Pismo bans medical marijuana dispensaries

April 07, 2005

Cynthia Neff, San Luis Obispo Tribune

Pismo Beach this week joined a lengthy list of California cities that have passed measures to ban or restrict the opening of medical marijuana dispensaries, to the frustration of a few local residents who asked the City Council to wait a few months for a U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

The Supreme Court is expected to rule this summer on whether patients have the right to use marijuana for medical reasons, which local officials hope will clear up conflicts between state and federal law.

Federal law prohibits the possession, cultivation and distribution of marijuana. But in 1996, California voters approved the Compassionate Use Act, which protects patients, their primary caregivers and physicians who prescribe marijuana for medical treatment from criminal prosecution.

But while medical marijuana dispensaries have opened in Oakland, San Francisco and other Northern California cities, most of the cities in San Luis Obispo County have passed measures in recent months to keep that from happening.

'This is about how we treat seriously ill and dying people,' Marilee Hyman of Pismo Beach told the council. 'I really see this as a compassion issue. ... Do you have compassion?'

Local residents who use marijuana as medicine would have to travel farther to get it, unless they have a caregiver, some argue.

'It certainly makes it difficult on the patients,' said Dale Gieringer, coordinator for the California chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. 'Many of those people are driving ... three to four hours from other parts of the state to get to (cannabis) clubs.'

Pismo Beach City Manager Kevin Rice hasn't heard of anyone wanting to open a dispensary in the city but started paying attention to the issue when San Luis Obispo, Arroyo Grande and Grover Beach approved similar urgency ordinances.

Paso Robles and Atascadero have established temporary bans.

In Pismo Beach, an immediate ban will go into effect for 45 days; Rice said he'd recommend the council extend it for an additional 10 months while city staff drafts a permanent ordinance.

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