Sacramento City Council Postpones Medical Marijuana Rezoning Issue

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Karen Wilkinson

There are 34 collectives operating in the city, according to City Principal Planner Joy Patterson. Many shops that are within the 1,000 feet

 

Things got heated during the Sacramento city Council meeting last night, after hearing the opinions of 18 passionate medical marijuana advocates and a handful of haters, a verdict on whether to toughen the city’s medical marijuana zoning restrictions on collectives was held off Tuesday night by the City Council members.

The council members were poised to pass an new medical marijuana ordinance amending the distance collectives are mandated to be from K-12 schools – from 600 to 1,000 feet, as cooler minds prevailed the item was postponed for an additional three weeks after some city council members expressed reservation and directed staff to do further research.

“My concern is we’ve created an outright ban,” said District 3 Councilman Steve Cohn. “What we’re talking about here is medical marijuana, not recreational marijuana.”

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Bishop Ron Allen of the International Faith-Based Coalition said medical marijuana is too easy to obtain and that the zoning law should be more strict. “You can purchase this so-called medical marijuana card with a bad hair day, or hangnail,” he said. “We certainly agree with 1,000 feet – isn’t that amazing – even though it isn’t good enough, it isn’t far enough.”

District 2 Councilman Allen Warren said while he’s in general agreement with the 1,000 foot requirement, certain districts would be disproportionately impacted. He wanted council to reconsider the item in a week, not three. “I think I forgot this was government,” he said.

District 5 Councilman Jay Schenirer asked that the words “operating school” be added to the amendment’s language, in light of the Sacramento City Unified School District’s plans to shutter 11 schools.

District 6 Councilman Kevin McCarty said that many patients have limited means of transportation, and that if collectives are pushed out of the central city and into industrial areas, their access to medicine will be diminished.

He also argued that if an industrial area contains even one residence, that area would be considered “residential” and a collective couldn’t set up shop. “I don’t know if everything fits into this perfect circle,” McCarty said. “There’s no perfect solution here today.”

This issue came up in April 2012 by District 7 Councilman Darrell Fong. On Tuesday, he again took a staunch stance on the issue, saying that federal law is clear, and that the city isn’t looking to make money off collectives. He said that the federal government is targeting collectives located within 1,000 feet of schools and parks, and that the council recently adopted an ordinance requiring tobacco stores within the same distance of a school to obtain a special zoning permit.

There are 34 collectives operating in the city, according to City Principal Planner Joy Patterson. Many shops that are within the 1,000 feet have applied for a special permit that would exempt them from the requirement, or essentially grandfather them into the space.

District 8 Councilwoman Bonnie Pannell, who supports the amendment, said that anybody in California can get a medical marijuana card, and added that if the collectives already in place don’t move, then they’re safe.

Marbell Wilso, also of the International Faith-Based Coalition, said he was baffled by what he heard from speakers. “My conclusion is that 1,000 feet, yes, 2,000 feet, better, 3,000, maybe even better,” he said. “As a matter of fact, why don’t we build a school on every corner so that there wouldn’t be a likelihood that they’re built at all?”

Patient rights advocates, speaking before the council’s discussion, voiced their concerns for access to medicine and urged the council to stick with the state law of 600 feet.

Lanette Davies, who owns the Canna Care dispensary in Sacramento, reiterated the state law of 600 feet has been adopted by the council, and that it should put the amendment to the ordinance on hold. She then held up a small brown bag and said “this is what walks out of a dispensary.”

Kevai Floyd, a cannabis caregiver in El Dorado County, said she’s already seeing an influx of patients there, and that if collectives shut down, the criminal element will only go up.

Patients rights advocate Ron Mullens said it’s folly to believe that the federal government will give Sacramento its blessing just if it simply changes its zoning code. “Whatever you guys do it doesn’t matter,” he said, adding that the feds are still going to go after medical marijuana.

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