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Atascadero leaders are suddenly concerned about medical pot 

Without any obvious impetus, Atascadero officials will soon decide whether they’ll disallow medical marijuana dispensaries in the city.

On Sept. 8, city council members will vote on whether to place a temporary moratorium on medical marijuana facilities. It’s on the agenda as an “urgency ordinance,” but at a cursory glance there’s no apparent source of the urgency.

The item comes from City Attorney Brian Pierik, who said he’s recommending the city ban medical marijuana dispensaries from being established for a 45-day window so city officials can examine the conflict between state and federal law on the subject.

Pierik said he wasn’t aware of any dispensaries being proposed in Atascadero. He also couldn’t say for certain whether the city could be held liable if it approved a dispensary, adding that he hadn’t analyzed the liability issue.

“The purpose of the moratorium is to allow some further review with respect to this issue of medical marijuana facilities,” Pierik said.

The most recent medical marijuana law in California (SB 420) was passed in January 2004. California voters had passed Proposition 215 eight years earlier, which established the first legal uses of medical marijuana.

“There’s a number of cities that are considering what to do on medical marijuana facilities,” Pierik said.

The city of Morro Bay—where convicted dispensary owner Charles Lynch operated his former establishment—now has a moratorium on dispensaries. Lynch was convicted on various felony charges, but given a minimal prison sentence because federal officials have recently shown more leniency toward medical marijuana growers and sellers. Lynch is appealing his case. Pierik said Lynch’s case wasn’t factored into his recommendation to the Atascadero City Council.

Other city officials did not return calls for comment as of press time.

According to a city staff report, the presence of pot dispensaries increases “illegal drug activity, illegal drug sales, robbery of persons leaving dispensaries, loitering around dispensaries,” and other problems. Four of the five council members must approve the moratorium before it can go into effect.

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