A decision last week by the Orange County Board of Supervisors to ban marijuana dispensaries in unincorporated areas of the county has raised an interesting question about the fate of such businesses operating in the tiny beach community of Sunset Beach, which is about to be annexed by Huntington Beach.
The question revolves around whether the annexation, which has yet to be finalized, should recognize the pre-ban or post-ban Orange County. Before the ban, Huntington Beach City Attorney Jennifer McGrath said that Sunset Beach’s open pot shops, if already legal under the county’s jurisdiction, would not be forced to shut down, despite a Huntington Beach ban on such businesses.
The idea being that if the county was allowing them to operate before, they shouldn’t be punished by the annexation. But now that the county has instituted the ban, the shops seem to have no legal footing.
Nonetheless, at least one shop owner says he will fight the ban, arguing that patients have a right to obtain marijuana for medicinal purposes under state law.
Craig Hansen, owner of one of at least three such stores in the town, said the dispensaries in the area are “not giving up” and will band together to fight for what they believe is their lawful right to remain open.
“We’re not just walking away,” Hansen said.
Ironically, owners of the shops had long feared that a looming annexation by the city, where such businesses are illegal, would force them out.
It turns out their biggest fear should have been the county.
McGrath said actual land-use authority will not be transferred to the city until the California Coastal Commission approves the local coastal plan. That could take as long as a year, McGrath said.
That means, in the near future, the county would have to take action to shut the stores down. County officials wouldn’t confirm that they would be moving ahead with such a move, but a statement from the Orange County Public Works Department did say the county “will take any necessary actions to enforce its [the county’s] applicable ordinances.”
— ADAM ELMAHREK
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