Council restricts medical pot sale

April 17, 2004

David Richie , Sacramento Bee

The Citrus Heights City Council adopted an urgency ordinance Wednesday setting restrictions on medical marijuana dispensaries while making room for a cannabis shop planned on Auburn Boulevard.

The ordinance requires operators to have a business license and obtain a yearly 'medical cannabis dispensary permit' from the city manager. In addition, the shops must be nonprofit operations.

The law specifies that only two dispensaries will be allowed in Citrus Heights and restricts where they can be located. Provisions also limit the amount of processed marijuana and the number of plants allowed in each shop and prohibit consumption on the premises.

The council adopted the measure Wednesday as an urgency ordinance, which does not require public hearings and takes effect immediately.

City Attorney Michael Dean told the council that local jurisdictions, including Elk Grove and Roseville, are fielding inquiries about licenses for cannabis shops. Interest has increased since SB 420, which requires the state to issue identification cards to medical marijuana users, took effect Jan. 1.

'This ordinance will fill a vacuum,' Dean said.

The council unanimously adopted the ordinance after modifying a key provision to accommodate operators seeking to open the first medical marijuana dispensary in Citrus Heights.

Kevin Gill and Lucille Fisher have applied for a license to open Compassion Wellness Clinic at 7376 Auburn Blvd. Gill told the council that he has signed a lease and plans to open the shop next month.

An ordinance provision recommended by city staff members called for prohibiting cannabis shops in residential areas or within 1,000 feet of another dispensary, school, public library or park. Gill's clinic is set to open about 900 feet from Sylvan Middle School.

Mayor James Shelby and Vice Mayor Bret Daniels voiced support for restrictions on cannabis dispensaries but raised concerns about fairness for Gill and Fisher. They noted that the urgency ordinance was not on the books when the operators settled on the Auburn Boulevard location.

At the end of the discussion, the council accepted a suggestion by Shelby and Daniels that the city knock 100 feet off the distance requirement so Compassion Wellness Clinic could have a chance to open.

Community Development Director Janet Ruggiero said the urgency measure would take effect immediately while officials work on a permanent ordinance. Shelby suggested staff members take advantage of the technical expertise offered by medical marijuana advocates.

Supporters of medical marijuana at the meeting Wednesday praised Citrus Heights officials for their 'compassion' in adopting the ordinance.

'This is the opposite of what has occurred in Elk Grove,' said Ryan Landers, who is affiliated with the American Alliance For Medical Cannabis and Californians For Compassionate Use.

On April 7, the Elk Grove City Council reluctantly adopted rules for medical marijuana dispensaries, which cities must permit under state law. During the meeting, council members and city officials expressed hope that the restrictions would discourage operators from opening cannabis shops in Elk Grove.

Landers told the Citrus Heights council that he suffers from full-blown AIDS and sometimes uses as much as a half-pound of medical marijuana each month.

'I stand before you for the sick and the dying that truly need your support and compassion,' Landers said.



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