The Galt City Council approved an interim ordinance Monday night that puts a moratorium on medicinal marijuana dispensaries until May 20.
In a 5-0 vote, the council approved the ordinance and will consider at the May 19 regularly scheduled meeting whether to extend it.
The special meeting was called after city staff received an inquiry last Wednesday about how to obtain a business license for a dispensary, City Attorney Steve Rudolph said.
Rudolph said the city does not have anything in its ordinance either allowing or forbidding the businesses.
The ban is necessary to prevent someone from submitting an application for a business license now, only to find out later that they cannot put the dispensary where they want, Rudolph said. If the council decided to limit dispensaries after a license is submitted, it could cause a dispute between the city and applicant, he said.
Councilwoman Barbara Payne originally proposed the staff recommended 45-day ban.
"This allows us time to really think it through," she said.
Four votes are required for approval of temporary moratoriums because it is an "urgency" addition to the city's ordinances.
Payne's motion only received three votes because councilmen Andrew Meredith and Donald Haines were worried the public did not have enough notice to attend the meeting.
The agenda for the meeting was posted on the city's Web site Friday afternoon, but because the city switched to a new Web site on Friday, the public did not have access to the agenda until Monday.
"I'd like the public to have the opportunity to come in and give comments," Haines said. "I'd like to get their input."
As a compromise, Rudolph recommended the council have the temporary ban go until May 20, and decide whether to extend the ban at the May 19 meeting.
Regardless of the time period, Councilman Darryl Clare said his main concern is that a temporary one is passed so the city will not face a legal challenge over the issue.
"If someone were using a city as a test case… they would rather take on a smaller community that doesn't have as many resources to fight it," he said.
The council also waited to give city staff direction on whether it should draft a permanent ordinance banning the dispensaries.
Haines noted that the city could follow the already existing drug-free zones around schools and expand it to parks and churches.
Meredith said the city needs to take into account that California voters approved medicinal marijuana in 1996.
While Payne acknowledged Meredith's point, she said the council must first and foremost consider the needs of Galt.
In 2005, Galt had adopted a temporary ordinance prohibiting dispensaries, but that has elapsed.
On April 15, Lodi also established a 45-day moratorium on dispensaries after receiving three inquiries from people who either wanted to open one or were curious about whether one would open. The city has received another one since the ban.
The goal of the moratorium to allow city staff to evaluate the positives and negatives of dispensaries and see how other cities have regulated them, said Deputy City Attorney Janice Magdich.
At the April 15 meeting, Lodi city staff indicated that they will probably ask the council for an extended moratorium for more research time at a May 20 public hearing.
Lodi's three inquiries came about a week after U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced on March 18 that the Department of Justice will only target marijuana distributors violating both state and federal law, a reversal from the past eight years under President George W. Bush.
While 13 states allow medicinal marijuana, California is the only one that has dispensaries.