Sacramento County code enforcement officials are seeking to shutter or ban a dozen medical marijuana dispensaries that are operating in the county or seeking to open.
The county sent out letters March 26 to businesses that "may be selling and/or dispensing marijuana." It ordered them to "voluntarily cease," contending that pot shops violate county zoning laws.
he crackdown opens a second major front in the Sacramento region's effort to control the spread of marijuana dispensaries.
In Sacramento, where a City Council committee meets on the issue tonight, officials are considering an ordinance to cut the number of registered pot clubs in the city from 39 to 12 and set strict limits on their operations.
Around the state, city and county governments are grappling in diverse ways with how to regulate marijuana dispensaries. Los Angeles passed an ordinance to shutter hundreds of pot shops. Voters in Oakland approved a special levy to reap tax benefits from dispensaries. A court challenge to an Anaheim ban may determine whether municipalities can keep them out altogether.
Sacramento County's position is that zoning laws for the unincorporated region simply don't allow marijuana businesses. It is stepping up efforts to ban pot clubs after an informal inventory found that several had been licensed by the county under what officials say were false pretenses.
County spokeswoman Chris Andis said businesses that never identified themselves as marijuana dispensaries took out licenses for such things as "natural living consulting," "florist" and "gardening education." Some businesses were targeted after complaints from neighbors.
To the county, they're all the same: illegal pot businesses.
"There is no zoning code that provides for the dispensing of marijuana in the unincorporated county," Andis said. "And the objective is to bring these businesses into compliance with Sacramento County zoning laws."
The county is seeking to revoke the licenses of five businesses operating as dispensaries and close others that have no license at all.
Paul Hahn, administrator for the county Municipal Services Agency, said officials don't know precisely how many dispensaries have opened in the unincorporated area.
"We continue to hear from people in the community on a regular basis where they suspect something is happening," Hahn said. "They seem to be proliferating in the unincorporated area, and that is an issue we want to get under control."
The dozen letters sent out by the county said properties would be inspected within 15 days, and pot shops could be subject to a public hearing to declare them "a public nuisance."
The letters threatened legal action, revocation of operating permits and referral to District Attorney Jan Scully for criminal prosecution.
Paul Lamberty, who operates the Indicare Collective on Auburn Boulevard, said he was surprised by the notice.
"They're more addressed to our landlords than us," he said. "Some landlords are panicking, and some are standing by us."
He declined additional comment, referring questions to an attorney working with some of the businesses.
Read the full story at the Sacramento Bee.