Pubdate: Tue, 27 Oct 2009
Source: Record Searchlight (Redding, CA)
Copyright: 2009 Record Searchlight
Author: Scott Mobley
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal - United States)


The Redding City Council deadlocked Monday evening on what was to be a
routine vote on the medical marijuana regulations it approved last

Councilwoman Missy McArthur changed her vote, siding with Patrick
Jones against the new regulations, though for different reasons.

"I voted yes on Tuesday but now I feel it's act in haste and regret in
leisure," McArthur said, adding there are too many unresolved
questions about the new regulations. Jones voted against the city
regulations because federal law forbids marijuana possession, and he
did not want to put Redding officials in conflict with that law.

Council members Mary Stegall and Dick Dickerson voted a second time
for the medical marijuana rules, which give the police chief power to
determine whether collectives are following Proposition 215 and the
state attorney general's guidelines for complying with that law.

Nearly a dozen speakers addressed the council on the regulations
Monday, which would give police the power to inspect a collective's
records and forbid the cultivation of cannabis at any of the estimated
20 to 30 co-ops now doing business in Redding.

Existing dispensaries could stay where they are under the new
regulations, but would have to apply for a permit.

Most of the speakers were medical marijuana collective owners or
patients. All agreed the city needed to impose order on what some have
called the "green rush" mentality of the mushrooming of cannabis clubs
in town.

But many speakers called particular provisions of the ordinance - such
as a requirement that children not be allowed in the clubs - too
onerous and even dangerous. Some also criticized city officials for
being ignorant of basic facts about medical marijuana dispensing, such
as not knowing whether "cloning" a cannabis plant is the same as
cultivation, which Redding's ordinance would prohibit at clubs.

"How are you going to legislate keeping the bathroom locked," said
Frank Augusta, a collective owner. "We need to stop and take time to
discuss this together. The reason we are in such a rush is these clubs
are blowing up all over town. But when I approached the city with
insurance and paperwork back in May, you did not want to see it. I
rented extra space for cloning, but now you are putting legislation in
that says I can't do it. This is moving too fast. This can be done a
better way."

McArthur indicated she would favor appointing a task force to work out
details of the medical marijuana regulations with collective owners
and other interested people.

Stegall had been the first to suggest appointing a task force, saying
the process worked well when the council was trying to come up with
rules governing boat passage on the Sacramento River during Cypress
Avenue Bridge construction.

City Attorney Rick Duvernay said that the medical marijuana ordinance
was not a set of hard and fast rules, like the bridge passage, but
each permit would be individually negotiated, much like a permit to
build a shopping center or subdivision.

Duvernay and City Manager Kurt Starman urged the council to pass the
ordinance with the understanding it would be reviewed after three
months, when a task force could be formed to work on any major issues.

That idea satisfied Stegall, but not McArthur, who had raised concerns
Oct. 20 about whether police access to a collective's records would
violate patient privacy laws.

The council met in special session Monday evening to pass three
medical marijuana-related measures "on second reading" before they go
into effect, as required under state law.

Usually, the council debates and modifies any proposed ordinance
before adopting it the first time, or "on the first reading," and the
second reading is routine with no discussion.

But people attending the meeting Monday asked the council to pull the
main ordinance regulating cannabis clubs off its consent calendar for
full debate in open session.

The council Monday passed on second reading the two other ordinances
without discussion. One asks the Planning Commission to consider
standards for marijuana cultivation and to codify zoning to keep
cannabis clubs 300 feet from homes and at least 1,000 feet from
schools, youth centers, libraries and other collectives.

The other ordinance passed imposes a 45-day moratorium on new medical
marijuana collectives until the regulations take effect. That
moratorium, now in effect, will likely be extended, since the
regulations are technically still unapproved.

Mayor Rick Bosetti was absent Monday to break the tie. The council
will vote again on the regulations when all five members are present,
likely some time next month.

Committee Looks at Fire Department

In other business Monday, the council, acting as part of the
Privitization Evaluation Committee, discussed overtime in the fire
department as a major cost driver.

Overtime accounted for nearly 43 percent of fire department salaries
and wages last year, according to a report to the committee from
Finance Director Steve Strong. The department has no back-up to fill
in for firefighters who are sick, injured or reassigned, so the city
must call on off-duty firefighters who collect overtime for every
24-hour shift worked.

Redding officials have found it's less expensive to use overtime than
hire new firefighters, Starman said. Overtime is 1.5 times base pay,
while a new employee with benefits is 1.8 times base pay.

Committee member and former council member Ken Murray suggested the
city consider splitting the fire department off into a special
district, which would then raise money through property tax and other

"There is a continual war between the departments for scarce dollars,"
Murray said. "Frankly, I have been hearing for years the fire
department has been getting screwed. If it were a district, it could
go directly to voters, and if the community believes the fire
department is important, they can tax themselves."

Other committee members favored hearing from Shasta County officials
on outsourcing fire protection to the California Department of
Forestry and Fire Protection.

The 10-member Privatization Evaluation Committee is examining a range
of city services to determine whether outsourcing them to private
corporations or other government agencies would save taxpayers while
keeping service levels high. The committee is expected to make
recommendations by late January. 
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