Ordinance fix lets medical pot shops stay open

By From page A1 | May 21, 2014

The El Dorado County Board of Supervisors resolved a glitch in the September 2013 ordinance that prohibits further establishment of medical marijuana distribution facilities. As written, Ordinance 4999 would seem to prevent any of the five local medicinal cannabis shops from keeping their doors open.

May 13 Supervisors Norma Santiago, Ron Briggs, Ray Nutting and Brian Veerkamp approved one of a set of recommendations from the county’s Development Services Agency to “reinterpret” a section of the ordinance. Supervisor Ron Mikulaco opposed as he had the September action.

Originally, the board passed the ordinance which basically stopped the addition of new distribution facilities and permitted the existing ones to be grandfathered in as long as they had been in business for at least six months prior to an October 2011 Moratorium prohibiting new stores or facilities. Discussion to adopt the ordinance last year included some agreement that the proposal intended that the existing business had to have been in operation at the same physical location for the entire six months. Fast forward to the planning agency’s six-month report to the board. None of the existing shops had been in their original location for the duration and therefore, the interpretation could be made that “no facility meets the criteria for continued operation,” according to the agenda item.

Options presented to supervisors included accepting that interpretation or amending the ordinance to clarify its intent or “interpret (that section of the ordinance) to apply to any operation that may have moved from one facility location to another.”

Both Briggs and Mikulaco noted that their recollection was that the ordinance was “site specific,” meaning that the business had to have been in the same location throughout the period in question. Deputy County Counsel David Livingston said, “I concur with Supervisor Briggs.” However, County Counsel Ed Knapp later advised the board, saying, “You can change the interpretation to six months in operation.”

Planning Services Director Roger Trout introduced another wrinkle to the issue. Four of the five businesses had submitted an application required by the county within the 60-day period following adoption of the ordinance. One had been about a week later than the deadline, Trout explained.

The new interpretation is site specific to the location the business occupied at the time the owners submitted the application to the county. Matt Vaughn, with the Medical Marijuana Caregivers Association, told the board that he was the owner whose application was late because his shop was being forced to change locations at the time the application period closed.

During public testimony, former District 1 Supervisor Sam Bradley, representing local American Legion veterans, said that many of his folks are World War II and Korean War vets “who have major health problems” and use medical cannabis. He urged the board not to disrupt access to their medications.

Veerkamp moved to “amend the interpretation and give the fifth applicant a seven-day grace period.”

Mikulaco indicated that he would not support the motion. “I voted no in September and I can’t support it now” in the interest of representing the wishes of his district.

“We’ve hashed it out,” Briggs said to a burst of applause.

Chris Daley

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