Santa Rosa relaxed its restrictions on medical marijuana dispensaries Tuesday, eliminating rules that advocates said were outdated and limited patients' ability to obtain their cannabis locally.
The changes, which included elimination of patient caps, expansion of hours of operation, and allowing dispensaries to sell pipes and other devices used to ingest marijuana, were approved by the council unanimously.
"Times sure do change," said Councilman Ernesto Olivares, a retired police lieutenant. "I couldn't imagine back in 1979 when I started working for the Santa Rosa Police Department that I'd be here voting for this, to be honest with you. But here we are."
Advocates of the changes extolled the virtues of marijuana as a medicine and noted that the 500-patient cap on dispensaries forced some people to travel outside the city to refill their stashes.
City Attorney Caroline Fowler said when the city enacted its ordinance eight years ago, it was having problems with one dispensary. But she said the city has had a good relationship with the two dispensaries currently operating, Peace in Medicine on North Dutton Avenue and Sonoma Patient Group on Cleveland Avenue.
The city will continue to have a limit of two dispensaries in the city, though the city manager will have discretion to increase the number in the future.
The changes also increase the length of permits from one year to two.
Councilwoman Erin Carlstrom, who served on the subcommittee supporting the changes with Olivares and Gary Wysocky, said it was all about patient access for her. "I think it's incumbent on us to make it easier for people who are sick to get access to their medicine here in Santa Rosa," she said.
You can reach Staff Writer Kevin McCallum at 521-5207 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @citybeater.