HAYWARD — Medical marijuana advocates will have to wait at least another year before the city considers creating a policy that would allow for dispensaries to set up shop here. The City Council opted Tuesday night to not make the matter a priority for 2010.

In a reversal from comments made during a work session last month, council members — with the exception of Bill Quirk — said they would rather focus on other goals this year, given the city's fiscal concerns and limited staff resources.

"We are down 44 positions," said Councilman Olden Henson, a supporter of medicinal marijuana. "The idea to look at everything at this moment is not feasible."

During January's work session, Henson and council members Francisco Zermeno and Barbara Halliday joined Quirk in saying they would like to consider a pot club policy for the city in the coming year.

But in a move that City Manager Greg Jones called "unique for this year," the issue was brought back before council because "there continues to be disagreement with what staff brought forward."

Jones said a pot policy would be contradictory to the city's undisputed main goals of enhancing public safety and keeping the city clean.

Police Chief Ron Ace told the council that while he wouldn't speak one way or the other on the issue of medical marijuana, asking his staff to address the matter would take away from the key functions police are expected to perform. Those goals include creating a gang injunction program and addressing a rash of homicides seen in the past few months.

"We can't do everything," he said. "Priorities mean just that — you choose what is most important."

Quirk made an impassioned motion to allow the study of dispensaries in the city, and said that if run correctly and with adequate security, they would not be detrimental. He also said it's unfair to label clubs a potential bad element because of crimes that have occurred in the past.

"My house has been robbed twice since I've been on City Council. Do you want me to move out of town?" he said. "There have been murders at Southland mall, and bank robberies. We are not asking them to close."

He added that a lack of action on the federal level makes it an issue that should be tackled locally, and said he didn't expect "a venomous attack without even doing a study."

His motion died from lack of support.

Public speakers were evenly divided between those who favor a pot policy and those who don't want dispensaries in the city.

The priorities that made the council's list — including working toward obtaining more services for Hayward's homeless — were passed unanimously.

Eric Kurhi covers Hayward. Contact him at 510-293-2473.