Sebastopol to study rules for pot clubs

January 30, 2007

Katy Hillenmeyer, Santa Rosa Press Democrat

 With Sebastopol's moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries expiring in April, the City Council will take up next month a proposed ordinance to regulate the facilities.


Advocates praised city leaders for being receptive to locating dispensaries there but said the ordinance should not, as drafted, limit Sebastopol to two dispensaries.

``We appreciate ... that localities like Sebastopol are grappling with these issues and choose to regulate, as opposed to either ignoring the challenge or banning dispensaries,'' said Kris Hermes, legal campaign director for Americans for Safe Access, a national advocacy group based in Oakland.


But Hermes said market demands should dictate how many dispensaries open.


``We consider a cap an arbitrary restriction placed on something that really needs to be decided by patients in the community,'' Hermes said Tuesday.


On Feb. 20, the City Council will review the ordinance, which Sebastopol's Planning Commission unanimously approved last week. Key provisions would:


* Permit one dispensary during the initial 12 months after enactment of the ordinance and, because of the city's size, allow for only one more permit after that year.


* Bar dispensaries from non-commercial areas and prohibit them within 500 feet of a youth-oriented facility or other dispensary.


* Deny convicted felons permission to operate dispensaries.


* Limit the amount of marijuana on the premises and prohibit patients' on-site consumption. Dispensary employees with a medical need could consume on site.


Kenyon Webster, the city's planning director, said no prospective dispensary operators recently have inquired with the city or sought permits.


``Initially, we are taking a cautious approach to this use,'' Webster said Tuesday. ``... We want to ensure that these are being operated appropriately and safely and don't create public safety issues.''


You can reach Staff Writer Katy Hillenmeyer at 521-5274 or

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