Medical marijuana moratoriums are set to expire soon in several California towns, forcing officials to make tough decisions in a highly uncertain climate.
These towns have several options: They can bar the industry outright, extend the moratorium or finally allow dispensaries to open.
This week, officials in the town of Whittier backed the first option, voting to ban medical marijuana dispensaries completely from the city.
The city council first passed a moratorium in January 2012 and has renewed it twice since. But the moratorium is set to expire on Jan. 24, and it cannot be renewed.
Council members could either let the moratorium expire – which would allow a dispensary to open in town – or enact a complete ban. Due to California’s lack of state-wide regulations, the city council voted 4-1 in favor of the complete ban.
Other towns are moving in a different direction, however.
Earlier this month, the city of Eureka voted to let its two-year moratorium on medical marijuana shops lapse. The city had enacted the moratorium after it received a sternly-worded letter from U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag, an opponent of medical marijuana legalization.
The move means the city will revert to a previous ordinance that allows two medical marijuana dispensaries to open.
For now, more towns could move in the direction of Whittier and ban the businesses completely, as a lack of regulations at the state level and a brutal crackdown on the industry in recent years has created a climate of fear.
A fair share might also simply try to extend moratoriums so they can hold off making a larger decision on the issue.
Many likely will not clear the way for dispensaries unless California lawmakers push through regulations or a measure to legalize recreational cannabis succeeds next year.