Pot papers

City medical-cannabis dispensaries get legal

Nearly 15 years in the making, Sacramento’s medical-cannabis dispensaries are about to become legit.

On Tuesday, November 9, Sacramento City Council will likely approve its first ever medical-marijuana dispensary ordinance. A version of the ordinance was presented to stakeholders last week for public comment and review. Councilwoman Sandy Sheedy attended the meeting and listened as dozens of club owners, advocates, attorneys and others shared feedback. Some expressed concerns, but most are satisfied with the end result.

Specifically, the 56-page draft ordinance outlines new special-permit fees. Exemptions can be made, but most applicants will fork over nearly $40,000 to offset planning-commission costs and zoning-administration expenses. Also, clubs will have to pay an additional $18,000 in fees so as to reimburse the city for the costs associated with regulating dispensaries.

This cost of doing business, though, is on par with that in other cities. In Oakland, for instance, city officials last month doubled the number of permitted pot clubs, from four to eight, and also doubled the permit fees to nearly $60,000.

Here in Sacramento, some argue that the new costs will price smaller dispensaries out of business.

In addition to new fees, there’ll also be some new rules and regulations. The current draft ordinance, for instance, says that all clubs must install bars on windows. Some balked at this request at the meeting, however, so the requirement may be struck from the final draft.

Yet other new rules likely will remain. Customers will no longer be allowed to consume marijuana at dispensaries, something that will no doubt irritate patients—but won’t necessarily upset club owners. Also, any employees or owners who have been convicted of a felony, or are currently on parole or probation for sale or distribution of a controlled substance, will no longer be allowed to work at clubs.

The ordinance won’t be impacted by Measure C or Proposition 19, if voters approve those initiatives, and is expected to be approved this Tuesday. Club owners anticipate hanging their business permits in early 2011.