For the second time in a month, the Redding City Council on Tuesday narrowly approved sweeping regulations designed to winnow out profit-driven marijuana dealers from legitimate medicinal cannabis collectives.
The council voted 3-2 to impose the regulations, which would go into effect by Jan. 1 and give the Redding Police Department the power to regulate collectives, including inspecting their records for compliance with state medical marijuana laws.
The council voted after hearing from 19 speakers on both sides of the issue - medical marijuana patients and advocates along with business people and educators alarmed at the spread of cannabis collectives in town. Redding hosts an estimated 30 clubs.
Mayor Rick Bosetti, who was absent when the council first considered the regulations last month, cast the tie-breaking vote Tuesday evening.
"I want to eliminate the abuse," Bosetti said. "I am not against the people who need it ( medical marijuana ), and with the ordinance we have, there will be ample opportunity for people who need it to get it."
Councilwoman Missy McArthur, who originally supported the ordinance, switched her vote and remained opposed Tuesday.
"I do believe we do need an ordinance," McArthur said. "But all of this is in flux and in question. To act now seems in haste."
McArthur said she worries about threats of lawsuits over violation of patient privacy laws. She also worries that the thinly stretched Police Department will have to devote too much time and energy to enforcing the new ordinance.
"We need cops on the beat looking for rapists and murderers," McArthur said.
Council members Dick Dickerson and Mary Stegall voted for the ordinance, saying it's not perfect but more than adequate.
"I understand Ms. McArthur's issues, but we are not ever going to get this right down to the dot without trying it for a while," Stegall said. "To set it aside is not the responsible thing to do."
Stegall, Dickerson and Bosetti all supported reviewing the ordinance after six months.
Jones has voted against the ordinance from the beginning, noting that marijuana possession is illegal under federal law.
"I don't get to pick and choose which laws I get to abide by," Jones said. "I generally support the ordinance, if not for the federal law."
Police Chief Peter Hansen compared his agency's regulatory powers to those it uses against card rooms and pawn shops, where a criminal element may intrude. Police enjoy a productive working relationship with those businesses, and Hansen expects the same from most cannabis club operators.
The ordinance voted on Tuesday included eight additions, most of which are designed to make collectives operate like pharmacies or medical offices.
Under the approved additions, medical marijuana patients who get their medicine from collectives will have to:
Present a written doctor recommendation specifying an amount of dried medical marijuana for use over a defined period not to exceed one year.
Consent to allow the city to verify the recommendation from the doctor. Fraudulent recommendations are an issue, according to a staff report.
Verify they do not belong to any other medical marijuana collective in Shasta County.
Other changes in the ordinance are aimed at collectives. These include:
Allowing only dried marijuana for sale or distribution. Many of Redding's cannabis clubs offer clones, or marijuana plant clippings, to patients so they can grow their own.
Requiring that cannabis clubs indemnify the city against any civil suit arising from collective operations.
Elsewhere, Red Bluff officials backed down Tuesday night from adopting a law that would have permanently banned medical marijuana dispensaries and the cultivation of pot within the city limits.
In a 5-0 vote, Red Bluff City Council members decided to table their previously discussed proposal that called for the strict bans. The council put the proposed ordinance aside on the advice of City Attorney Rick Crabtree.
Council members wanted more time to explore whether to allow the indoor growing of marijuana under state guidelines.
They also want to make it clear that an exchange of marijuana for medicinal purposes between a caregiver and a patient does not constitute a dispensary.
However, Red Bluff's 45-day ban on marijuana dispensaries, collectives and cooperatives still is in force. The council adopted an urgency ordinance Nov. 3 that imposed the temporary ban on dispensaries.
"I'm glad they ( council members ) backed up on cultivation, but the collective part they kept the same. The ban still is in effect," said Ken Prather, owner of the Tehama Herbal Collective in Corning.
A public hearing earlier drew about 100 people with the majority of those supporting medical cannabis and opposing the city's ordinances. The meeting location was switched from the City Council chambers to the Red Bluff Community Center in anticipation of a crowd.
Prather spoke in favor of letting the dispensaries operate.
"L.A. just overrode their city attorney's recommendation to close dispensaries, and I ask you to do the same," he told council members.
A Gerber man, 63-year-old Edward Bealer, who is not a patient, spoke in favor of medical marijuana. He said his son uses marijuana for a health condition and that his sister had overdosed on the painkiller OxyContin.
"I support the movement because the people should have an herbal alternative to synthetic drugs," Bealer said.
Meanwhile, Anderson City Council members voted 5-0 on Tuesday to extend the city's current moratorium on dispensaries, collectives and co-ops by four months. Instead of ending Dec. 4, the moratorium will last until April 4.
The extra four months will allow the planning commissioners to provide recommendations on classifying medical marijuana dispensaries, as well as medical marijuana cultivation, in the city's zoning code, Anderson Planning Director John Stokes said.
The extension also will let city officials see how other cities and counties are handling the medicinal marijuana issue, according to a staff report.
The council also directed city staff members to pursue zoning ordinances to regulate medical marijuana as strictly as the law would allow.
November 18, 2009
Redding Council Approves Tougher Medical Marijuana Regulations