Sacramento supervisors outlaw medicinal pot dispensaries in the county

Published: Thursday, Dec. 8, 2011 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Sunday, Mar. 18, 2012 - 8:07 pm

Sacramento County supervisors said they wanted to make it unambiguous that they won't permit medical marijuana dispensaries.

So board members passed a county zoning amendment that fails to include the words "medical" or "marijuana" or "dispensaries."

Instead, supervisors are seeking to bring an end to the county's once teeming medical marijuana trade by denying business permits to establishments that conflict with "either state or federal law, or both" under a new policy approved Tuesday.

The board's action comes after aggressive code enforcement efforts – and threats of federal prosecution or property seizures – shuttered all but a handful of marijuana stores in the county's unincorporated communities.

Officials said medical marijuana outlets were never permitted under county zoning laws. But that didn't stop as many as 99 dispensaries from opening in the past two years.

So board Chairwoman Roberta MacGlashan said supervisors voted 4-1 Tuesday "to clarify our existing ordinance" because it "didn't address marijuana dispensaries."

Even though the amended zoning code still doesn't, MacGlashan said the supervisors' vote now effectively bans marijuana stores by making it "clear we don't allow any use that is inconsistent with federal law."

The vote came after counsel Michelle Bach and other staffers told supervisors the only local land use they know of that conflicted with federal law is medical marijuana.

Supervisor Phil Serna, the lone dissenting vote, said his colleagues took an unnecessary action given the county's already "robust code enforcement" against dispensaries.

Serna said the vote effectively bans both marijuana stores and cultivation in the county. He protested it "foreclosed the opportunity" to negotiate zoning rules to accommodate seriously ill medical marijuana users.

The vote came after county staff advised supervisors of a state 2nd District Court of Appeal decision in October that said the city of Long Beach could not license dispensaries because of federal marijuana laws and a District Court ruling in November upholding a city of Riverside ban on pot stores.

In addition, supervisors had an Oct. 7 press release by California's four U.S. attorneys that announced enforcement efforts "aimed at curtailing the large, for-profit marijuana industry that has developed" in California in violation of U.S. law.

Supervisors also faced a procession of angry speakers Tuesday, including people saying they used marijuana for cancer or pain. One, Dr. Davis Allen, a physician who recommends cannabis, charged supervisors were violating the rights of voters who passed the 1996 Proposition 215 medical marijuana law.

"If the California citizens voted to make marijuana medicine, it's your duty to facilitate that," Allen said.

Orangevale resident Jeanne Larsson, who runs A Therapeutic Alternative dispensary in the city of Sacramento, said the county only enabled a deluge of unregulated pot clubs by failing to accept a limited number of dispensaries and impose operating rules as the city did.

"Your lack of attention and fear of regulation helped create an atmosphere where not-so-responsible collectives (dispensaries) could thrive," Larsson said.

County officials said Wednesday that only seven dispensaries remain open in the incorporated region. They are the Common Roots Collective on 52nd Avenue, Elevated Collective on 65th Street, Touch of Earth on Auburn Boulevard, Herbal Connoisseur on Kitty Lane, Kingston Wellness on Sunrise Boulevard, Magnolia Wellness on Greenback Lane and Arcade Health and Wellness on El Camino Avenue.

County lawsuits for zoning violations are pending against Herbal Connoisseur and Magnolia Wellness, and Arcade Health and Wellness is due to close by court order Monday, officials said.

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

Read more articles by Peter Hecht



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