After getting several inquiries about opening a medical pot outlet in Lodi, city officials are seeking a temporary ban to give them time to study the issue.
The city of Lodi received three inquiries in March, about a week after U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the Department of Justice will only target marijuana distributors violating both state and federal law.
Because there is no policy in Lodi, Deputy City Attorney Janice Magdich will ask the council on Wednesday to approve a 45-day moratorium on the opening or approval of dispensaries in the city.
This will give city staff time to evaluate the possible effects of a dispensary in Lodi.
"In other cities, dispensaries have opened and the city had nothing to regulate them," Magdich said.
Four votes are required for approval of the temporary moratorium because it is an "urgency" addition to the city's ordinances.
Usually, ordinance changes require a public hearing. If city staff request an extended moratorium for more research time, that will be decided on May 20 at a public hearing.
Brian Bader is among those interested in opening a medical marijuana location. He hopes the council will take the time to learn about the benefits of having a dispensary in the community. Bader would like to open one because he wants to provide a safe business instead of some of the "fly-by-night" dispensaries in other cities.
"Most of the people look like your grandmothers and mothers, they are not some punk kids … It's a health and safety issue," Bader said.
Magdich did some preliminary research on dispensaries in other cities by updating a League of California Cities report. She found that out of 147 cities, 28 regulate medical marijuana dispensaries, 49 prohibit them and 70 cities have moratoriums.
Some of the moratoriums have expired, but most were put in place to allow city staff time for more analysis or to await further clarification on the contradiction of state and federal laws.
Bader maintains that clarification came March 18, when Holder announced a reversal from the past eight years under President George W. Bush by not targeting all dispensaries. He said the administration will still focus on any dispensaries that "use medical marijuana laws as a shield" for other illegal activity.
While 13 states allow medicinal marijuana, California is the only one that has dispensaries.
Marijuana meeting informationIssue: A 45-day moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries, so city staff has time to research potential effects. The council must approve it with at least four votes.
Why now: In March, President Barack Obama's administration announced it will not prosecute owners of dispensaries that follow California law. In the next week, the city received three inquiries about opening a dispensary in Lodi.
When and where: 7 p.m. Wednesday, 305 W. Pine Street, Lodi.
Based on her brief study, Magdich has found cities where dispensaries are only allowed in certain areas or have restrictions placed in their permits. She also found two cities where the city ordinances only allow the distribution of marijuana at pharmacies. For Bader, a dispensary will keep people in the area from driving to Sacramento to get their medicinal marijuana, which will help Lodi's tax base. He also said the dispensaries he has been to are clean and safe.
Bader, 53, has used marijuana to ease pain from a soft-tissue disease. While he would like to be the one to open a profitable dispensary in Lodi, if someone else opens one first, he will drop the idea.
"My thing is this, if it so comes to the point where they allow it, we don't need 10 business licenses or even 5," he said. "We are a small town."
In a staff report, Lodi Police Chief David Main said he is concerned about the secondary effects of dispensaries, including robbery, people purchasing drugs, and other crimes near the dispensary.
He includes information from other cities where crime has increased around dispensaries, and the cities have had to do more police patrols in the area.
Bader said if properly run, there will not be an increase in crimes. He said if he had a dispensary, he would ensure no one smoked on the property, and staff would check all of the prescriptions with the doctor who wrote them.
He also would keep a limited amount of money and marijuana on the premise. At other dispensaries, there are armed security guards, but he doesn't think that would be necessary. One of his suggestions is hiring fourth or fifth degree black belts as security to ensure all the staff and customers are safe.
In 2001, Bader was a leading proponent of a dispensary and asked the council members to come see one with him, but none of them took him up on the offer. He hopes they will come this time.
"None of those people on the council have seen a dispensary," he said. "In their minds, they think it's a pot house."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.