City to discuss federal pot crackdown, cultivation ban

Tuesday meeting also to address changes to city ordinance

It’s been a while since the city council sat down, passed the gavel to the left and had a heady discussion about marijuana. So, while this upcoming Tuesday’s powwow isn’t “420” or a day of reckoning, it’s still kind of a significant one for pot in Sacramento.

Four council members, the city’s law-and-legislation committee, will meet on July 24, at 3 p.m., to look at the federal government’s 10-month-old crackdown on medical-marijuana in California. Council member and committee chairman Jay Schenirer has requested this sit-down, which will also include an update on the city’s permitting process, which currently is frozen through November 2013, because of state court cases that might impact its legality.

Meanwhile, outgoing Councilwoman Sandy Sheedy wants to explore banning outdoor cultivation of medical marijuana in residential neighborhoods.

And revenue manager Brad Wasson also told SN&R of a potential change to the city’s ordinance that could shut down most of its pot dispensaries.

The plan is to consider “increasing the proximity requirement from a school or a park to 1,000 feet” for dispensaries, he said. Currently, the city ordinance says clubs must be only 600 feet.

This distance, however, is a sticking point with state officials. And, of course, the federal government. So, it appears likely that the rule will evolve and ultimately force several, if not a majority, of dispensaries to either move or shut down.

Local activist Courtney Sheats, with medical-cannabis advocacy group Americans for Safe Access, says cities revisiting their ganja laws is a trend statewide. “With the recent [U.S. Department of Justice] crackdown, I think there are some cities and counties concerned about their medical-cannabis ordinances,” she said.

She added that Sacramento is “operating in good faith” when it comes to the heart of its ordinance, which was passed in 2010.

Certainly, the city enjoys the tax revenue from medical-cannabis dispensaries, of which there are an estimated 18 still standing in the city limits. At one point, though, there were upward of 40—and Wasson noted that the city raked in more than $1 million this past fiscal year from its 4 percent dispensary tax.

“But the money’s still coming in,” Wasson added, “so from that aspect, it’s good.” He estimates that the city currently generates about $100,000 a month from the tax.

Sheats would like to see city leaders to come out publicly and vocally to support medical cannabis while the DOJ continues its enforcement campaign. Given that it’s still taking clubs’ tax dollars.

Meanwhile, the city’s permitting program is still suspended, which means no new dispensaries can open, and no permits will be handed out to existing clubs (although they can still stay open).

Sacramento is waiting on a California Supreme Court’s ruling later this year in the case of Pack v. Long Beach, which could possibly render its marijuana ordinance illegal.

But even if they could, would new dispensaries even want to open up in Sacramento?

“I can’t answer that,” conceded Sheats, “being that the climate changes every day—and sometimes many times during the day.”