The City of Lodi joined 70 other California cities on Wednesday night by placing a temporary ban on medical marijuana dispensaries after the Obama administration loosened its grip on states that have legalized medicinal cannabis.

The Lodi City Council, which represents 60,000 residents on the northern tip of the San Joaquin Valley, has received a handful of inquiries from community members. The council voted on Wednesday to place a 45-day moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries so staff can prepare an adequate recommendation on how to regulate sales or ban them.

Lodi joins dozens of cities where Public CEOs must weigh the legal ramifications of allowing dispensaries with social factors and the recommendation from California’s Police Chiefs Association that dispensaries bring extra crime to town with them. Read various city staff reports here.

“Having never researched the issue previously, we want to give it a thorough review,” City Manager Blair King said at the council meeting which is broadcast on local cable and the city’s Web site.

Medical marijuana has been debated in California cities since 1996 when voters passed the Compassionate Use Act, otherwise known as Proposition 215. The law allows caregivers or co-operatives to provide marijuana to patients that have doctor’s recommendation to use it.

Since then there has been a flurry of controversy surrounding medical marijuana.

Dispensaries have opened all over the state including Los Angeles, San Francisco and Oakland where shops gross millions in sales each year. In 2009, sales tax generated for cities in the state could reach $100 million, according to a group called Americans for Safe Access.

The average dispensary grosses about $200,000 a year, the ASA says. Most large cities have three to five dispensaries within city limits.

On the flip side, cities such as Pasadena, Rocklin, Davis, San Rafael and Fresno have all banned dispensaries in city limits.

In February, the issue has re-heated after U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said the federal Department of Justice would no longer prosecute medical marijuana store owners in states that have legalized the practice.

Advocates say medical marijuana is not only legal, but safe, with appropriate oversight.

Ryan Landers, the California director for The American Alliance For Medical Cannabis, argues that a dispensary is the only place a person that wishes to use marijuana as pain medication can get it safely.

He said he urges heavy regulation, but he told the Lodi City Council Wednesday that he doesn’t want “little old ladies trying to score marijuana from the street.”

In opposition, however, the California Police Chiefs Association says crime increases when dispensaries are opened. The problem stems around illegal drug use, and illegal sales.

Cities won’t have to decide soon. The 45-day moratorium can be extended to last up to two years.

According to the Association:

Los Angeles Police Department
The Los Angeles Police Department experienced a 200 percent increase in robberies, 52 percent increase in Burglaries, 57 percent increase in aggravated assaults and 130% increase in auto burglaries at locations near Cannabis Clubs. During this same time period the city of Los Angeles noted reductions in part one crime in most other areas of their city.

The Narcotics Division of L.A.P.D. has conducted surveillance of many of these dispensaries and has observed young healthy individuals entering these locations and purchasing marijuana. In San Pedro the owner of a dispensary, armed with an assault rifle and handgun tried to prevent L.A. Fire from entering the establishment for the purpose of inspection.

San Francisco Police Department

The San Francisco Police Department reported that during a one-year period, crimes at or near 23 of the 29 medical marijuana dispensaries showed a significant increase of violent crimes and property crimes.