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Sacramento will consider more guidelines for medical marijuana dispensaries Tuesday, as a city committee will look at how far the dispensaries should be from parks and schools, even as federal court cases determining their legality are still under way.
The City Council’s Law and Legislation Committee will discuss medical marijuana dispensaries at 3 p.m. on Tuesday at City Hall, 915 I St., so the city is prepared to act at the end of the court proceedings, Law and Legislation Committee Chairman Jay Schenirer said Monday.
“We need to work this out so we can move forward once those cases are resolved,” he said. “I think we have a model policy, and we want to be moving in the right direction so we’re not just starting when those cases are resolved.”
The cases in question are the result of federal crackdowns on marijuana dispensaries over the past year. Despite their legality under state law and the laws of many cities, federal law holds that marijuana is an illicit drug, and does not allow for its medicinal usage.
“You have this untenable policy situation with the federal, state and city governments all having different policies,” Schenirer said, adding the the eventual outcome of the court cases will help determine what rights marijuana dispensaries have, which should give a clearer picture to local officials, enabling them to make laws.
No laws will be enacted on Tuesday, and Schenirer said the meeting is designed to give city staff direction when drafting ordinances, which will likely come back to the Law and Legislation Committee for final review before going to the full City Council for a vote – but only after the court cases are decided.
One of the issues being looked at Tuesday is how close a medical marijuana dispensary can be to a school or a park, which would be similar to a recent City Council action that bans tobacco-centric businesses from opening within 1,000 feet of a school without a special use permit. A similar ordinance has been aired regarding gun shops.
In April, San Francisco medical marijuana dispensary owners faced steep penalties – and 40 years in prison – if they didn’t shut down their dispensaries situated near parks and schools, according to a Sacramento Bee article.
The dispensaries were targeted under a federal law designed in the Reagan era to combat crack-cocaine dealers selling to kids, the article states.
Sacramento regulates marijuana dispensaries under a city ordinance passed last year.
That law doesn’t trump the federal 1,000-foot rule, however, and the Bee article mentioned one Sacramento dispensary that closed after federal pressure.
Schenirer said he’d like to see a grandfather clause that would allow existing medical marijuana dispensaries to continue operation in their current locations under city law.
“To the extent that we have control,” he said, “I’d like a grandfather clause for people who have previously done well.”