Marijuana dispensaries are no longer something new, but the possibility of conceding for one to open within the city limits of Porterville is coming.
In 1996, the Compassionate Use Act (Proposition 215) passed, making it legal within California to use the drug for medical purposes. It was the first state to do so. With that, Tulare County cities started passing laws for the legalization of growing the drug, for personal use, within city limits including Lindsay, Dinuba, Visalia, Woodlake and Farmersville. Porterville was added to that list last year.
Shortly after, dispensaries began popping up around the state, with or without business licenses.
At the time of adopting the acceptance of private grows for personal use, Porterville vowed to revisit the idea of dispensaries in a year.
They are following up on that, with the mayor, vice mayor and several staff members, including the police chief, city attorney and community development director, all visiting other local dispensaries to see how they are run.
An appointment was made to visit a Goshen dispensary. Mayor Milt Stowe found this one to be a favorable business format.
“The one that we were able to access was very transparent,” the mayor said. “If we had a potential business (wanting to open in Porterville), I don’t think council would have any problem with that.”
Everything is done above board, Stowe explained of the Goshen dispensary. The store has an entrance room, where medical cards are checked, and a private room, where patients can purchase their medication in privacy, he said.
While Police Chief Eric Kroutil said he will not be making any recommendations to council, since there are discrepancies between state and federal law on the legalization of marijuana, he did visit the site with the mayor.
“The owner is running it like a business,” Kroutil said. “He has a business license, submits taxes and has about 15 or 16 employees that work for him.
“The other thing I thought that was positive, is prior to sale, it (the product) is tested for pesticides, herbicides and pH levels by an independent tester.”
Kroutil added that the drug may be tested for other things as well, but he knew of those three things.
But Kroutil does have reservations about allowing a dispensary within Porterville city limits.
“One of my biggest concerns is the source of the marijuana,” he said.
He wants to assure the safety of its use for the patients, he said.
“There is also a potentially violent issue there,” he said. “Does that perpetuate a crime by another person?”
That possible crime could be one of a grower. Many personal growers are growing beyond their needs (or allotment) for resale illegally, he added.
“We know of some who sell to Bakersfield (dispensaries),” he said.
His hope is that the problem would not become compounded.
Another concern is for the dispensary itself, the security of the site, Kroutil said. He looks to the safety of the patients, foremost, but also for the potential of break-ins.
While visiting the Goshen dispensary, the mayor, police chief and the rest of the group tried to access a second shop. They were turned away. That was the type of dispensary the city does not want, Kroutil said.
It is now up to community development and code enforcement to determine their recommendations for council. Mayor Stowe expects that to come within the next couple of months, he said.
“Right now, we would be looking at one possible dispensary,” Stowe said, “for people looking for medication, who cannot grown their own.”
That marijuana dispensary would be to assist the residents of Porterville.
Currently state legislature is taking a look at how to get the banking needs of such dispensaries met. Most financial institutions refuse to provide accounts to dispensary owners, because federal law still states that marijuana is an illegal substance.