Ukiah to consider permits for medical marijuana dispensaries

Ukiah marijuana dispensary ordinanceThe Ukiah Planning Commission will hold a public hearing Wednesday night on a proposed ordinance establishing a process to allow marijuana dispensaries to operate in all commercial zones, including the downtown core.

According to the staff report prepared for the Sept. 14 meeting, the proposed ordinance was created by an ad-hoc committee that included Vice-Mayor Jim Brown, Council member Maureen Mulheren, former Planning Director Charley Stump, City Attorney David Rapport and Ukiah Police Chief Chris Dewey.

The committee was formed in response to three bills being signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown last year that make up the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act, which allows local jurisdictions such as the city of Ukiah “to issue permits or licenses to operate marijuana businesses or prohibit their operation; to regulate or expressly prohibit the delivery of medical marijuana within its boundaries; and to regulate or expressly prohibit the cultivation of marijuana within its boundaries.

And at the time, if the city chose not to either regulate or prohibit such activities, the State of California would be “the sole licensing authority for these activities in the city.”

Though the act was later amended to “preserve local authority over medical marijuana-related industry and activities,” according to city staff the City Council “thought it prudent” to proceed with drafting and adopting its own ordinance.

According to staff, members of the City Council have been approached by local residents who asked about the possibility of operating marijuana dispensaries within the city limits, and both Mulheren and Brown “believe that the city could benefit from tax revenue derived from operation of dispensaries within the city limits rather than losing that tax revenue to dispensaries (located in county jurisdiction).

The proposed ordinance being considered by the city would require anyone wishing to operate a marijuana dispensary to obtain a dispensary use permit approved and issued by the zoning administrator/planning director, and a public hearing will be required.

Once a permit is issued, the holder will need to renew it each year, and “the renewal process requires the Planning Director to use an extensive set of rigorous criteria to determine if the permit should be extended,” and those include: “number of police calls, whether or not there are inadequate safeguard procedures, failure to pay fees, etc.”

The zones where dispensaries would be allowed are: Commercial 1&2, Neighborhood Commercial, Manufacturing, Planned Development, General Urban, Urban Center and the Downtown Core.

A dispensary must also “be in a visible location with good views of the entrance, cannot be within 250 feet of a youth-oriented facility, and not within or near any residentially zoned areas.”

As for the operators, dispensary applicants cannot have any felony convictions and employees must be 18 or older. As for patients, a medical card or prescription will be required and no marijuana can be consumed on site.

As for deliveries of marijuana, it will be allowed to qualified patients and caregivers at their residence in the city, “but only from dispensaries lawfully operating within city limits. Other home deliveries of marijuana are prohibited.”

The Planning Commission meeting begins at 6 p.m. in the City Council chambers at 300 Seminary Ave.

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