Willits looking at pot stores

October 25, 2004

Claudia Reed, The Willits News

A request to open a medical marijuana dispensary in Willits has the city doing some extra homework.

'Dispensaries are a new type of enterprise not considered in Willits' municipal code,' says City Attorney Jim Lance. 'They're not regulated by code or zoning ordinance.'

Regulation, Lance explains, could focus on such issues as location, hours of operation, admission of children, and security features.

'Before (dispensaries are) just allowed to pop up all over the city wherever someone wants to operate one, the city should determine if they should be allowed at all and, if so, how they should be regulated.'

Such determinations could take weeks of additional study and discussion. In the meantime, the city may adopt an 'urgency ordinance' calling for a moratorium on the establishment of medical marijuana dispensaries within city limits. According to Willits City Manager Ross Walker, an urgency ordinance remains in effect for 45 days and can be extended repeatedly for up to 10 months.

'The idea,' Lance says, 'is to form a committee to study all the ramifications of dispensaries, what we should expect, what other communities have found.'

He notes Oakland, Berkeley, and San Francisco 'have reported criminal activity in and around dispensaries.' The crimes range from illegally-obtained prescriptions to theft and violence.

Given such information, at least one city, Rocklin, a small town northeast of Sacramento, has banned dispensaries altogether. Other cities have enacted various sorts of restrictions.

Fear of crime and other complaints have also arisen with regard to marijuana gardens within city limits. Some neighbors object to the smell, while others fear violence from robbery attempts. That subject, however, is not on the October 27 agenda.

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