Pot duopoly poses problems

Limiting the number of dispensaries to two is asking for trouble

The city of Chico’s effort to craft an ordinance to regulate medical-marijuana collectives and dispensaries inside city limits is looking dazed and confused, you might say.

For example, at its March 1 meeting, the City Council voted for a type of dispensary system in which the plants are grown on-site, but then it turned around and voted in favor of a system that would also allow the dispensaries’ members to grow at various satellite locations.

Voicing frustration over what he thought were contradictory actions, Councilman Mark Sorensen fumed, “We might as well take the whole ordinance and set it on fire.”

Even more problematical was the council’s subsequent decision to limit the number of dispensaries to two. This is asking for trouble.

For starters, who’s going to pick the dispensaries? What criteria will be used? In the absence of meaningful competition, how will prices be controlled? Who will monitor the dispensaries?

The alternative, as advocated by Mayor Ann Schwab, is to allow the land-use restrictions in the ordinance to determine the number of dispensaries. City staffers have estimated that number would be no more than 10. Our guess is that it would be much lower.

Either way, it would keep the dispensaries small, foster competition among them, and keep the city out of the business of picking favorites.