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Rancho Tables Decision on Pot

The council wants to fine-tune restrictions on cannabis clubs.


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Source: Sacramento Bee (CA)
Author: Molly Dugan -- Bee Staff Writer
Published: Sunday, July 11, 2004
Copyright: 2004 The Sacramento Bee
Contact: [email protected]

In a rare split decision, the Rancho Cordova City Council voted 3-2 Tuesday to delay a decision on proposed regulations for medical marijuana dispensaries.

The action allows more time to strengthen restrictions on where cannabis clubs could locate and impose more stringent security requirements. The council is set to reconsider the issue Aug. 2.

Councilmen David Sander and Dan Skoglund opposed the delay, saying they would not vote for any ordinance that allows medical marijuana dispensaries in Rancho Cordova - no matter the restrictions.

"There is no such thing as medical marijuana," said Sander. "I cannot support marijuana distribution in this community."

The proposed ordinance would limit medical marijuana dispensaries to industrial areas at least 1,000 feet from homes, schools, parks and churches. Only two such businesses would be allowed at the same time.

The measure also would limit buyers to 8 ounces and forbid smoking or cultivating marijuana on the premises.

A state law that took effect in January allows patients to use marijuana for medical reasons with a doctor's recommendation. Since then, several cities in the region have passed ordinances regulating dispensaries.

The Rocklin City Council banned cannabis clubs, a decision that is expected to be tested in court.

Although no cannabis clubs are operating in Rancho Cordova, the city has received two inquiries about starting them.

Councilman Ken Cooley said it makes sense to develop strict guidelines for the distribution of marijuana, because state law allows it.

"The real question is how will these type of businesses be conducted," he said. "We have to accommodate it in our community in such a way that it's not a nuisance. I think the ordinance before us is a good starting point."

At the meeting Tuesday, several people spoke out against allowing cannabis clubs.

"This will not help the image of Rancho Cordova, nor will it instill pride in the community," Conrade Mayer said.

Others urged the council to make the ordinance as strict as possible.

Mason Swarthout, who wants to open a cannabis club in Rancho Cordova, touted the benefits of medical marijuana for people suffering from cancer, AIDS, glaucoma, migraine headaches and multiple sclerosis.

"Medical marijuana is not harmful," he said.

Swarthout also noted that security would be the top priority if he is allowed to open a medical marijuana dispensary.

Police Chief George Anderson, who helped craft the proposed ordinance, said other jurisdictions have encountered trouble with illegal marijuana dealing outside dispensaries and with distributing the drug outside the area.

"We don't condone the use of marijuana, but we want to control the adverse impacts of medical marijuana dispensaries," Anderson said. "The most difficult thing from a law enforcement perspective would be to have no regulation."

Under the proposed ordinance, the city manager would issue a special permit to dispensaries and approve the location. The permit would be renewed annually.

The dispensaries would not be allowed to sell any other items. City officials would have access to all the shop's records, and the police chief would conduct a background check before a permit is granted.

The council suggested several amendments to the proposed ordinance: The clients must live in Rancho Cordova, the proprietors must develop a security plan approved by the city, and the dispensaries could not be near light-rail stations or any business selling alcohol.

"It's very difficult to find a location that doesn't impact somebody," Mayor Linda Budge said. "But we don't have the luxury of taking no action."

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