SR May Limit Pot Clubs

SR May Limit Pot Clubs
Posted by CN Staff on March 30, 2005 at 08:26:46 PT
By Paul Payne, The Press Democrat
Source: Press Democrat
Calif. -- Santa Rosa is pursuing an emergency ordinance that would cap the number of medical marijuana clubs in the city at two and strictly limit where and when they may operate.The measure - which could shut one of three existing clubs - comes amid complaints from neighbors of a Sonoma Avenue club and growing skepticism over whether pot cooperatives should exist at all.
It goes before the City Council on Tuesday along with a proposed citywide moratorium on the opening of new medical marijuana dispensaries."The council has expressed a concern over what we've heard from the public," Mayor Jane Bender said. "And I have a concern that three dispensaries may be too many."Medical pot advocates chafed at the two-club limit, saying it would reduce access and overwhelm the remaining clubs.Demand is strong, they said, and their customers have recommendations from doctors to use marijuana."Whether there are two dispensaries or 10, the market should dictate," said Ken Doerpinghaus, owner of Resource Green Caregivers and Patients Group, the Sonoma Avenue club that is the subject of neighborhood controversy. "I don't think it's in the spirit of free commerce."Under California law, people can possess and cultivate pot for their own medical use.Clubs like Resource Green have opened since voters approved the law in 1996, and some cities have adopted ordinances to regulate the clubs.Santa Rosa, however, doesn't have any pot club regulations.When three clubs opened over the past year, the City Council sought an ordinance.Initially, city officials said it would take two months to adopt a pot ordinance but they stepped up the pace, citing complaints about public smoking, urination and traffic around the Sonoma Avenue club.Santa Rosa officials studied local laws from about two dozen cities to come up with the draft ordinance, which is subject to change by the council.Some cities, such as Rocklin in Placer County, have imposed outright bans, while others, like Oakland, have restricted how many can operate."We're not so sure we want to allow one," City Attorney Brien Farrell said.The ordinance cites concerns expressed by the attorney general that drug traffickers have posed as caregivers in order to obtain and sell marijuana.In addition to cutting the number of clubs, the Santa Rosa law would prescribe where they may be located.Under the proposal, dispensaries must be adjacent to medical office buildings, hospitals or pharmacies and be at least 1,000 feet from schools, parks or public buildings.Pot clubs wouldn't be allowed downtown and must be 500 feet from homes.Based on their current locations, all three Santa Rosa clubs would be in violation of the law and would have to move, Farrell said.He said clubs that found new locations could apply for business licenses. "It would be first-come, first-served," he said.The proposal also addresses troubling behavior in and outside the clubs. It says clubs can open only during daylight hours and no marijuana may be consumed at a dispensary.The draft charges managers with discouraging illegal activity in parking areas and on adjacent sidewalks and alleys. No one with a criminal record would be allowed to operate a club.The provisions were created in part because each club has been the scene of serious crimes, including armed robbery and burglary, the proposed ordinance said.Also, a police survey found 11 of 13 Resource Green neighbors had reported problems such as vandalism and excessive litter.Regulations also would include random inspections.If approved by five of the seven City Council members, the ordinance would take effect immediately. With a simple majority, it would become law 30 days after a second vote.Bender was planning to meet privately today with owners of the three pot clubs and advocates from the Sonoma Alliance for Medical Marijuana to hear their concerns.Doerpinghaus said complaints about his club are overblown. But he said he would comply with the city's wishes, even if it means moving."The situation has never been as bad as it has been presented," Doerpinghaus said.John Sugg, the owner of Caregiver Compassion Center on Montgomery Drive, said relocation costs would be passed on to customers."Just like everybody else who is sick," he said, "we are all struggling to pay for medicine."Note: Draft ordinance caps number at 2, bars some locations, regulates activity.Source: Press Democrat, The (CA)Author: Paul Payne, The Press DemocratPublished: Wednesday, March 30, 2005Copyright: 2005 The Press DemocratContact: letters pressdemo.comWebsite: Articles & Web Site:SAMM Pot Clubs - Press Democrat Should Let Supreme Court Decide Issues on Medical Pot 
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