Keep medi-pot local

Dispensaries should be highly regulated and locally run

We can’t keep up with the number of medical-marijuana shops and delivery services popping up in Chico.

It looks like local folks are running these operations. That’s somewhat comforting. What we don’t want to see, once the Chico City Council establishes zoning regulations for cannabis dispensaries and growing operations, is a bunch of outside interests heading into town. City staff is expected to come back to the council with some options in April, and you can bet big outfits in the metro areas are keeping close tabs on this situation.

In the meantime, let’s hope the panel does some serious homework. This is especially important when it comes to dispensaries. These are the facilities where qualified patients go for the medicine they cannot—or don’t want to—grow on their own. It goes without saying that the council should prohibit dispensaries in residential areas. That’s just common sense. Other options aren’t so clear cut.

Mayor Ann Schwab and Councilwoman Mary Flynn have talked about establishing “high standards” for dispensaries, but both are vague on the specifics. One way to set up a good system of checks and balances is requiring them to operate as local, collectively run nonprofit organizations. If the outfits are legit, they should have no problem with annual audits of finances, membership and suppliers.

City leaders should also limit the number of medi-pot dispensaries. Supply and demand is a bad idea when it comes to pot. Just ask Los Angeles, home to more than 1,000 dispensaries. Last month, the city council there voted to shut down hundreds of them. That decision has sparked legal challenges, of course. We never thought we’d say this, but Chico should learn something from L.A. It will be easy for the council to tweak zoning to allow for additional collectives, but not so simple to get rid of those already established.

Then again, we also don’t want to see a monopoly. That could easily happen if the council forces collectives to grow on site. Only those with the deepest pockets would be able to afford to set up a large-scale growing facility, and we doubt they would have altruistic motives. The City Council has an obligation to make sure medi-pot users are legally able to obtain their medicine, but the panel should also do its best to ensure the providers are on the up and up.