CA: Ukiah Planning Commission Delays Vote On Marijuana Dispensaries

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The Ukiah Planning Commission delayed voting this week on a proposed ordinance that would allow medical marijuana dispensaries to operate within the city of Ukiah.

“We are on the cusp of something changing, which is going to change whether we want it to or not, but there are too many questions unanswered in this for it to move forward,” said Commissioner Laura Christensen. “I’m also wondering if we’re jumping the gun a little and if we shouldn’t wait until after the election, in case things change dramatically soon.”

The proposed ordinance would allow medical marijuana dispensaries to operate in all commercial zones, including the downtown core, after operators acquired a use permit from the zoning administrator/planning director.

“I think we need an ordinance, and I think the process for obtaining a permit is going to be onerous, but most of it is well thought out,” said Linda Sanders, adding, however, that she thought certain aspects of the ordinance needed to be adjusted.

Commissioner Christopher Watt said he did not support the ordinance at all.

“Clearly there’s a segment of the population that benefits from the use of medical marijuana, and I don’t think we want to hinder their ability to alleviate their condition,” Watt said. “However, the vast majority of marijuana is for recreational or self-medicating use, let’s be real, and this ordinance provides an insurance against the liability inherent in conducting such business.

“Until we get to a point where the money’s not in it any more, and it’s the same as any other business selling diapers or tennis shoes or cigarettes, there’s still going to be problems,” Watt continued. “I do not support this at all.”

“There’s a lot to be worked on here,” said Chairman Mike Whetzel. “I can’t recommend this now, and I think we should wait 60 days until after the election, because everything is going to change.”

The proposed ordinance would require anyone wishing to operate a marijuana dispensary to obtain a dispensary use permit approved and issued by the zoning administrator/planning director, and a public hearing would be required.

Once a permit was issued, the holder would need to renew it each year, and “the renewal process requires the Planning Director to use an extensive set of rigorous criteria to determine if the permit should be extended,” and those include: “number of police calls, whether or not there are inadequate safeguard procedures, failure to pay fees, etc.”

A dispensary must also “be in a visible location with good views of the entrance, cannot be within 250 feet of a youth-oriented facility, and not within or near any residentially zoned areas.”

As for the operators, dispensary applicants cannot have any felony convictions and employees must be 18 or older. As for patients, a medical card or prescription would be required and no marijuana could be consumed on site.

Deliveries of marijuana would be allowed to qualified patients and caregivers at their residence in the city, “but only from dispensaries lawfully operating within city limits. Other home deliveries of marijuana are prohibited.”

“It is quite obvious that they have set up numerous obstacles and hoops, and it would be a shame for the city to drive away revenue,” said a man who described himself as a disabled Vietnam veteran with a medical marijuana card, addressing the commission during public comment. “The city should take all steps necessary to do what’s right and not drive revenue away. That would be senseless.”

“I don’t think (marijuana) should be grown in town, but I do think we need a real, professional dispensary that’s dispensing real medicine that has been lab-tested,” said Ben Butler. “And I don’t think the dispensaries should be under any more scrutiny than that for alcohol or tobacco.”

Interim Planning Director Kevin Thompson said the Ukiah City Council’s direction was to try and pass an ordinance prior to the election, so his plan was to amend the ordinance based on the commission’s comments and bring it back to the commission prior to the election.

News Moderator: Katelyn Baker
Full Article: Ukiah Planning Commission Delays Vote On Marijuana Dispensaries
Author: Justine Frederiksen
Contact: The Ukiah Daily Journal
Photo Credit: Elaine Thompson
Website: The Ukiah Daily Journal