Richmond Changes Cannabis Club Rules

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    LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 19: Various types of marijuana are on display at Private Organic Therapy (P.O.T.), a non-profit co-operative medical marijuana dispensary, on October 19, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. Attorney General Eric Holder announced new guidelines today for federal prosecutors in states where the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes is allowed under state law. Federal prosecutors will no longer trump the state with raids on the southern California dispensaries as they had been doing, but Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley recently began a crackdown campaign that will include raids against the facilities. Cooley maintains that virtually all marijuana dispensaries are in violation of the law because they profit from their product. The city of LA has been slow to come to agreement on how to regulate its 800 to 1,000 dispensaries. Californians voted to allow sick people with referrals from doctors to consume cannabis with the passage of state ballot Proposition 215 in 1996 and a total of 14 states now allow the medicinal use of marijuana. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

    It seems Richmond city leaders had a change of heart on the issue of medical marijuana dispensaries in their city.

    City council members on Tuesday night unanimously approved regulations that will limit the number of cannabis clinics in the city and heavily regulate the ones that are allowed.

    The new rules will cap the number of dispensaries in the city to three and restrict their locations to commercial districts. Clinics will not be allowed in so-called sensitive areas, like within 500 feet of community centers and parks. The council also agreed to put a measure on the November ballot that woud tax marijuana sales in the city at 5 percent, regardless of whether it's for medicinal or recreational use.

    It's a reversal of the decision they made last week, which set no limits on the number of clinics and allowed them to be in smaller commercial areas.

    Richmond Mayor Gayle McLaughlin said she changed her mind about the original decision after the police chief said it's better for the city to have tighter restrictions that can be loosened down the road, rather than the other way around.

    The decision will impact the city's existing handful of dispensaries but they won't be shut down right away. Eight have opened in Richmond over the past year and cty officials have been trying to shut them down for a few months. Two have already been forced to close for various reasons and the ones that are still open violate the new rules.

    The city is also looking into the possibility of licensing and taxing large-scale cannabis farms to supply dispensaries, as Oakland approved last week.

    The ordinance goes for a final vote on Sept. 21, after the public has a chance to weigh in on the matter.

    The council left some provisions in place, like the one stating that dispensaries must be non-profits and at least 1,500-feet from schools.