Tehama County draft laws on pot ready; one would ban medical dispensaries

RED BLUFF — Two draft laws, one that would ban medical marijuana dispensaries and another that would strictly regulate them, are on their way to the Tehama County Planning Commission.

And if the regulatory version ultimately passes in its current form, the county would be breaking new ground by requiring that a licensed medical professional dispense the cannabis.

“We definitely would be the first as far as I can tell,” Assistant County Counsel Arthur Wylene said. “That doesn’t make it right or wrong. We just would be on the leading edge.”

In its fourth study session since November 2009, the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday voted 4-0 to send the two documents to the commission, which will hold a public hearing to consider them. Supervisor Ron Warner was absent.

They’re trying to get something on the books before a moratorium expires in September.

While he said he hadn’t decided how he’d vote when the issue ultimately returns to the board, Supervisor George Russell reiterated his objection to the medical-professional rule.

“In its current form the ordinance would be meaningless,” Russell said. Marijuana remains illegal under federal law, and in California physicians recommend but don’t prescribe cannabis for patients.

But Supervisor Bob Williams, who pushed for the requirement, said he was doing so to “provide groundwork for future boards” should federal law ever change. “If it’s medicine, we should treat it as medicine,” Williams said.

Like Russell, he also said he’d yet to decide what his final vote would be.

In the draft rules, only one permit would be issued for each 30,000 people in the unincorporated area of the county, which with the current population would effectively limit total permits to one.

Both proposals define a dispensary as 10 or more people who provide or receive medical cannabis, covering both storefronts and mobile retail outlets. Dispensaries would be confined to designated land within industrial zones.

Before the vote, the board heard from three audience members, including Kathy Nelson.

“I’m actually practically begging you guys not to open dispensaries,” Nelson said. But Robert Alejandre, who said he was speaking on behalf of veterans, supported the idea of including medical professionals in any dispensary law as well as “tight security.”

John Stoufer, acting county planning director, said after the meeting he would get the drafts on the Planning Commission agenda as soon as possible. Providing he can meet public noticing requirements, that could be May 19.

Supervisors are hoping to adopt a dispensary ordinance by early August.