After months of wrestling the legislative equivalent of a greased pig, the City Council’s Ordinance Committee appears poised to support a new and more-restrictive medical marijuana ordinance. While the final wordsmithing still remains to be done, the committee members have unanimously endorsed language calling for no more than five dispensaries to be evenly distributed throughout the city. One is to be located near Cottage Hospital, while none are to be located on State Street downtown, in residential neighborhoods, or in mixed-use buildings.
Committee members Grant House, Frank Hotchkiss, and Bendy White were torn between meeting the health needs of those in medical distress while removing the profit motive that might attract operators targeting recreational users. To that end, they inserted language requiring all dispensaries to be operated as nonprofit collectives. Individual collectives are required to cultivate their own pot; their membership — and actual cultivation — will be restricted to the tri-county area. Edible marijuana will be legal to sell.
There are currently three centers now operating that clearly qualify under the terms of the new ordinance — two on Milpas Street and one on Olive Street. Another two — one on upper De la Vina Street and one on the 3100 block of State Street — probably can qualify, according to City Attorney Steve Wiley. But two now in existence — one on the 3500 block of State Street and one on Parker Way — will probably not be able to meet the city’s standards, and one — on the 100 block of East Haley Street — has just gone out of business. As usual, the committee members heard from a large contingent of speakers urging them to ban dispensaries outright or to impose the most restrictive conditions possible. To do otherwise, they maintained, would jeopardize the city’s teens and recovery community. The committee members also heard from a number of pro-pot advocates.
Dispensaries will be allowed to exchange pot for cash, just as long as the transactions are restricted to collective members. The outstanding sticky question remains at what price. “What’s just compensation?” asked committee member Frank Hotchkiss. “I think the federal government is dealing with that issue regarding CEO compensation,” said Wiley. “It’s clearly a subjective thing not amenable to black and white rules.” The final language needs to be reviewed one final time by the Ordinance Committee and then forwarded to the City Council as a whole. There, its fate is by no means certain.