County extends pot club restriction

February 28, 2005

Guy Ashley, Mercury News

Alameda County supervisors on Monday extended for one year an ordinance banning new medical marijuana dispensaries in unincorporated areas.

The 4-0 vote gives the county additional time ``to evaluate the regulatory alternatives'' for medical marijuana clubs, said Supervisor Alice Lai-Bitker, who sponsored the measure.

Supervisor Scott Haggerty did not attend Monday's special meeting.

The law was first passed in October, and extended once in December, in response to seven clubs opening shop in the Ashland and Cherryland areas, between Castro Valley, San Leandro and Hayward. It will not affect those existing clubs.

Officials believe several of the pot dispensaries migrated to unincorporated Alameda County in the wake of new restrictions imposed in the nearby cities of Oakland, Hayward, Berkeley, Emeryville and Fremont.

An advisory committee that includes community members, law enforcement and planning officials has been working on a county pot-club law, which it hopes will be ready for adoption before the moratorium ends.

The law would specify permissible locations, hours and the total number of dispensaries allowed in unincorporated areas.

The dispensaries were first established when California voters passed Proposition 215 in 1996, making it legal to use the drug for medical purposes. But the law failed to clear up numerous questions, including where medical marijuana can legally be produced and whether federal statutes outlawing marijuana trump the provisions of the state proposition.

Later this year, the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule on the question of whether federal authorities can prosecute patients and caregivers and confiscate their marijuana. Plaintiffs in the case include Angel Raich of Oakland, who says she uses it to ease problems caused by a brain tumor and a wasting disorder.

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