Time to set rules on pot dispensariesBack in February, the idea that a medical marijuana dispensary providing medicine to sick people could fit into Mountain View appeared to be accepted by the City Council. But that sentiment is shifting and unless there is a willingness to compromise among some council members, what once appeared to be a green light for dispensaries is now looking more like a stop sign.
Mayor Ronit Bryant is having second thoughts about welcoming dispensaries to the city at all, given that neighboring Palo Alto and Los Altos already have closed the door, and Sunnyvale may do so as well.
"I have no interest in being the center for dispensaries in our area," she said at last week's council meeting.
Now it appears that Bryant and Margaret Abe-Koga, who had been open to the idea of closely-regulated dispensaries in February, are much more concerned, and possibly ready to join colleagues Jac Siegel and Laura Macias in voting against permitting any dispensaries to open here.
The new positions of Bryant and Abe-Koga became apparent during last week's discussion of regulations the city could impose on dispensaries, including several that could severely restrict their operation.
On the other side, members Tom Means and John Inks, are just as intent on applying their Libertarian philosophy to the issue, and seem unwilling to accept meaningful compromise on restrictions that might win the support of Bryant and others. Council member Mike Kasperzak generally sides with Means and Inks, but probably would be more willing to compromise.
Here are some of the restrictions being considered by the council that were proposed by City Attorney Jannie Quinn:
• Require dispensaries to be 500 or 1,000 feet from "sensitive" locations, including parks, trails, schools, residences and other areas deemed sensitive by the city's zoning administrator. Such a regulation would limit dispensaries to only a few small zones in the city, mostly in industrial areas along Highway 101 and the 237 Freeway.
• Require marijuana to be lab-tested for safety before it is sold in storefront dispensaries. Bryant and others said the Federal Drug Administration requires such tests for any medication. Tough testing requirements of dispensaries also are found in Los Angeles' ordinance, which requires that an independent and certified lab test samples of dried medical marijuana and edible marijuana for pesticides and any other regulated contaminants.
• Require dispensary operators to apply for a conditional use permit that would need to be renewed every year, and require prospective operators to pass a criminal background check.
• Require dispensaries to have security cameras, buzz-in entrances and security guards.
• Require that marijuana be cultivated at the dispensary, which Quinn says would prevent problematic "grow houses" from springing up.
Perhaps the biggest sticking point is the question of where to put a dispensary. There is no majority opinion on this, with Abe-Koga supporting an option to keep dispensaries 1,000 feet from sensitive uses while Inks, Means and Kasperzak support the 500-foot option. Bryant has an entirely different take, preferring a dispensary not be hidden from view in an industrial area as proposed by the city attorney.
Despite their differences, the council should be able to find a way to draft dispensary regulations that can bring this discussion to a conclusion.
We can understand the hesitancy of some council members, who want assurance that dispensaries are safe and distribute uncontaminated medicinal products. By crafting reasonable, achievable regulations, the city council can make sure that dispensaries meet local health needs and not be a burden on the general population.