New ordinance shuts door to cannabis clubs in Ceres

March 28, 2006

Jeff Benziger, Ceres Courier

Members of the City Council enacted an emergency interim ordinance Monday that pre-empts the possibility of anyone opening up a medicinal marijuana dispensory in Ceres.

Police Chief Art deWerk appealed for the action out of concern that Ceres might be a target for the opening of such businesses now that Modesto and other cities in the county have adopted similar prohibitions. DeWerk said such facilities could increase illegal drug trade and other crimes, create blight around a facility and could impact the safety and welfare of others.

City Attorney Michael Lyions cited the conflicts between federal and state laws. He also noted that deWerk has concerns that such businesses act as a magnet for crime.

Monday's action takes effect immediately and is effective for 45 days. The council can come back to renew the ordinance for another 10 and a half months until a permanent zoning ordinance can be crafted and put into place. Lyions said the ordinance was rushed as an emergency because of the length of time it takes to get a “true ordinance” passed through the Planning Commission and City Council.

Police Division Cmdr. Mike Borges said Ceres doesn't have a medicinal marijuana dispensory but often makes busts involving residents with pot plants in possession of medical marijuana cards. He said typically those arrested have more plants than allowed and typically have expired cards.

Under Proposition 215 passed in 1996, the state allows persons to obtain a doctor's permission to use pot for medicinal reasons but the federal government does not recognize the practice as legal. Cards cost $100 and may be acquired in the Bay Area, said Borges.

“They can get them for any reason,” said Borges, “including anger management and back pain.”

Lyions crafted the Ceres ordinance after one used by Modesto last year. Modesto had existing medical marijuana dispensaries before it adopted a law against them. Riverbank and Turlock followed suit and Oakdale is considering prohibitions.

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