City leaders say they’re not joking about loosening the restriction on medical cannabis in Merced, and to show they’re open to it, they’ve scheduled a meeting on the unofficial marijuana holiday.
The special meeting is 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at City Hall, 678 W. 18th St. The April 20 date’s number, “4/20,” is often used as shorthand for marijuana.
The council voted unanimously in January to pass an ordinance that bans cannabis cultivation and sales, with the caveat that it planned further research on the city’s needs. Leaders met again in March and have scheduled the Wednesday meeting in an attempt to let medical cannabis users know they are open to working with patients.
“This is not a token meeting. We will be having serious discussions on a serious topic,” City Manager Steve Carrigan said. “However, the significance of the date – 4/20 – is not lost on the city.”
Premium content for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
This is not a token meeting. We will be having serious discussions on a serious topic. However, the significance of the date – 4/20 – is not lost on the city.
Merced City Manager Steve Carrigan
Cultivation and sales of cannabis have never been legal in Merced, but city leaders said they needed to pass the ordinance to retain local control on regulations. State bills passed in October would put the city under the state’s marijuana regulations if the council did not complete an ordinance by March 1.
Leaders have been discussing whether the city should allow medical cannabis dispensaries, delivery and cultivation. Also, the council has weighed how many of each type of business should be allowed and where they should be located.
During the January meeting, the council chambers were filled, and about two-dozen speakers shared how medical cannabis has aided them or their loved ones. There was a smaller turnout at the March meeting.
April 20 is celebrated in many places with calls for legalization of recreational marijuana and medicinal marijuana.
Supporters have argued that the sale of cannabis could also benefit the city, which has struggled with a lack of tax dollars in recent years. Merced is in no position to turn away more revenue, they argued. The advocates even have local business on their side.
Still more advocates argue that not allowing dispensaries or delivery services makes it harder to get regulated medical marijuana. Some said they don’t want to have to buy it on the street, where they may have to deal with unsavory people and unsafe products.
There are many stories to explain the origin of the term 4/20 and its link to marijuana. An investigation by L.A Weekly in 2013 confirmed previous accounts linking it to a group of high school students in San Rafael who coined it in the 1970s in reference to 4:20 p.m., the afterschool time when they would meet to smoke pot.
April 20 is celebrated in many places with calls for legalization of recreational marijuana and medicinal marijuana. Students at Merced College celebrated it last year.
See the meeting
City Council meetings are streamed live on the Internet; a link to the meeting and past videos is at www.cityofmerced.org. The meeting is also shown live on Comcast’s Government Channel 96.