FAIRFIELD — Solano County appears headed toward imposing a permanent ban on medical marijuana dispensaries in rural areas.
The Solano County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday directed county staff to prepare such a ban to be voted on at a future meeting. It wants the July 29, 2014, sunset clause removed from a temporary ban already in place.
Supervisors looked at a long list of possible sites for medical marijuana dispensaries in the rural areas where they have land use authority. Sites included Mankas Corner, Rockville Corner, Gomer School, Iwama market and other locations in Suisun Valley, Birds Landing in the Montezuma Hills and locations near Vacaville.
“I’m not satisfied we found a location that works or works well,” Supervisor Linda Seifert said.
After looking at the issue for several months, the Board of Supervisors decided that medical marijuana dispensaries belong in the cities that are home to most of the county’s population. Six of the seven cities – all but Vallejo – have banned them.
Supervisor Erin Hannigan noted that Vallejo is looking at ways to regulate medical marijuana dispensaries. She asked that the county offer its help.
Supervisor Skip Thomson expressed concerns that people in the northern and eastern county may not be able to get to Vallejo easily. He asked that the county look at having mobile dispensaries for people in those areas who have legitimate reasons to use medical marijuana.
Thomson remained unconvinced by many of the arguments against having the rural dispensaries. He talked of having strict regulations that would address such issues as crime. He talked of educating youth that medical marijuana isn’t for recreational use, but for people with certain ailments.
The county’s look at medical marijuana dispensaries began last summer. Thomson, Hannigan and Seifert at the July 30 Board of Supervisors meeting expressed a willingness to explore having rural dispensaries. They noted that state voters in 1996 passed Proposition 215 allowing medical marijuana.
Supervisors got plenty of advice on the issue, both at Tuesday’s meeting and over the past few weeks. The county conducted public outreach meetings in Vacaville, Fairfield, Vallejo, Dixon and Winters attended by both proponents and opponents of allowing the dispensaries.
Fairfield, Vacaville, Dixon and Rio Vista sent letters to the county, objecting to the county allowing medical marijuana dispensaries near their cities. Those cities have banned the dispensaries within their borders.
Vacaville City Councilman Curtis Hunt during Tuesday’s public comment section spoke against allowing rural dispensaries near his city. He said dispensaries are the type of establishment that would at times require a police response from a Vacaville force that has seen reductions.
Hunt said he feared that, should the county allow dispensaries on the borders of cities against their will, it would put at risk the cooperation between the county and cities.
G. Michael Kimmel of Fairfield told the board he is a medical marijuana patient. Medical marijuana isn’t about getting high. One to three puffs is enough to get relief, he said.
“I am not a criminal, gentlemen,” Kimmel said. “I’m retired law enforcement. We are not criminals. We’re people who suffer.”
Max Del Real told supervisors that Sacramento has good medical marijuana dispensary regulations. The city brings in $2.5 million in taxes on legal marijuana and that money goes to public safety, he said.
“We have safer streets in Sacramento because of responsible medical marijuana regulation,” Del Real said.
County resident David Marianno pointed out that the county listed the Gomer School site in rural Suisun Valley as a possible commercial site that could have a dispensary. He didn’t want a dispensary to locate in the century-old, one-room Gomer schoolhouse.
Dixon Police Chief Jon Cox spoke on behalf of the Solano County Law Enforcement Administrators Association. The association represents city and county law enforcement agencies.
Dispensaries bring robberies, burglaries and other crime along with them, Cox said. People who need medical marijuana can get it in other ways, he said.
“We urge you to continue the ban on medical marijuana dispensaries in order to help us keep our community safe,” Cox told supervisors.
Suisun City Police Chief Ed Dadisho said the county in 2000 committed to reducing the use of tobacco, drugs and alcohol by youth. Allowing the rural dispensaries would only increase the marijuana use rate among youth, he said.
In the wake of the county’s various public outreach meetings, Seifert said that the community seems to be evenly split on the issue of medical marijuana dispensaries.
Reach Barry Eberling at 427-6929 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/beberlingdr.