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Gone to pot: Report recommends changes to city ordinance on medical marijuana

Sacramento might become a less pot-friendly city Tuesday if the City Council follows through on city staff recommendations to further restrict where marijuana can be grown or purchased.

The staff report makes the following recommendations for the council: 1) Prohibit the outdoor cultivation of medical marijuana in residential areas, and 2) expand the distance dispensaries can be from parks and schools, from 600 to 1,000 feet.

The agenda packet includes a letter from Dennis A. Hunter, a retired resident of South Natomas who calls for the city to enact the ban on growing pot in residential areas.

It’s not typical of the kind of writing one normally finds in council agendas.

Hunter, in an impassioned and at times dramatic style, writes that when his neighbor began growing marijuana, the odor drifted over onto his property.

"The first major problem is the stench of the marijuana plants. It is overbearing. It migrates onto our property and surrounds our house. It seem as if a scunk has constantly been spraying."

He says that he is not opposed to medical marijuana on principle.

"Let me say that my wife and I have nothing against any individual who chooses this form of treatment for illness. However, we are keenly aware of how easy it is to obtain a medical marijuana card. I shutter to think what the quality of lives would be like if our other neighbors obtained medical marijuana cards and began growing their own marijuana outdoors."

Sacramento regulates marijuana dispensaries under a city ordinance passed last year, a fact that the staff report brings up in its "Policy considerations" section, which adds some useful context:

“The Sacramento City Council found in adopting the location criteria in November 2010 that it was appropriate for a medical marijuana dispensary to be located a minimum distance from sensitive uses. These distance requirements were developed after substantial staff research and public input. Nothing in the operation of the dispensaries has changed to indicate that a dispensary proposing to relocate to a different site should be permitted to locate closer to one of the sensitive uses listed in the ordinance. The only change has been the level of federal enforcement on marijuana dispensaries, causing owners of existing dispensaries to look for new locations.

“Currently, the Sacramento City Code does not address the topic of indoor or outdoor cultivation. If an ordinance restricting the outdoor cultivation of medical marijuana in residential areas was adopted, patients or their caregivers would still be permitted to grow medical marijuana inside a structure in residential areas, but the ordinance would also ensure that the growing of the plants would not become an attractive nuisance (anything on a premises that might attract children or entice visitors or trespassers into danger or harm).”

The proposed changes are likely to draw supporters and detractors to City Hall on Tuesday. Check back Wednesday morning for video highlights of the discussion on SacramentoPress.com.

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