Ukiah Council Passes 45 Day Moratorium of New Medical Marijuana Dispensaries

May 18, 2005

Michael Riemenschneider, Ukiah daily Journal

Only in Mendocino County.

For a variety of reasons, and from a variety of different political persuasions, the Ukiah City Council Wednesday night unanimously approved a temporary moratorium on new medicinal marijuana dispensaries. Also by consensus, staff was requested to quickly develop zoning regulations for future cannabis clubs.

The matter was introduced by City Attorney David Rapport. An urgency ordinance going into effect immediately, the moratorium would prohibit construction of new dispensaries within city limits.

The two existing clubs will not be allowed to expand their businesses, but otherwise will not be affected. If new zoning laws are not created by July 2, the council can extend the moratorium for up to 10 months.

Surprisingly, the matter did not provoke a lengthy debate. Only three members of the public addressed the council, and all three spoke against the moratorium.

Of note, Dane Wilkins, director of the Northern California National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) drew parallels between medicinal marijuana and Prohibition, calling Ukiah's current situation 'neither an urgency (n)or emergency.' Local physician, Dr. Peter Keegan offered accepted corrections to language in the moratorium, and heavily critiqued the ordinance. His comments of two weeks ago also incited some questions from the council.

It was the discussion following public comment, however, which was interesting.

Mayor Mark Ashiku pushed both the moratorium and an expedited conclusion to it.

'So the real question then becomes, do we want a marijuana dispensary immediately adjacent to a school, do we want it next to the Boys Club and Girls Club? These are decisions that we don't seem to have any problem with as it relates to a liquor store,' declared the mayor in favor of zoning regulations.

Councilmember John McCowen, originally responsible for the discussion and ordinance, shared the mayor's sentiment. He did not wish for the general prohibition of clubs, just for their expedited regulation.

Worried about the potential legality of the matter, Councilmember Mari Rodin seemed to share sentiment with both Rapport and Keegan. She asked about problems the city has had with dispensaries as well as their proliferation. Without any particular problems and no new clubs in the plans, Rodin wavered.

Rapport, however, assured her the courts are 'indulgent' and would not present significant concerns. Plus, with regulations imminent, it would behoove future dispensaries to be guided by the appropriate zoning laws.

Councilmember Phil Baldwin added his general concerns, particularly about the highly profitable nature of dispensaries. Full legalization, according to this official, is the only way to deal with the problem.

Ultimately, the entire council, including Councilmember Doug Crane, voted in support of the moratorium as well as a request of the development of zoning regulations.



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