Tentative approval of medical pot dispensary ordinance in Sonoma

January 29, 2007

Bay City News, CBS 5 - TV

Sonoma County's Board of Supervisors approved by a 5-0 straw vote this afternoon a proposed ordinance regulating medical marijuana dispensaries in unincorporated areas of the county. A final vote is scheduled for March 20.

The board heard comments from more than a dozen medical marijuana patients and providers. There is a moratorium on new dispensaries in the unincorporated areas of the county until May 5 and some of the county's cities also have passed moratoriums.

The board directed the county's Permit and Resource Management Department to draft an ordinance requiring 1,000 feet between a dispensary and a school, day care center or playground. Each dispensary will have to obtain a use permit and a public hearing will be held on each application.

The board disapproved of the planning department's allowance of consumption of marijuana on the dispensaries' premises. Board members said they are concerned about transportation and safety. The board had no objection about dispensaries remaining open on Sundays and holidays.

Under the proposed ordinance, there will be a Level 1 dispensary of not more than 1,000 square feet serving less than 300 patients and no more than 20 patients between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. each business day.

A Level 2 dispensary could serve more than 299 patients and/or be in a facility greater than 1,000 square feet and serving more than 20 patients between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. each business day.

The proposed ordinance prohibits exterior signs or symbols that advertise the availability of cannabis and prohibits people under age 18 on the premises.

Sheriff Bill Cogbill said the ordinance, if approved "will not ensure that an investigation or prosecution will not occur'' for retail sale of marijuana.

County guidelines allow medical marijuana patients to cultivate 30 plants and possess 3 pounds of marijuana but state and federal laws prohibit the retail sale of marijuana, Cogbill said.

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