Lifting Petaluma’s ban on marijuana dispensaries will once again be a topic of discussion at tonight’s council meeting.
Petaluma has had a ban on marijuana dispensaries since 2007, but many in town favor removing it, including at least three council members, who say the industry can give the city a much-need cash infusion to fund everything from road repair to youth activities.
There are currently 12 dispensaries in Sonoma County, but none that serve the southern portion of the county, according to Robert Jacob, executive director of Peace in Medicine Healing Center, a Sebastopol-based dispensary that also offers acupuncture and massage.
Jacob estimates Petaluma could get roughly $500,000 a year from sales tax from a dispensary. But more importantly, it would take an crucial step toward providing safe access to people suffering from ailments like cancer, joint paint and glaucoma instead of sending them to the black market to obtain medicine.
But Interim Police Chief Dan Fish has said that if the ban is lifted, Petaluma Police will be put in a position of having to enforce federal law, which only allows primary caregivers to supply medical marijuana to patients, but bans dispensaries, andwhich he says, supersedes state law.
“The council should understand (that) allowing medical marijuana dispensaries places the city in a position of condoning a service for which there is complete conflict between federal and state law,” Fish wrote in a recent report to the city council, estimating that the revenue would only total about $242,000 per year.
Fish also says that there is evidence that medical dispensaries discourage people to report crimes since operators don’t want police presence or negative publicity. And he cites many examples of how marijuana is connected to crime including home robberies where suspects know residents are growing marijuana, murders, traffic, noise complaints and money laundering.
“I believe an increase in violent crime associated with dispensaries is inevitable and local dispensaries only increase the changes marijuana will find its way into local schools and into the hands of our children.”
In addition, at least 16 service providers in the county deliver marijuana to patients’ homes, rendering a dispensary unnecessary, according to Fish.
But Peace in Medicine’s Jacob says that dispensaries reduce crime by selling marijuana in a controlled and highly regulated environment.
“All the people coming into our dispensary would otherwise be doing drug deals on the corner because they wouldn’t have anywhere to purchase it,” he said.
Currently, 141 California cities ban medical marijuana dispensaries and 41 allow it, according to Americans for Safe Access, an advocate for medical marijuana providers.
Tonight’s meeting starts at 7pm in council chambers.