Opinion re: City to vote on medical cannabis ordinance Jan. 29
The City Council of Sacramento is planning to address amending Ordinance No. 2010-038, adopted by the Sacramento City Council on Nov. 9, 2010. Part D, section iii, currently reads, "No medical marijuana dispensary shall be established or located within 600 feet, measured from the nearest property lines of each of the affected parcels, of any park, school (public or private K-12), child care center, child care-family day care home (large or small), youth-oriented facility, church/faith congregation, substance abuse center, movie theater/cinema, or tobacco store.” Though I’m not privy to the new language, the gist of what the City Council plans is to extend restrictions on parks, schools (public or private K-12) and “anywhere children gather.” This amendment was proposed by Darrell Fong shortly after he was seated in his new post as City Councilmember for District 7. The idea is to bring city law in line with federal laws regarding Drug-free school zones, in hopes this will appease the federal prosecutors somehow.
The current map proposed would, after the vote, create concentrations of dispensing collectives in the outer areas, to which the sickest patients cannot travel. Keep in mind that unlike pharmaceuticals, you can’t just send some friend out to pick up your cannabis.
If the city council passes this rule without amending any other restrictions, it will mean that any dispensary that has to move will not be able to. Because of federal harassment of landlords, dispensaries are being run out of their homes on a regular basis, in spite of paying double and sometimes triple the normal rent value. Many of these restrictions, such as “tobacco store,” “movie theater/cinema” and “church/faith congregation,” were thrown in on a whim because someone thought it might cause a problem. The reality is that if you look at statistics, crime is generally lower in the proximity of dispensaries, and they have fewer incident reports than the average pharmacy.
As far as I know, the federal government has no opinion about “parcel to parcel” when it comes to these limitations. Aside from ridiculous restrictions like a tobacco store, if said tobacco store is in a shopping complex, the entire property and parking lot would be considered a “parcel.” This means that a dispensary, though it could physically be 1,000 feet from the sensitive use area, measuring from building to building, or “parcel to parcel,” would make them too close.
If the city passed the new restriction without revisiting other sensitive uses, dispensing collectives that could otherwise find a new, sympathetic landlord, or purchase their own location so they could fight the federal forfeitures themselves (as Harborside Health Center succeeded in doing) will simply have to go away and lose the approximately $42,000 investment in their “license.”
It is already built into the ordinance that each dispensary has to declare its presence and that anyone, be they a barbershop or drug treatment facility, can give input. These issues could be decided on a case-by-case basis by planning experts, and any potential nuisance could be prevented there. Let’s not forget to mention that if a dispensary behaves as a nuisance, the city can revoke their license, so all of this arbitrary line-drawing really isn’t necessary.
While I don’t believe a locked door where people go in and come out with a paper bag, where no one is smoking or bandying the medicine about, is harmful to students traveling to and from schools, I am sensitive to the legal pressure our city officials have to deal with. I spoke to one city worker whose job directly deals with dispensaries, and this person told me they feared “ending up in an orange jumpsuit” themselves. This is real, and I don’t expect anybody to fly in the face of Uncle Sam at his or her own peril. I really just wish we could create sensible regulation that allows at least the 38 dispensaries that have been open since before the moratorium to find new homes and continue to help patients and pay taxes.
So on Tuesday’s meeting, my colleagues and I intend to make the best of the extended media coverage that shows up for votes of this kind. We will be rallying against more restrictions without regard to impact of patients’ access, to show them that we are not happy with the ban on outdoor cultivation, and to remind them that we pay 12.25 percent (8.25 state and 4 city) taxes on our medicine, while others pay zero.
I hope anyone who believes in our civil right to choose a medicine made legal by a majority vote will join Safe Access Sacramento, Crusaders for Patients Rights, The Committee for Safe Patient Access to Regulated Cannabis, Health, Education and Legal Patients Rights and others in the Medical Cannabis Patient community. We will gather 5pm Tuesday January 29th on the sidewalk in front of City Hall to be heard, then go inside with us at six and speak to the council about this matter.
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Disclosure: Medical cannabis Activist, former Dispensary Operator