Lincoln puts the brakes on medical pot shops

December 18, 2004

Jennifer K. Morita, Sacramento Bee

Like many cities and counties in California, Lincoln had no laws to regulate medical marijuana dispensaries.

Now it does.

'I think we needed to prevent anything from being established before we have time to thoroughly think out an ordinance and decide how we want to manage and handle this in the city of Lincoln,' Mayor Tom Cosgrove said.

'I don't think that a medical marijuana distribution point in the city is something the community would particularly want.'

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Lincoln became the latest city in the region to ban medical marijuana dispensaries, at least temporarily, when the City Council approved a 45-day urgency ordinance Tuesday.

There was little discussion among council members and none from the public.

The ordinance passed in a 4-0 vote with Councilman Spencer Short absent.

Police Chief Bill Smull recommended the ban after the city received inquiries from groups interested in opening shops in Lincoln.

But Hilary McQuie, spokeswoman for a group called Americans for Safe Access that promotes the rights of patients and doctors, said in an interview that many cities such as Lincoln are overreacting.

'What they need to understand is that if someone wants to open a dispensary in an area, it's because there's enough medical marijuana patients to justify a dispensary,' McQuie said. 'If they don't let one open, then a lot of sick people are going to be growing it themselves or buying it on the black market.'

This year, Rocklin officials passed a permanent ban on medical marijuana shops, saying they didn't fit with the city's suburban, family-oriented atmosphere.

Before the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration shut down a dispensary in Roseville, city officials there had approved regulations limiting such 'sole source pharmacies' to some commercial and industrial areas at least 500 feet from homes, churches, schools and parks.

Although a state law enacted last year was supposed to clarify the voter-approved initiative allowing people to use and cultivate marijuana for medical purposes, local jurisdictions were left with the responsibility of developing their own regulations for sales.

In his staff report, Chief Smull cited problems that cities with dispensaries have experienced, such as street dealers selling to shop clients, smoking in public and a criminal element being drawn to the area.

Lincoln's ordinance states that medical marijuana shops increase illegal drug trafficking, burglaries and robberies.

McQuie, however, said such examples are 'unfair characterizations' of medical marijuana patients.

'If the city is smart, it will license and tax these dispensaries and add it to the tax base to make the community better,' McQuie said. 'A locality is better off with a dispensary where patients can safely access their medicine in a way that can be regulated and controlled.'

The urgency ordinance, effective immediately, will last until Feb. 11 while a permanent regulation makes its way through the Planning Commission and eventually to the City Council for final approval.



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