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Solano County Considers New Dispensary Ban

Solano County will be reconsidering medical marijuana again next week.

Residents will get a chance to be heard at a public hearing July 30 before the , which is considering an ordinance that would ban in unincorporated areas of the county.

The county already prohibits dispensaries, but the ordinance that allows county supervisors to do it expires soon, and some want to make it permanent. Last year the county adopted a 12-month extension to an existing ban, and that extension runs out this summer.

Solano County is one of hundreds of municipalities across California that have enacted zoning or other regulations banning dispensaries. Earlier this year, the state Supreme Court upheld these rules, holding that the state’s medical marijuana law – approved by voters in 1996 – doesn’t prevent cities and counties from barring retail pot shops.

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As a result of that ruling, dispensaries have disappeared from most parts of the state. Only a few cities remain where they’re allowed, including Los Angeles, San Francisco and Oakland. And those places are enacting tough new regulations limiting the number of dispensaries and the neighborhoods where they can operate.

The few dispensaries that remain open in places where they are banned face a precarious future: fines, prosecution and property seizure. The same is true for unauthorized dispensaries in places where retail shops are allowed but regulated.

Authorities in Solano County, as well as the towns and cities located there, have worked aggressively to shut down dispensaries. They suffered several setbacks in court, but the Supreme Court ruling paved the way for permanent, enforceable bans.

At the same time, local and federal prosecutors across the state – including those in Solano County – have tried to stamp out hundreds of dispensaries. The Solano County district attorney dropped charges against one such retail pot provider earlier this year after a two-year legal battle.

The issue up for discussion July 30, at 2 p.m., is an amendment to the zoning code that would define dispensaries and prohibit their establishment within unincorporated areas of the county. The county will also consider adopting a “negative declaration of environmental impact,” an anti-dispensary statement recommended by the county’s planning commission.

Any lawsuits later filed against the county over this issue may be limited to issues raised at the public hearing. So residents who believe they may have a legal claim based on a continued dispensary prohibition should attend and raise their concerns.

Solano County is located in the North Bay, about halfway between San Francisco and Sacramento.

About Matt Brooks

Based in San Francisco, Matt is a journalist who has specialized in marijuana policy for more than five years. He provides regular news coverage on marijuanaandthelaw.com and californiamarijuanamarket.com.

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