Weed council delays dispensary decision

Skye Kinkade
Weed City Councilor Ken Palfini, center, listens to a report from City Administrator Ron Stock regarding medical marijuana dispensaries Thursday evening. Also pictured are mayor Bob Hall and councilor Chuck Sutton.

After more than an hour of public comment and council discussion on Thursday, the issue of whether to ban medical marijuana dispensaries by modifying Weed’s zoning laws was pushed off for 90 days.

Councilor Ken Palfini suggested the continuance to allow council more time to research the topic of medical marijuana and gather more input from affected citizens.

The Weed Planning Commission had previously reviewed and recommended the zoning ordinance for adoption.

Councilor Bob Hall said he believes it is “only a matter of time” before California voters choose to legalize marijuana, and this issue is something he’d ultimately like Weed voters to decide.

However, Hall said he doesn’t believe now is the time to approve dispensaries in Weed and said he supports the ordinance as written.

Councilor Chuck Sutton pointed out this isn’t a permanent decision and that city code can be changed “when minds and laws are changed.”

Sutton said passing the ordinance won’t change anything, except the way dispensaries are regulated and said he believes council should “just go ahead and pass it.”

City Attorney Bob Winston explained that the city currently regulates dispensaries via business licenses. A potential business would need to comply with both federal and state law for the license to be issued.

Restricting the location of dispensaries via zoning was a method recently reviewed by the California Supreme Court, Winston said, and found to be a valid way for cities to control where the businesses are allowed, if at all.

Hall said the ordinance would give the city a better position if the regulation of dispensaries is ever challenged in court.

“The Planning Commission worked through this diligently,” said councilor Dave Pearce. “Let’s show some respect, and do what they said.” He also called attention to doctors who issue medical marijuana recommendations to patients who don’t necessarily have a reason for it other than recreation.

Councilor Stacey Green said he’s worried about violating people’s rights and that he’s not in favor of the ordinance.

Palfini said the “older, more conservative” residents of Weed are most likely against dispensaries, but there is also a younger generation that is “more permissive.”

Palfini said he doesn’t believe marketing is a valid reason to allow dispensaries, since “I love Weed” merchandise is already available.

“I’m leaning toward throwing this one out,” Palfini said.

Speaking in support of the ordinance were Mary Blankenship, Nancy Quigley, Julie Hofer, Margie Hayes, Lynda Barbieri and Holly Hansard. The women said they believe prohibiting dispensaries is a good thing for the community and its children.

Several people gave impassioned pleas to allow a dispensary to open so patients can have access to their medicine.

Jim Striegel suggested the council allow a dispensary to open on a temporary, trial basis to see if it would cause problems.

Portland, Ore. resident Inge Fryklund, a member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, said drugs are present in the world and prohibiting them often causes more problems than the substances themselves. She agreed with Striegel and asked the council to reject the planning commission’s recommendation.

Several people testified about the benefits of marijuana and how it helped them get off heavy-duty prescription medications. They said the drive to Mount Shasta or Shasta Lake to get their prescription is a hardship.

Weed’s David Case said restricting access is “a step back from compassion and kindness” and urged the council to “step up as citizens of humanity.”

Weed resident Brendan Butler said the town needs jobs and said it would be “absurd” to pass on the chance to marketing opportunities a dispensary would bring.

Palfini suggested a continuance, and after much discussion, all five councilors voted to table the item for 90 days.