Antioch Pot Dispensaries: City Moves To Implement Permanent Ban On Marijuana Shops

FILE - This Sept. 15, 2009 file photo shows marijuana plants in Seattle at a medical marijuana growing operation. Tax enforce
FILE - This Sept. 15, 2009 file photo shows marijuana plants in Seattle at a medical marijuana growing operation. Tax enforcers have started auditing medical marijuana dispensaries in Washington, escalating a dispute over whether the outlets should be collecting money for state government. The state Department of Revenue has worked since 2010 to tell marijuana establishments that they must remit sales taxes on their transactions. Some 50 dispensaries have registered with the state, helping the state collect some $750,000 in taxes from the industry over the span of one year. Officials believe that there are many other outlets that remain unregistered, and that some registered entities are improperly reporting that they had no taxable business. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)

ANTIOCH -- Leaders here are poised to move forward with an outright ban on the opening or operation of medical marijuana dispensaries.

The Antioch City Council voted 4-1 Tuesday for staff's recommendation of a ban, which cautioned that there is continued concern about the secondary effects of marijuana facilities -- namely burglary, robbery and the sale of illegal drugs, particularly to youngsters.

Antioch adopted a moratorium last year, which expires in April, that stopped dispensaries from operating while staff studied whether to permanently ban them.

"There were some real concerns then, and those same concerns are still here today," Councilman Gary Agopian said.

The restriction would stop dispensaries, mobile delivery service and cultivation, but not prevent qualified patients from getting marijuana in very limited situations such as licensed clinics, hospices and nursing homes for patients with chronic life-threatening illnesses.

The ordinance will be considered for final adoption at a later date, possibly this month.

Councilman Tony Tiscareno cast the lone dissenting vote Tuesday, saying he is not for illegal drugs but wanted to keep an open mind about creating revenue and not shut the idea down completely. He also was unsure if he had sufficient information to make a decision.

The majority of the council said that the distribution of cannabis should be done through more proper channels such as pharmacies.

Resident Dan Black spoke in opposition to the possible ban. Stopping dispensaries will not prevent the illegal sale of marijuana and creates a black market similar to Prohibition, he said. Using the example of Harborside Health Center making Oakland millions of dollars a year, he said dispensaries could provide the cash-strapped East Contra Costa city needed money.

"Antioch is kind of in a bind and could use any revenue it can get," Black said.

Ed Breslin, the United Food and Commercial Workers union's national coordinator for cannabis and hemp, added he hoped the city could work toward creating an ordinance with regulations and taxes.

Using marijuana -- even for medicinal purposes -- is illegal under federal law. This conflicts with a state law approved by voters in 1996, which allows residents with certain medical conditions to use marijuana with a doctor's recommendation.

"There are certain values I want to instill in the young people in Antioch, I don't want to see these kinds of drugs in (their) hands," Mayor Wade Harper said. "I'm one that believes all money isn't good money."

Black and Breslin say they plan to raise more awareness about the issue, perhaps circulate a petition and have people speak when the council makes its final decision.

Neighboring Pittsburg is expected to vote on a similar ban later this month. Its planning commission approved the ban in December. Oakley and Brentwood already have prohibited dispensaries.

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