Merced council says ‘yes’ to medical cannabis dispensaries, deliveries

The city of Merced appears to be on its way to having four medical cannabis dispensaries, but the future of cultivation remains uncertain.

During a special meeting Wednesday, which was also the unofficial marijuana holiday known as 4/20, the council gave staff direction for a new ordinance that would allow dispensaries in commercial office space and deliveries of medical cannabis in town.

The members took no official vote but the majority agreed on allowing four dispensaries, and permitting deliveries if they come from a certified dispensary.

Councilman Noah Lor said there should be no restrictions on the number of dispensaries, saying the city should promote healthy competition.

The council did not agree on the number of plants that should be allowed for patients to grow at home, ranging from zero up to 12 immature or six mature plants.

A number of advocates expressed relief that they’ll be able to obtain the medicine they or their loved ones have been prescribed.

Lakisha Jenkins, owner of Kiona’s Farm’acy in Merced, said the council is “progressive” in its decision to move toward allowing medical cannabis use in town.

“I honestly and truly believe … that they will do what’s right to ensure safe access for cannabis patients here,” she said.

Another advocate said she hopes the council will settle on allowing cultivation. Seng Saechao, 47, of Merced said Mien people use cannabis as medicine and are unlikely to use Western medicines. She went on to say buying cannabis from a dispensary is expensive.

Like Hmong people, Mien came to the United States as refugees after the Vietnam War. “We don’t have money,” she said. “There’s no way we can (afford) the medicine.”

While most of the council agreed that patients should be allowed to grow medical marijuana under certain restrictions, Councilman Michael Bellluomini said cultivation should be banned outright. It’s unclear what happens to excess buds and who’s using the homegrown products, he said.

“My problem in cultivation is control and knowing what’s really happening with those plants,” he said.

The ordinance will come before the council for an official vote at a meeting in the coming weeks.

Thaddeus Miller: 209-385-2453, @thaddeusmiller