Medical pot decisions in Stockton's near future
June 26, 2010
Daniel Thigpen, The RecordOfficials at City Hall have been spending a lot of time discussing marijuana lately.
On Tuesday, the City Council will consider adopting a strict set of rules that will allow a limited number of medical marijuana dispensaries to operate in the city.
The same day, the city will continue its legal fight in San Joaquin County Superior Court with a dispensary that opened last year before officials figured out how to regulate medical-pot sales.
And in the coming weeks, the City Council will consider placing a broad business tax overhaul measure on the November ballot that, in part, would levy a 2.5 percent tax on gross revenues at pot dispensaries. That annual tax could apply to marijuana sold for medical purposes or otherwise, depending on whether state voters legalize marijuana for recreational uses.
As for the medical pot rules, the proposed regulations include provisions that:
» Initially cap the number of pot dispensaries that can operate in Stockton at three, with a future limit of one per 100,000 residents as the city grows.
» Require dispensaries to obtain a $30,000 operator's permit in addition to other application fees.
» Limit dispensaries to within 300 feet of homes or religious institutions; within 500 feet of a transitional housing facility; and within 1,000 feet of schools, libraries, parks and any other dispensary.
» Impose a bevy of rules on security, lighting, operations and workers.
Should the council adopt the ordinance, the tax on the dispensaries could soon follow. The proposal is part of a larger city business tax overhaul that is required by law to go before voters.
At a recent City Council committee meeting, officials said they hoped the marijuana tax wouldn't overshadow the other changes to business taxes they hope to implement.
Councilwoman Susan Eggman said she wasn't concerned about that. "(Voters) aren't saying if you want marijuana or not, you're saying if we have it, we should tax it," she said. "I think voters can make that distinction."
More and more cities, from Sacramento to the Bay Area, have considered similar taxes.
Kris Hermes, a spokesman for Americans for Safe Access in Oakland, said the advocacy group supports taxing marijuana if it is legalized by voter initiative this year. But medical dispensaries are a different issue, he said.
"Medicine already is quite expensive," he said. "Our stand, from a patient's perspective, is these facilities need not be further taxed."
Much of the local debate was sparked last fall, when a central Stockton medical marijuana dispensary opened on East Acacia Street.
The opening of Pathways Family Health Cooperative Counseling forced the City Council to revisit medical marijuana, a subject it last considered, and eventually dropped, in 2005.
The city sought court orders to shut Pathways and another dispensary, California Opathic Patient Association. The city won preliminary injunctions earlier this year, but Pathways appealed and reopened.
Before the City Council meeting Tuesday, officials will argue for court sanctions against Pathways, Deputy City Attorney Guy Petzold said.