Sacramento’s move to ban marijuana clubs

On the River City’s ‘Just Say No,’ Nancy Reagan, marijuana-dispensary dance; plus police funding, plastic bags and stereos on cruisers

Hey, Sacramento City Council, news flash: Marijuana is kinda legal now.

And it’s not just Colorado and Washington; governments are aggressively regulating and decriminalizing “the weed” like never before.

So why, then, does Sacramento apparently want to pull a rewind and return to the Nancy Reagan “Just Say No” days?

This past Tuesday, the council almost voted to dump more marijuana into the underground economy: An amendment to the city’s medical-marijuana-club ordinance aiming to increase the distance requirements for pot clubs”—mandating that they be located from 600 to 1,000 feet from public parks and schools—“nearly passed.

City leaders say this new rule won’t apply to existing clubs. But the catch is that each and every dispensary in the city must still obtain a special business permit. And, as the new ordinance reads, a “hearing body can take the sensitive uses such as distance from schools or parks into consideration when deciding whether or not to approve, conditionally approve, or deny a special permit” to clubs.

Councilman Steve Cohn called the proposed new rules a de facto ban.

<He’s kind of right: <b>Every club operating now in the city falls within 1,000 feet of a school or church.

There was a time not long ago when nearly 40 registered pot clubs called the city of Sacramento home, some two dozen in the central city alone. And the city was set to rake in at least $1.5 million from a newly implemented weed tax during its inaugural year.

Today, however, there are only six clubs registered with the city on the grid, only 16 in total remain—and most could shutter due to the city’s rule switcheroo.

The reason for the city’s change in heart is Uncle Sam: California’s U.S. attorneys insist that medical-pot clubs be at least 1,000 feet from sensitive uses, which is all part of the Department of Justice’s campaign to curb the flowering marijuana economy in the Golden State.

It makes little sense for Sacramento’s leaders to toe the fed line and send marijuana sales to the black market instead of being proactive and progressive about regulating its own pot industry. The Obama administration has made overtures in recent months to the need for a “dialogue” when it comes to the nation’s marijuana policy. Two states have legalized recreational pot. America is moving, as the president says, forward.

But city council, who punted the ordinance amendment vote until February 19, wants to clamp down on pot. First, the city froze its permitting process. Then, it banned outdoor cultivation of weed. Now, it’s putting local taxpayers out of work by relegating dispensaries to the far reaches of the city.

Only Councilman Steve Cohn spoke out in favor of a more progressive marijuana policy at this past Tuesday’s meeting. “My concern is that we’ve created essentially an outright ban,” he told colleagues.

Instead of moving backward, let’s actually deal with marijuana—because even if it goes underground, it’s here to stay.

Midtown crime update: Since my last column two weeks ago, there have been six robberies, 35 breaking and enterings, 54 thefts, nine assaults and 14 property crimes in the central city.

But these numbers—and the recent uptick in muggings in Midtown—apparently weren’t enough for city staff to recommend an increase in police funding for its midyear budget adjustments.

City council was scheduled to give more than $4 million to its rainy-day fund during these annual adjustments, but won’t add additional patrols in Midtown or downtown until Measure U funding kicks in later this year.

Worried about crime on the grid? Save your complaints for a rainy day, I guess.

City council isn’t always blowing smoke: Next month, a plan to ban plastic bags at Sacramento’s major grocery chains will finally be heard in committee. City leaders should green-light this eco-friendly law ASAP.

And, while they’re at it, there’s one other ban City Hall should fast-track: making it illegal to have a stereo on a bike.

I know, the idea sounds like a jerk move. But really, the only people with stereos on their cruisers seem to be random dudes right in front of my apartment at 7 a.m. blaring Sublime or Jethro Tull.

I’m not one for reckless prohibition, but banning things like bike stereos and leaf blowers will make life on the grid just a little less awful.