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Medical marijuana discussion returns to Morro Bay

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The issue of how Morro Bay would permit and regulate medical marijuana dispensaries within city limits returned to the City Council.

On March 8, the council was presented with a 12-page draft ordinance to decide how many dispensaries could operate, and where. The draft ordinance also defined a list of operating requirements and screening applications and addressed permits and liability.

According to Councilman Noah Smukler, city staff will continue discussions with law enforcement agents and pick up the issue again in mid-April.

The latest meeting took place exactly one year after the council voted 4-1 to create a subcommittee to nail down the legal terminology and possible implications of allowing at least one brick-and-mortar medical marijuana facility to operate.

At the time, council members said they recognized the need in the community for qualified residents to obtain their medicine, but the body wanted to avoid past problems and proceed cautiously.

The issue was put on the back burner after a measure proposing a ban on dispensaries in Morro Bay was defeated 55 to 44 percent in November.

The recent meeting marked the first time new council members had the opportunity to discuss dispensaries, and the tone of the discussion was one of caution.

“I think it behooves us to see what our county ordinance is going to be because they are a bit more powerful than the city of Morro Bay, as we’ve learned [on] a couple of different occasions,” Councilwoman Nancy Johnson said, referring to a pledge by Sheriff Ian Parkinson to draft county guidelines for medical marijuana collectives.

“I think we have very limited resources right now for monitoring a collective, dispensary, or whatever word you want to use for it,” said Councilwoman Carla Borchard. “I always come back to the question of why are we the only municipality considering this? I’d like to think we’re smarter than everybody else, but I also wonder if they know something we don’t.”

The city is currently accepting business plans submissions from individuals, collectives, or cooperatives interested in establishing such a facility.

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