While the Lodi City Council considers final action tonight to ban medical marijuana dispensaries within its city limits, San Joaquin County supervisors unanimously banned them for rural areas on Tuesday.
The Lodi City Council unanimously voted to establish an ordinance banning dispensaries in February, though a second vote, which will take place tonight, is required to officially ban the substance. The Galt City Council previously voted to ban dispensaries.
And on Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors officially banned dispensaries by a 5-0 vote. Board chairman Larry Ruhstaller said that if the county allowed medical marijuana in unincorporated areas, dispensaries could be built just outside the Lodi city limits.
"We'd be telling the citizens of Lodi, 'We don't care what you think,'" Ruhstaller said.
The Board of Supervisors' only discretion is for areas outside any of the seven cities in San Joaquin County, so the board's action Tuesday means only that dispensaries can't be operated in communities like Woodbridge, Acampo, Lockeford, Clements and Morada.
Nevertheless, you will only have to go as far as Stockton to purchase medical marijuana, because the Stockton City Council has voted to allow up to three dispensaries there, Myles said.
Lodi resident Robin Rushing told supervisors on Tuesday that he has tried without success to get the Lodi City Council to allow dispensaries in the city.
"I need the medical marijuana," Rushing said. "It's something that works for me very, very well. It takes pain away from my legs."
Lockeford resident Robert Davis said he has mixed emotions. It's here to stay anyway, he said, since medical marijuana is legal as nearby as Stockton and Calaveras County, but he thinks it would be a good idea to observe how Stockton handles its ordinance.
Deputy County Counsel Mark Myles said there are several problems with having dispensaries: The federal Food and Drug Administration says that marijuana use is a likelihood for abuse; enforcement will be complex and expensive; state and federal laws are contradictory; and the issue of storefront dispensaries isn't addressed by the federal or state governments.
San Joaquin is the 13th county to ban medical marijuana, and 142 cities in California ban it, Myles said.
County Undersheriff John Picone said that policing dispensaries in unincorporated areas would require manpower and money the county can't afford. The other issue facing the Sheriff's Office is the conflict of interest generated by allowing medical marijuana even though federal law prohibits it.
Lodi's ordinance does not prohibit residents from growing their own personal marijuana or caregivers from growing it for a patient with a medical marijuana card. Care centers are also exempt, so if someone is caring for five people who all have cards, they would not have to comply with the ordinance.
Supervisor Steve Bestolarides voted with his colleagues to ban dispensaries in rural areas, but he thinks the state should decide the issue and not leave it to California's 58 counties and hundreds of cities to decide separately.
Supervisor Leroy Ornellas said enforcement would be very unmanageable in rural areas.
Today's Lodi City Council meeting will begin at 7 p.m. at Carnegie Forum, 305 W. Pine St.
Contact reporter Ross Farrow at firstname.lastname@example.org.