Medical marijuana gets new regulations from Richmond City Council

blogimage.jpgAn effort to clean up the city’s medical marijuana permit ordinance sparked a contentious debate at last night’s city council. The city decided in the end to half the number of medical marijuana collective permits, but to establish three new permits for medical marijuana manufacturing.

The original ordinance — which called for three medical marijuana collective permits and two medical marijuana manufacturing permits — nearly went up in smoke amid debate over why the reduction in collective permits was necessary and whether it would reduce city revenue.

“We wanted to be able to clean this ordinance up and make it one that we can live with and be comfortable with,” explained Councilmember Jovanka Beckles upon introduction of the amended ordinance. “We know this isn’t Oakland, we don’t have 400,000 people. We want to have the number of dispensaries line up with the number of people here.”

The city until last night allowed permits for six medical marijuana collectives, which are also known as dispensaries. There are currently three operating permitted collectives in Richmond, with a fourth collective permitted but not currently open for business. 

To Councilmember Jael Myrick, reworking this ordinance was about having policy in line with practice. “Everyone knows I’m the last person to be critical of medical marijuana patients,” said Myrick, who supports full marijuana legalization. “This policy is not about whether people should have access to marijuana, it’s about how we as a city regulate it and how we learn from our experience. Having three, maybe four, for our city, seems appropriate.”

But Councilmember Vinay Pimplé didn’t see the need for the reduction, especially if more permits could mean more revenue for the city. “I think that you can keep the limit of six and add on the two manufacturers to maximize revenue capabilities,” explained Pimplé.

The ordinance also dealt with the issue of medical marijuana manufacturing, which is already happening in Richmond but without the proper permits. Under the new regulations, permitted manufacturers will be allowed to create edible marijuana goods in the city. The ordinance does not allow cultivation of marijuana onsite, however. The manufacturing of medical marijuana edibles must be done with already cultivated plants.

Councilmember Beckles put forth the substitute motion which passed despite division among the Council. Beckles stayed to the original ordinance by proposing three available permits for collectives, but added one additional permit for manufacturing. 

The motion passed with Councilmembers Gayle McLaughlin, Jovanka Beckles, Jael Myrick, and Eduardo Martinez voting in favor. Mayor Tom Butt abstained, and Councilmembers Nat Bates and Vinay Pimplé voted no. 

Approval of this ordinance brings the total of available permits from the city to six. With the one currently outstanding permit, there could potentially be seven medical marijuana facilities in Richmond. 

Photo courtesy the Daily Chronic

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