Weed Wars

Dispatches from the California Marijuana Front

April 8, 2010
Sacramento dispensary plan has consensus: Nobody is happy

LS MED MARIJUANA 2.JPGSacramento at least seems to have consensus on its plan to regulate marijuana dispensaries in the capital city.

But that may not be a good thing. That's because the consensus - from people with widely conflicting points of view - seems to be that nobody is happy.

Let's start with members of the City Council's law and legislation committee, which voted 3-1 to move a proposed dispensary ordinance on to the City Council. The plan would set a cap of 12 pot shops in the city and impose strict rules on their operations.

"If we use this kind of zoning, the only place where we will have these clinics is next to porn halls or pay day loan centers," complained Council member Steve Cohn, who voted against advancing the plan.

And those who voted yes?

Robbie Waters complained the plan would allow out-of-compliance pot shops to stay in business too long before shutting them down. "This doesn't get to the point of 'regulate,'" he said.

Sandy Sheedy, who sponsored the dispensary plan, objected to a push by Cohn to allow a higher concentration of dispensaries downtown.

"I don't see this working," she said. "This skews the whole process of what we've done here."

And Lauren Hammond, the committee chairwoman, wondered where the number 12 came from anyway - and how that would play in a city with 39 registered dispensaries.

"Now we're going to arbitrarily limit it to 12 - just because?" Hammond said. "I don't know if that is a good enough reason."

The plan on the table would impose a lottery to determine which pot shops could stay in business. It would require dispensaries to maintain security and ban the hiring of workers with felony convictions.

It also would require pot shops to label their weed with a disclaimer saying the dispensaries - not the city - assume "risk of injury or harm."

The tense audience in Tuesday's public session included local business association representatives unsure whether to be welcoming or wary to the burgeoning legal pot trade. And there was a procession of patients, cannabis health advocates and dispensary officials - none too happy with the city's attempt to rein things in.

"Quite frankly, your ordinance isn't ready for prime time," complained Robert Shantz, an Oakland attorney representing the Sacramento Alliance of Collectives.

The City Council is hoping to agree on an ordinance by July.

Whether one is passed or not, expect this saga to drag on.

Pictured: As a city pot club ordinance faces its smell test, the meds get one at a Sacramento dispensary. Lezlie Sterling/lsterling@sacbee.com.

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