Friday, September 30, 2011

2011-09-30 "Vallejo notifies medical pot dispensaries of zoning code noncompliance" by Jessica A. York from "Vallejo Times-Herald"
Vallejo wants all of its medical marijuana dispensaries to close down -- or be closed -- following warning letters due to be mailed this week.
The letters will notify 17 property owners that the city believes illegal activity -- the operation of a medical marijuana dispensary -- is occurring on their land in violation of city zoning laws.
"We believe bringing that to the attention of property owners may be helpful in limiting this activity," Assistant City Manager Craig Whittom said Thursday.
But even as the city is trying to shut the door on an unspecified number of existing dispensaries, plans are being crafted to hold a "stakeholder meeting" with dispensary owners, neighbors, community advocates and others to discuss regulating them. A consulting firm hired this week is due to host the meeting later this month, Whittom said.
The city is not borrowing its letter-sending campaign idea from another municipality, nor has it heard of other cities where such an approach has worked, he said.
"The fact that there is illegal activity, it exposes the property to potential civil penalties, fines and assessments," Whittom said. "(Sending letters) is kind of our approach, given the circumstances that we find ourselves in."
The letter-sending approach will be accompanied by a more careful scrutiny of business license applicants, Whittom said. "Suspicious" applications, with potential tip-offs like certain types of store layout and location, will be referred to the Vallejo Police Department for review.
There is no existing city permit that the dispensaries would fall under. As such, Whittom said past dispensary applicants have been denied not only a license for such business, but also for any alternate enterprise.
Whittom said that because there is no ordinance prohibiting their existence, the city can only react to dispensaries who fail to apply for a business license, on those grounds.
Several existing dispensaries hold some type of business license, though Whittom could not say what the favorite alternate license has been. He also did not specify whether the city plans to pursue the false license holders, saying only, "we're going to be working with our attorney's office and police department on enforcement, and that may take a number of forms."
Several local dispensary owners were not immediately available for comment on the city's plan Thursday.

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