Bumper crop of pot outlet inquiries

Medileaf's General Manager Javier Patterson scans a bag of

In the two tumultuous months since the city began its battle to
uproot a dispensary that opened without permission, about a
half-dozen other people inquired about opening up dispensaries in
town.
In the two tumultuous months since the city began its battle to uproot a dispensary that opened without permission, about a half-dozen other people inquired about opening up dispensaries in town. All those would-be applicants were turned away, per city policy, and on Monday, the City Council approved an outright ban on new medical marijuana dispensaries.

City of Gilroy Development Center Manager Kristi Abrams said last week that about half a dozen people other than MediLeaf representatives have requested information about opening a dispensary in town, including one person who was ready to fill out a business license application. However, department policy dictates that staff must turn away all of these applicants because there is no zoning ordinance in place that allows them, she said. As a result, there are no records of who the would-be applicants are and where they are from, she said.

Dispensaries have opened or attempted to open in several communities since MediLeaf – the cannabis collective on First Street and Westwood Drive without a permit – opened Nov. 9. A mobile dispensary opened in Hollister without city approval last month, and Monterey encountered a similar circumstance earlier this month.

“They seem to be popping up everywhere,” Councilman Dion Bracco said last week.

However, it was unclear whether the situation in Gilroy influenced those who opened the dispensaries in nearby communities.

Mayor Al Pinheiro said he hoped a ban would reinforce the city’s position on the matter.

“I think it’s another precaution,” he said.

The council on Monday failed to get five votes needed to approve an emergency ordinance that would have gone into effect immediately. However, it garnered the majority needed to approve a ban that will go into effect on Feb. 24.

Pinheiro, Bracco and council member Cat Tucker and Bob Dillon voted in favor of the ban, while Councilmen Peter Arellano, Craig Gartman and Perry Woodward voted against it.

Woodward said he wanted the city to have legal protection if it continues to disallow medical cannabis dispensaries, but he took issue with some of the language in the ordinance that was voted on Monday.

The council voted 4-3 on Oct. 12 to not approve an ordinance that would allow zoning for medical marijuana dispensaries within city limits – an attempt to prevent the opening of MediLeaf.

Woodward, who was among the dissenters at that meeting, asked whether the city should enact an ordinance to ban dispensaries. However, City Attorney Linda Callon told council members at the time that an outright ban on dispensaries would not be necessary.

Andy Faber, an attorney who is representing the City of Gilroy in a case against MediLeaf, told the council Dec. 30 that circumstances had changed after U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder issued a directive to federal prosecutors in October stating that the federal government should not prosecute medical marijuana dispensaries as long as they adhere to state law.

Woodward said he had talked to someone who works at Togo’s Eatery, which is a few doors down from MediLeaf, and the person indicated he had no problems with the dispensary. He also talked to a police officer who said he had not responded to any calls regarding the cannabis collective.

“The reality is that marijuana has been in our community for decades, and it’s widely available,” he said.

While dispensary opponents, such as community activist Ron Kirkish, have expressed fears that dispensaries contribute to secondary sales, Woodward believes legal dispensaries like MediLeaf actually decrease the black market for marijuana.

Arellano, who voted last month against the council even discussing a ban, has made it clear that he favors the availability of medical marijuana.

Gartman, who voted with Woodward and Arellano in support of an October ordinance that would have provided zoning for dispensaries, voted last month in favor of at least discussing a potential ban.

Still, he had several questions going into Monday’s meeting. For instance, he wondered if it was legal to ban dispensaries, as they have been approved by state voters.

Bracco said local control should exist even if medical marijuana dispensaries are legally allowed.

“Just because it’s legal in the state of California, doesn’t mean we want it,” he said, noting that strip clubs also are legal in the state but banned in some cities.

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