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Sacramento County Looks to Regulate Marijuana Dispensaries

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Elk Grove, CA.--Medical marijuana dispensaries are filling storefronts and creating jobs in unincorporated parts of Sacramento County. But some local officials say tighter regulations are needed to lessen potential side effects of the businesses, like loitering, noise, trash and the smell of marijuana.

Zoning for those pot spots will be addressed Tuesday, when the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors hear a temporary ordinance to regulate about 40 "illegal and unpermitted medical marijuana dispensaries" and put rules on indoor growing operations for caregivers.

The addresses in question all have issues with zoning, according to the county, because they are operating a business that doesn't fit into an existing zoning category.

A municipal ordinance bans marijuana dispensaries within Elk Grove city limits, but the ordinance doesn't apply to unincorporated areas. And the controversy over the dispensaries can easily cross city lines, as it did last week when Elk Grove police went to Sacramento to raid a dispensary they said was illegally selling weed grown in Elk Grove.

The proposed county ordinance, which would only apply to unincorporated areas of the county, would put restrictions on where dispensaries can be located and ban outdoor grow sites and the sale of edibles at dispensaries. Locals in the cannabis dispensary trade claim the ordinance directly violates language in the Compassionate Use Act that allows qualified patients the "right to obtain and use marijuana."

"For them to take away a patient's ability to purchase and consume edibles is completely unfair," said Josh Cole, manager at The Green Temple on Fulton Avenue.

The Green Temple held a free barbecue Saturday, hosted by volunteers who said they were giving back to the community. Cole said the dispensary, which opened in March 2010, started off with three employees and now has 10. He believes a crackdown on edibles will hurt patients who can't smoke because of lung problems.

"[The patients] are going to leave the community to get their medicine," Cole said.

The sale of edibles is on the list of issues regarding the interim urgency ordinance to be debated, according to county spokeswoman Chris Andis.

"We are trying to comply with the state's Proposition 215 and find a way to allow a permitted use that meets the state's requirements, the communities' needs, and the needs of the businesses and patients as well as help protect public safety," Andis said in an email.

And as the booming industry branches out across Sacramento County, criticism is growing among people who live and work nearby.

"Obviously, with the more that come up, they're not terribly popular. As more and more come up, we get more and more calls and complaints about them," said Sacramento County Sheriff's spokesman Dep. Jason Ramos.

District 1 Supervisor Phil Serna, who represents Natomas, North Highlands, Rio Linda and other areas, said his office received a complaint about the smoke and odor coming from a dispensary. Serna said dealing with code enforcement violations and those subsequent appeals is wasting the time of county staff and board members.

"The issue of whether or not the county should or shouldn't regulate this is beginning to crescendo," Serna said.

Dispensaries will have to apply for a use permit if the temporary urgency ordinance is adopted. Andis said it's an extended process, with application fees costing several thousands of dollars.

The application fee may just be the beginning of new expenses for dispensaries in unincorporated Sacramento County. An ordinance about a business license for medical marijuana business looms.

"We don't know yet what the cost of the business license will be; that will be in the ordinance that comes up in July," Andis said in an email.

Serna said it's probably premature to guess what may happen with the idea of localized taxation and that he hasn't been approached about it.

Meanwhile, dispensary owners and volunteers will rally early Tuesday, as members of Sacramento County Patients & Collectives gather at 8:30 a.m. in front of the downtown county building at 700 H St. Supervisors will meet later that morning and are scheduled to discuss the proposed ordinance at 10:30.

News Hawk- Jacob Ebel 420 MAGAZINE
Source: elkgrove.patch.com
Author: Laura van der Meer
Contact: Contact Us
Copyright: Patch
Website: Sacramento County Looks to Regulate Marijuana Dispensaries
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