City limits number of medical marijuana dispensaries |

City limits number of medical marijuana dispensaries

Adam Jensen
Tahoe Daily Tribune

Three’s a crowd when it comes to medical marijuana dispensaries in South Lake Tahoe, the City Council decided this week.

The Council voted 4-0 on Tuesday to enact a 45-day moratorium on the establishment of new dispensaries within city limits. Councilman Bruce Grego did not attend Tuesday’s meeting.

The moratorium will give the city time to develop permanent ordinances regulating the distribution of medical marijuana, said City Attorney Patrick Enright in a Nov. 17 staff report to the City Council.

Three medical marijuana dispensaries – Patient to Patient Collective, Tahoe Wellness Collective and City of Angels 2 – began operating in South Lake Tahoe during the past year.

Representatives of the dispensaries have been supportive of the moratorium and have signaled their intention to work with the city to develop permanent regulations.

“I think its a good decision,” said Gino DiMatteo, the owner of City of Angles 2, outside Tuesday’s meeting. “What everyone needs to understand is (providing medical marijuana) is a privilege, not a right.”

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Strict regulation of medical marijuana distribution will ultimately ensure the safety of providers, patients and the public, DiMatteo said.

In backing the moratorium, the City Council approved several interim requirements for the existing dispensaries that will allow them to keep operating.

To be exempt from the moratorium, a dispensary will need to have a city business license, a California State Board of Equalization seller’s permit, a commercial or business insurance policy, evidence to show the dispensary was in operation prior to Nov. 1 and attest to being in compliance with the California Attorney General’s November 2008 guidelines about lawful operation of marijuana collectives by Dec. 4. The existing dispensaries also must provide a rental or lease agreement for, or show ownership of, the location where they operate by that date.

At Tuesday’s meeting, the council denied a request by South Shore resident Brian Spencer to extend the Nov. 1 deadline to Nov. 15 so a medical marijuana delivery service he started within the past two weeks could gain an exemption to the moratorium.

The council voted against extending the deadline, but Mayor Jerry Birdwell assured Spencer that he would be able to discuss how a delivery service should work as the city goes through the process of developing permanent regulations surrounding medical marijuana.

The council will likely extend the moratorium by 10 and a half months at the City Council’s Dec. 8 meeting.

The South Lake Tahoe moratorium comes at a time when municipalities throughout California are contemplating exactly how to regulate medical marijuana, which was legalized by voters in 1996, at a local level.

Sixty-four jurisdictions have moratoriums regarding the establishment of medical marijuana dispensaries, 29 have prohibited dispensaries and 25 have enacted measures to regulate dispensaries, Enright said in a Nov. 3 staff report to the City Council.

Several cities who enacted permanent bans on dispensaries have faced legal challenges by medical marijuana advocacy groups.