I confess. I smoked pot a few times when I was in college.

It made me hungry and sleepy. Wanting to actually graduate, I decided I had better things to do. Fast forward to my two recent hip-replacement surgeries, after which my eldest daughter recommended trying some medical marijuana to help me sleep.

Sorry, that medicine didn't work.

I deeply care about people who are in chronic pain and find relief with medical marijuana. But I care even more about the potential public-safety impacts of medical marijuana dispensaries on our 115,000 residents — especially our youth.

To mitigate those public-safety impacts, the City Council may sometime in the future step in and carefully deliberate on how to regulate dispensaries in Costa Mesa.

However, I am disappointed in the rushed and secretive process that has resulted in a new business item on Tuesday's City Council agenda asking us to place a medical marijuana ordinance on the ballot.

This is an extremely complex and relatively new issue that cities have been struggling with across the country. We need to examine the best practices of other municipalities, while gathering public input from everyone in our community, including residents, business owners, educators and experts in our police department.

To be done right, this process would likely take more than a year. And the City Council is being asked to make a decision in less than a week — with little information.

Before a federal crackdown a few years ago, Costa Mesa was fertile ground for medical marijuana dispensaries, which sprang up around town like, well, weeds. Our police department was inundated with complaints from residents and business owners about the negative effects of these unregulated businesses.

We don't want to repeat the same mistakes — or even make it worse. We need answers to hundreds of questions, including those that involve zoning, city oversight and taxation, and we should start with the most basic one: Is regulation of medical marijuana dispensaries best for our community?

This last-minute push by Councilman Gary Monahan to put a medical marijuana ordinance on the ballot doesn't pass the smell.

The obvious two questions: Why the rush? Why secrecy?

We need transparency on this. Who has the council member been meeting with and how many times, how much has this cost the city? Instead, the issue is clouded in smoke.

Two initiatives are being circulated in Costa Mesa that would, if passed by the voters, regulate medical marijuana dispensaries. But those initiatives don't have a chance to make the November ballot. So there's no reason that we can't take the time to properly deliberate this important and complex issue.

Medical marijuana helps many people. We just want to make sure that improperly regulated medical marijuana dispensaries don't hurt Costa Mesa.

We need more time. And less smoke.

WENDY LEECE is a member of the Costa Mesa City Council.