Sacramento planning commission dispenses with the pot permits

By Steph Rodriguez

Litter and loitering were just two of the factors that convinced city planning commissioners to postpone a south Sacramento medical-marijuana dispensary’s operating permit last week.

Conditional-use permits for Montel Williams-approved Abatin Wellness Center and Valley Health Options, meanwhile, were approved within minutes, allowing both dispensaries to keep puffing, the first wave of pot shops to benefit from easing local restrictions.

“We always try to have a positive influence, not only for our patients, but the surrounding community,” said Abatin Wellness Center manager Barbara Loshbaugh. “We try to set a different standard for the industry and make it so that places like us hold that flame for legalization.”

The conditional-use permit allows dispensaries to exist within 1,000 feet of parks and schools, 600 feet of churches or community centers, and 300 feet of homes—or what are termed “special use” facilities. To keep operating within city limits, all 34 of Sacramento’s active dispensaries must file applications to renew these permits by March 31, 2014.

While Abatin and Valley Health skated through, South Sacramento Care Center's permit renewal rests on environmental improvements. Complaints from adjacent business owners in the Otto Circle complex claimed discarded receipts, illegal U-turns, lack of parking and the smoking of medical marijuana outside the dispensary were recurring problems.

Director Albert Ish said his dispensary takes its community influence seriously. In July, the dispensary added staff security and a new video surveillance system with a 180-degree view of the entire building. Sacramento police officers at the December 5 meeting said they received zero phone calls regarding site problems. Recent zoning investigator visits also reported no violations.

Even so, the dispensary will have to wait until March to convince commissioners to renew its permit.

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