LONG BEACH - Time is officially running out for medical marijuana dispensaries that are exempted from Long Beach's ban on collectives.
The Long Beach City Council on Tuesday night voted 5-4 against the creation of an ordinance to extend the six-month reprieve granted to 18 collectives in February.
Barring a last-minute reconsideration, the exemption will expire Aug. 12, effectively shutting down the legal medpot industry in the city.
As they have since an October appeals court ruling outlawed Long Beach's short-lived permit system for dispensaries, some city officials said Tuesday that medical marijuana isn't legal at all, and furthermore, the exception for collectives licensed under that law creates a special class that complicates prosecution of "rogue operators."
"I'm concerned about the inconsistency," said Councilwoman Gerrie Schipske, who voted against the measure.
On Monday, a three-justice panel of the 2nd District Court of Appeal ruled that Los Angeles County's ban on medical marijuana dispensaries conflicts with state law. The decision buoyed local proponents of medicinal cannabis, who hoped that council members would be influenced by the court and vote in favor of extending the exemption.
City Attorney Robert Shannon said that the decision involving the county referenced state law, and the case that prompted the city's ban, Pack v. Long Beach, referred to federal law prohibiting marijuana.
"We're talking about two cases that are running along ...
Long Beach has appealed the Pack decision to the state Supreme Court to seek clarification on its power to regulate medical marijuana. Justices are expected to take up the case late this year or in early 2013.
Councilwoman Rae Gabelich made a motion to stretch the exemption for the 18 Long Beach dispensaries that had passed the city's contested permitting process. Council members Suja Lowenthal, Robert Garcia and Steve Neal also voted in favor.
The rest of the council was opposed.
"I think continuing down this path until we have that ruling is the right thing to do," Lowenthal said.
Mayor Bob Foster, while voicing his support for making medical marijuana available in a pharmacy setting, continued to speak strongly in favor of a blanket ban.
"We tried to do the right thing," Foster said. "Where we are today is we have no ability to regulate and control any of this."
Gabelich, who is termed out of office and has one more meeting as a council member, said ending aboveboard access for the sick because of those who abuse the system is wrong.
"The people we have heard that have come here in their wheelchairs with their stories, where are they going to go?" she asked.