|The one-year moratorium extension includes an exemption designed to allow Hummingbird Healing Center, a Eureka dispensary closed in September under federal pressure, to reopen|
The Board of Supervisors in Humboldt County, California — famed worldwide for the quality of its cannabis — on Tuesday, for the second time, unanimously extended a moratorium in new medical marijuana dispensaries.
The one-year extension included an exemption designed to allow Hummingbird Healing Center, a Eureka dispensary closed in September, to reopen, reports Grant Scott-Goforth at the Eureka Times-Standard.
Humboldt County first enacted the medical marijuana dispensary moratorium in December 2011, after the Obama Administration started threatening local governments, including the cities of Eureka and Arcata, with legal action for having ordinances which allow dispensaries.
Federal prosecutors hinted that government officials and employees could face legal action, or even arrest, and the county decided to suspend its ordinance under which dispensary permits were issued.
“They’re not idle threats,” Deputy Counsel Davina Smith told the supervisors on Monday, explaining the legal counsel’s recommendation to extend the moratorium.
According to Smith, a “vague legal landscape” continues to cloud the dispensary issue.
A number of marijuana and dispensary court cases are currently underway in the state, with most awaiting precedent from two cases under review by the California Supreme Court. Much of the legal wrangling involves whether state laws preempt local laws in regulating dispensaries.
“That doesn’t mean the issue of federal preemption is gone,” Smith warned. But she said, so far, no local government officials or employees have been prosecuted by the feds.
“But the possibility remains,” she said, “and I’d hate for Humboldt County to be the first.”
Local governments aren’t the only ones being threatened under the federal crackdown. Banks have also been threatened with legal action for providing services to marijuana dispensaries, and owners of commercial properties have been threatened with seizure for renting to the shops.
Hummingbird Healing Center was forced to close in September under federal pressure. Owner Nathan Johns told the Times-Standard in September that after his landlord’s bank got a letter from the federal government, the bank threatened his landlord with foreclosure unless the dispensary was evicted from the property.
Under the moratorium, Hummingbird Healing Center would not have been able to apply for a permit at a new facility, even though it had been allowed to remain open in the original exception. The exception added by the supervisors on Tuesday allows existing permitted dispensaries to reapply “if the location of the facility becomes unavailable for continued use.”
Hummingbird co-founder Carla Ritter thanked the board for including the exemption. “Continue your efforts and let compassion guide those efforts,” she told the supervisors. Ritter said working with the county has been rewarding, but securing a new location could take four to six months.
Shaye Harty spoke against the moratorium at Tuesday’s meeting, arguing that it limited access to needed medicine, and that Humboldt County shouldn’t bow to federal pressure.
“When the American government is wrong about something it’s up to the locals to take them on,” Harty said. “For us to be scared because the federal government is wrong — that’s just un-American.”