The Richmond City Council renewed its commitment Tuesday night to preventing new medical marijuana dispensaries from moving into the city. The council voted unanimously to extend a moratorium banning new clubs, giving the city at least another 45 days to figure out a strategy.
The city passed an initial moratorium in early December, which also had a limit of 45 days. The goal of the moratorium is to give the city Planning Department time to assess the situation of dispensaries in Richmond, examine how other cities in California are dealing with regulating them, and come up with a recommendation for how to manage the clubs, collectives and dispensaries that provide medical marijuana. Richmond currently has no laws on the books regarding dispensaries, and a handful already exist in the city.
The director of the Planning Department, Richard Mitchell, recommended the extension, but did not specify how far along city staff were in attempting to gather information on the issue. California law allows for a moratorium to be extended for another 10 months if the city needs the time.
“One of our major problems in our fair city is people that are dealing drugs openly on the streets and elsewhere,” said Richmond resident Sims Thompson. Thompson is concerned that club members could potentially buy marijuana from a dispensary and then sell it illegally on the street for a profit.
Lisa Hirschhorn is a consultant for GDP Collective, a dispensary that’s been at Hilltop Mall for almost five years, and she supports some kind of regulation around dispensaries. GDP Collective does have a business license from the city and according to Hirschhorn, has attempted to abide by city regulations as much as they exist.
“I think that there’s an avid need for the patients here in the city of Richmond, and we together need to form resolutions and ordinances,” Hirschhorn said in an appeal to the council to work on regulation, yet find a way to keep medical marijuana available in the city. She thinks clubs that skirt the law hurt the legitimacy of businesses that operate according to the rules.
Some residents are concerned about the clubs whether or not they abide by the law.
“Why do we have to have it here in Richmond?” asked Corky Booze, an active Richmond community member. “Our kids need better than this.”
Rebecca Vasquez, director of the Holistic Healing Collective in Pt. Richmond, said she hasn’t felt any additional pressure from the city about her dispensary since the initial moratorium went into effect, despite talk by councilmembers at previous meetings about finding a way to get rid of the clubs completely.
State proposition 215 allows California residents to legally seek marijuana treatment for medical purposes. The proposition also defines collectives and cooperatives as legal avenues for patients to obtain marijuana, paving the way for dispensaries.