Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Fines and not Court?

The Auburn Planning Commission voted Tuesday night to recommend the City Council amend the city’s municipal code to make penalties for running dispensaries in the city civil rather than criminal infractions.

According to Will Wong, community development director for the city of Auburn, in 2004 the city adopted an ordinance putting regulations on the dispensaries, but in 2006 the city amended its code to prohibit the facilities altogether.

Wong said fines for operating a dispensary in Auburn would start at $100 for the first violation, $200 for the second and $500 for the third.

Wong said if someone tried to run the illegal business without a license, they would also be fined for that.

According to city documents, non-criminal penalties avoid conflict with the Compassionate Use Act and the Medical Marijuana Program Act, which “decriminalizes possession and cultivation of marijuana for specified medical purposes.”

Wong said hydroponic shops are not considered the same as dispensaries, because they don’t sell marijuana. So, they are legal in the city.

“Selling merchandise is not a problem,” Wong said. “We would have no grounds (for legal action). Someone could use it to grow tomatoes.”

Wong said people interested in opening dispensaries have asked him about business licenses, and he has had to explain the city’s prohibition policy.

Wong said if a time ever came where Auburn could no longer prohibit the facilities, the city would have to think about putting standards on them again.

The City Council still needs to approve the municipal code language change before it would go into effect.

Neighboring Sacramento County is home to dozens of medical marijuana dispensaries.

Reach Bridget Jones at bridgetj@goldcountrymedia.com

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