Why Dale Fritchen’s District isn’t about to go up in smoke

At last night’s City Council meeting, the Council approved the medical marijuana ordinance they hoped to pass back in February after a few last second changes.

Most of the changes made were to improve the number of possible locations for dispensaries. They lowered the required distance from schools, and daycares to 600 ft from 1000 ft and increased the maximum amount of shops in a single district from 1 to 2. There were other, minor changes that mostly involved tweaking the wording of those sections, but aside from the addition of a 7-person Council appointed panel to deal with permit approval, those were the main changes. These changes irked Dale Fritchen.

At first glance, it was completely understandable. The map showing the increased footprint of possible locations had a lot (if not most) of Fritchen’s District 6 colored in. This was the first of many points that Fritchen made. When there was a one dispensary per district limit it was ok, but now that it’s two there’s a real possibility that those 2 would end up in the district with the largest amount of prime real estate. There’s just one problem, District 6 isn’t prime real estate. Sure, it may meet the location requirements laid out in the ordinance, but most of that land is available for a reason. It’s in the middle of bumfuck nowhere.

As many City employees pointed out, most of the available area in District 6 is zoned for industrial use. Basically, it’s all the warehouses and shit over by the airport which would be a piss poor location to open up any business, let alone a medical marijuana dispensary. Take it from a guy who has worked in medical supplies (which is essentially what this is, only the medical supply in question is weed), accessibility is a big sticking point for the handicapped/elderly. They used to give me shit because the store was set too far back from the parking lot for their liking. Half the places highlighted in District 6 on that map have limited-to-zero bus service.

Accessibility inside, opening up a dispensary down there just doesn’t make any business sense. Like I said earlier, there’s a reason all that space is there. The Mayor said herself at a South Stockton town hall meeting way back near the beginning of her tenure that businesses were passing them over because they use statistics like Average Area Income to decide where to set up shop. I don’t think the average income of a South Stockton resident has improved enough since then to change that. The absence of those surrounding businesses also makes District 6 a less-attractive location for a dispensary. Average income aside, some people are just flat out scared to go to South Stockton. Anybody opening a dispensary in District 6 is limiting the number of patients they can serve because of the safety stigma surrounding that area. Couple that with the previously mentioned public transportation limitations and it becomes clear that Fritchens fears of being overrun by dispensaries is unfounded.

The other, more hilarious, issue Fritchen brought up was the changes in proximity to sensitive-use areas (i.e. schools, daycares, parks). Included in the changes that shortened the required buffer area from 1000 ft to 600 ft was a new definition of where to measure that distance. In earlier drafts the ordinance stated that it was to be measured from property line to property line. In study sessions they found that definition severely limited the number of potential dispensary locations, so they changed the measurement to be front door to front door. Fritchen, ignoring that this actually meant more potential locations OUTSIDE of the district he was so futilely defending, then essentially asked “What about the children?” and then shit got hilarious.

To be fair, it was a somewhat valid concern (one solved with the addition of a 300ft front door to property line requirement for schools and daycares). Granted, we’re talking about a medical supply store with strict security and not a corner liquor store where kids can loiter out front sipping root beer forties while asking every other passerby if they can buy them a pack of smokes, but marijuana still has that “legal” stigma surrounding it so these buffer zones are understandable. What isn’t understandable is Fritchen’s example where a dispensary could theoretically be placed right next to a high school by placing it at the end of the football field. According to Fritchen, a dispensary could be placed at one end of the football field and the other end could have the front door and the dispensary would be within it’s legal placement rights. Two things are wrong with that complaint/example/whatever he was trying to say. One, a football field is 120 yards including endzones, which only amounts to 360 feet. Even if we gift them an extra 40 feet for the snack bar or an area for the band or whatever, we’re still only two-thirds of the way towards our 600 foot buffer (Fritchen would later go on to claim a football field is 900 feet. And this guy is in charge of the budget and finance committee).

The second problem is Fritchen’s logic doesn’t account for the number of other safeguards the ordinance has in place to ensure that his fears of a dispensary and school becoming neighbors aren’t realized. If a dispensary were to try and pull such shenanigans they would still have to get their permit approved by the 7-person Council appointed committee, who I doubt would let that happen, and they’d also have to run it by Stockton Police Chief Blair Ulring. Call me crazy, but I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t let that shit fly.

So yeah, I admire Fritchen for putting up a token fight for his district, but it’s really not as lucrative an area for dispensaries as he thinks it is. Same goes for schools. Just because things work out in theory, it doesn’t mean they’ll actually come to fruition.

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~ by Slick Diaz on August 25, 2010.

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