POT STORES MUST WAIT FOR MONTH
Ban allows time to set rules, Sacramento County says.
Sacramento County officials put a temporary lid on medical marijuana
shops Tuesday to give themselves a month to decide how to regulate
sales of the drug in unincorporated areas.
Following the lead of other local governments, the Board of
Supervisors agreed to a 30-day ban on medicinal cannabis dispensaries
in unincorporated areas to devise a plan to keep neighborhoods, store
owners and residents safe, officials said.
"This is not an attempt to pre-empt the Board of Supervisors from
deciding what is and isn't allowed," county Counsel Robert Ryan said,
adding that the moratorium is an attempt to establish guidelines for
how medical marijuana shops should operate.
Proposition 215, passed by state voters in 1996, allows primary
caregivers to administer marijuana to patients who have a doctor's
prescription, but local governments across the region have found
themselves largely unprepared to handle the growing number of requests
to open marijuana dispensaries. That's because most local zoning codes
do not have a category for them.
Citrus Heights, Rancho Cordova, Roseville and Auburn regulate medical
marijuana stores; Rocklin banned marijuana sales outright in July;
other cities still are considering how to respond.
Medical marijuana advocates say dispensaries are no different from
pharmacies and should be regulated as such. County officials disagree,
saying medical marijuana - technically an illegal narcotic under
federal law - needs its own category of rules to make sure
dispensaries are properly located and operated.
Supervisor Roger Dickinson said the county may need to come up with a
licensing arrangement for medical marijuana dispensaries similar to
state requirements for pharmacists.
"The county may have to establish a similar plan legally, financially
and practically to do that," he said.
County officials will meet in the coming weeks to establish their
plan, and advocates on Tuesday asked to be included, but that decision
will be made by County Executive Terry Schutten.
Ryan Landers, state director for the American Alliance for Medical
Cannabis, said the patient's point of view should be represented in
any task force on medical marijuana.
Twisting open an orange prescrip
tion bottle and holding up 3.5 grams
of his leafy medicine, Landers said, "This is a life-and-death, very
A dispensary "if regulated properly, can look like an anonymous
facility when children walk by," he said. "Many people, especially the
elderly, won't go to the streets to get medical marijuana."