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Neighborhood representatives prepare for pot ordinance

on September 14, 2010

The city has released the details of its proposed medical marijuana ordinance to the Richmond Neighborhood Coordinating Council. Last night, Assistant City Attorney Mary Renfro presented the newest draft of the law to neighborhood representatives. The City Council will vote Tuesday on the set of regulations for permitting medical marijuana dispensaries in the city.

Bea Roberson, president of the neighborhood council, told the group that the meeting was for information only. “We’re not here to debate the pros and cons,” she said.

Bea Roberson, president of the Richmond Neighborhood Coordinating Council, kept order in the meeting.

Under the law the city would issue up to three Medical Marijuana Collective permits to non-profit corporations. If more than three collectives submit completed applications, the City Manager’s office will choose by lottery which applicants will get a public hearing on their proposal.

The dispensaries could be established in any commercial zone. The marijuana may be cultivated at the dispensary facility, if it meets security specifications, or at off-site locations that are subject to health and safety inspection. Patients are limited to one ounce of marijuana per day, and the dispensaries will be responsible for avoiding filling duplicate prescriptions.

Neighborhood representatives expressed concern that a medical marijuana patient might parcel their daily ounce into smaller amounts and sell it illegally on the streets. Attorney Renfro said other cities have adopted a one-ounce limit and acknowledged there is a tension between providing adequate marijuana for legitimate medical purposes, and limiting it enough to prevent illegal reselling.

Several council members asked who would foot the cost of increased policing and providing cameras and other security measures at dispensary sites. Renfro said the ordinance calls for a study to determine those costs, which would be paid for in the price of the permits.

After the meeting, Jerry Yoshida of Richmond Annex raised concerns that the City Council has not adequately sought opinions from the neighborhood councils. “Once it’s passed, it’s very difficult to change,” he said, “so we’ve got to get it right the first time.” He said many on the coordinating council are worried about loitering and fire safety if dispensaries set up shop or grow marijuana in a commercial area nearby.

Rebecca Vasquez, director of the Holistic Healing Collective, said she is ready to apply for one of the permits. She ran a dispensary in Point Richmond until she was shut down in July after the city enacted a moratorium. She hopes the new process will give her a fresh start, “If it’s a fair process, I should be given a fair shot,” she said.

You can read more stories about the city’s policies regarding medical marijuana dispensaries here.

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