Debate on Pot Clubs Smolders

Debate on Pot Clubs Smolders
Posted by CN Staff on March 19, 2005 at 10:14:48 PT
By Karen Holzmeister, Staff Writers
Source: Daily Review
Arnie Glassberg is a reasonable guy who recognizes that medical marijuana dispensaries have legal backing and that Alameda County should regulate their operations in unincorporated areas. However, as superintendent of the San Lorenzo Unified School District, Glassberg is uneasy that a proposed county ordinance would allow marijuana sales in five locations, three of which fall within school district boundaries.
"I would like more equitable distribution of the establishments," Glassberg says. "If there are going to be (marijuana sales) establishments in our district, we would like to see that they not be in the natural routes kids take to and from schools." On Wednesday, the community will have its first chance to debate a county proposal that would spread now-clustered marijuana dispensaries throughout unincorporated areas, drop the number of clinics from seven overall to just five and tightly regulate their operations. Dispensary operators and their clients are lobbying to retain the status quo. However, supervisors AliceLai-Bitker and Nate Miley  who represent unincorporated areas  already say they may be leaning toward reducing the number of cannabis sales centers. And the county's tough-talking top cop, Sheriff Charles Plummer, pledges, "if they (dispensary operators) don't do right, we're not going to cut them any slack." Plummer, a self-described marijuana opponent, will have the main responsibility to select which dispensaries receive a coveted operating permit. His department also will monitor the marijuana sales centers, and the proposed county ordinance would afford law enforcement access 24 hours a  day. "I'm not trying to drive them out of business," Plummer insists. "It's the law that they can operate, and we're going to control it the best we can." However, since the sale of medical marijuana remains illegal under federal law, Plummer promises, "If the feds come in and say they want to bust this place (one of the dispensaries), we'll help them, no questions asked." Last October, supervisors banned new cannabis clubs in unincorporated areas while regulations were developed to manage over-the-counter marijuana sales. No guidelines are in place for the existing clubs, which opened during the last few years. The proposed ordinance would limit marijuana sales to five locations, where individuals or organizations selling cannabis would compete for available permits. Ashland, Castro Valley, Cherryland and San Lorenzo each would have one sales site. The last locale would be a lineal slice of Foothill Boulevard, which includes slivers of Ashland, Castro Valley and smaller unincorporated communities. San Lorenzo district schools are in Ashland, Cherryland and San Lorenzo. The ordinance would limit dispensaries to business or commercial districts. Dispensaries also must be at least 1,000 feet away from each other, and 600 feet away from schools, parks or playgrounds. "They should let all seven of us stay open," contends Sean Bruett, Manager of The Health Center, one of three dispensaries within two blocks of each other on East 14th Street in Ashland. "We have a lot of patients (whom) we try to help," explains Bruett, whose dispensary has been open for just more than a year. He said letters of support from patients have been turned  over to the county. Lai-Bitker says five dispensaries are too many. By comparison, Oakland, with about 400,000 residents, has four dispensaries. Hayward, with 140,000 people, has two. Miley doubts the five-member board of supervisors will approve five dispensaries, although he calls it a "legally defensible" number. The unincorporated communities also have about 140,000 residents that, if they incorporated into one city, would make it the third- or fourth-largest in the county. The five dispensaries, distributed among geographical and population lines, would represent one marijuana sales location for about every 28,000 residents of unincorporated areas. "Clearly, there are people who need cannabis as their medicine, and who live in this part of the county or adjacent to this part of the county," Miley explains. The medical marijuana ordinance will be discussed at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Unincorporated Services Committee, San Lorenzo Village Homes Association hall, 377 Paseo Grande, San Lorenzo. Karen Holzmeister covers Castro Valley, the Hayward Area Recreation and Park District, and county government for unincorporated areas. Note: Wednesday forum to address plan for dispensaries in unincorporated areas.Source: Daily Review, The (CA)Author: Karen Holzmeister, Staff WritersPublished: March 19, 2005Copyright: 2005 MediaNews Group, Inc.Contact: revlet angnewspapers.comWebsite: Articles & Web Site:Medicinal Cannabis Research Links Would Scatter Area's Marijuana Clinics Clubs Stir Up Residents, Backers Puts New Pot Clubs on Hold
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