"I am baffled by the commission's decision," Planning Commissioner Norm Grossman said. "This is wide-ranging. It affects cities up and down the coast."
City Atty. Philip Kohn considers the Coastal Commission's vote much ado about nothing.
"We could decide to put the prohibition in another section of the city code that is not subject to Coastal Commission approval," Kohn said. "It is still a valid local regulation, just not part of the Local Coastal Program."
Planning Manager Ann Larson, who represented the city at the Coastal Commission hearing, testified that the city's legal advisors had opined that the amendments did not conflict with state law. The law, in effect since 1996, legalized the use of medical marijuana and was later refined to include a statewide identification card system for qualified patients.
"We do not propose to limit people's ability to operate under the law," Larson told the Coastal Commission.
She said the city's prohibition only extends to retail sales of cannabis, which the state program does not even mention, let alone authorize collectives, cooperatives or individuals to profit from the sale or distribution of marijuana or by-products.
"And the commission has previously approved bans in other cities," Larson said.
The City Council voted unanimously in September 2009 in favor of two ordinance amendments to the zoning code that combined to prohibit dispensaries within Laguna's borders, a decision supported by the Laguna Beach Unified School District and individual members of the administration and the board.
Laguna Beach High School Principal Don Austin said he had 1,042 reasons for his opposition to legalizing medical marijuana — the students at his school.
Kohn said city officials will be discussing what effect, if any, the commission's decision will have on the city.