This is not an easy issue on a community-based level,” he said.

Boyd said council might think it is putting this issue to rest but assured that the issue will stay “front and center” in 2012 elections.

“It is not too late to change course,” he said. “I urge you to table this vote tonight. Give the facts and findings about this lands use issue a fair and balanced review. The sick and dying patients deserve at least that from you.”

Mayor Jim Janney motioned to adopt the report and the June 15 staff report and to adopt resolution 2011-70.

Motion to wave further reading and adopt zoning ordinance 2011-1119, “to add Chapter 19.61 to the municipal code, relating to medical marijuana distribution facilities for submission to the California Coastal Commission.”

“Medical marijuana distribution facilities are prohibited uses in all zoning districts in the city of Imperial Beach. The city shall not issue, approve or grant any permit, license or other entitlement for the establishment or operation of a medical marijuana distribution facility in the city of Imperial Beach.”

Motion to dispense first reading of ordinance 20111-118 amended “any facility where four or more qualified patients, persons with identification cards and primary caregivers meet or congregate collectively and cooperatively to cultivate or distribute marijuana for medical purposes” and “set the matter up for adoption at our next regularly scheduled City Council meeting to July 20.”

The motion carried, with all but Bilbray voting yes on all motions.





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