Abby Souza, Turlock Journal (CA)

Don't expect to buy any pot for medicinal uses from any store in Turlock for the next 45 days.

At Tuesday night's meeting, Turlock City Council unanimously approved an emergency 45-day moratorium on establishing medical marijuana dispensaries within city limits.

Council members also approved staffs requests to decide if zoning ordinances should be changed to keep medical pot stores like this out of the city.

Although many ethical and moral questions come into play when medical marijuana is discussed, that isn't the reason for this moratorium, Planning Manager Michael Cooke said.

“It's not part of our charge (to make ethical judgment),” Cooke said. “It's strictly a land use and legal issue.”

The moratorium comes after Modesto's recent passage of a law prohibiting medical marijuana dispensaries. Fresno, Rocklin, Concord, Susanville and Pasadena have also passed similar ordinances.

And although no one has requested permission to create a medicinal marijuana dispensary in Turlock, Cooke said the fact that so many area cities have banned them could make Turlock an attractive place for one if an emergency moratorium wasn't put in place.

After the 45 days are up, Cooke said the council could extend it for 10 months and 15 days, making a year. Another 12 months could be added to that, Cooke said, but a ban on the dispensaries is wanted for longer than that, zoning changes have to be made.

The fact that possession and distribution of marijuana, even for medical purposes, is illegal under the Federal Controlled Substances Act was another reason Cooke sited as a need for the ordinance and zoning changes.

Cooke also said Turlock Police Services officials are worried that “a marijuana dispensary has the potential to increase crime and violence in Turlock.”

Cooke told the council there are 49 cities in the state that have a moratorium in place, 15 that have prohibited marijuana dispensaries and 24 that have nothing to keep the stores out of their towns.

Cooke said the closest city with no moratorium or zoning ordinance is Ripon.

Council member Beverly Hatcher also complimented the city staff on staying a head of the issue. She said she'd hate “to wake up one morning and find it in an inappropriate spot.”

Community and anti-drug activist Linda Taylor also applauded the council's decision. It is truly the right thing to do, whether they believe that marijuana is medicine (or not),” she said.