Editorials

City can’t delay any longer on weed rules

A dosage chart is pictured at The People’s Remedy medicinal marijuana dispensary on Lone Palm Drive near Modesto. The products they carry are mainly edibles, some carrying distinct warnings about dosage.
A dosage chart is pictured at The People’s Remedy medicinal marijuana dispensary on Lone Palm Drive near Modesto. The products they carry are mainly edibles, some carrying distinct warnings about dosage. The Modesto Bee

We don’t want to be Amsterdam, or Denver or even Humboldt County. But we don’t want to be left out, either.

At Tuesday’s 5:30 p.m. meeting, the Modesto City Council is expected to approve rules – established in consultation with Stanislaus County – for growing, processing, taxing and selling marijuana.

The rules will limit the number of pot shops the city will tolerate (10), where they can locate (3 downtown; the rest in commercial and industrial zones) and how far they must be from parks, schools and homes. Outdoor grows will be outlawed entirely.

Most other cities allowing cannabis sales – and at least two in Stanislaus County will not – have already established their basic parameters. Modesto has taken it slow; glacially slow. Finally, councilman Mani Grewal, Mayor Ted Brandvold, County Supervisor Vito Chiesa and staff members from both sides of 10th Street Place hammered out an agreement. A first reading could be waived and the entire council should vote in favor of the ordinance.

The proposal requires all commercial marijuana grown in Modesto be cultivated indoors with 24/7 security. Facilities would need top-flight surveillance and robust air-exchange systems preventing that skunky smell from exiting the building. Storefronts would have to be “car-proofed,” and no one would see any cannabis from a sidewalk or alley.

A few councilmembers, like former police officer Doug Ridenour, have deep antipathy toward marijuana. Their fears – increased cost for law enforcement, code enforcement, mental health services, addiction treatment and overdoses – are valid.

But we can’t pretend marijuana isn’t already in wide use. The most current retail marijuana locator shows some 27 Modesto-area storefronts offering weed to those with medical cards; several have been open for years. The Sacramento Bee published data showing 11 to 13 percent of Stanislaus County residents used cannabis last year. That was well behind San Francisco’s 17 percent, but ahead of Fresno’s 10 percent.

You might worry that easily available weed will entice more young people into an addiction. We worry, too, since their adolescent brains are at particular risk. But this ordinance will likely help. The city’s proposal will outlaw delivery services, and 10 dispensaries could run most corner dope dealers out of business.

Since selling to minors could result in losing the city sales permit – aka, “Golden Ticket” – retailers would be stone-cold stupid to do it.

Some cities have dreams of municipal jackpots. While substantial taxes will be collected, this isn’t the end of the rainbow. In fact, it’s just the beginning of a lot of work by a lot more people to make certain this business doesn’t become a civic catastrophe.

That’s why we’ll suggest something else for the ordinance: A series of mandatory “check-ins” on how the ordinance is working with defined opportunities to fix whatever isn’t.

What could go wrong? Perhaps a 100-foot buffer between commercial grows and the nearest home isn’t enough (Humboldt County requires 300 feet). It could also be that we won’t like having three weed outlets downtown, or maybe we’ll want one or two more. In six months, we might have a better idea of what council members meant in discussing “luxury” dispensaries at their November weed workshop.

A lot of work (and politicking) has gone into this and a similar ordinance the county approved 5-0. Having a uniform approach on taxation, revenue splits and store locations makes a lot of sense.

Waiting any longer to establish the rules for a business that will skyrocket in just 19 days is foolish.

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