Medical Marijuana Advocacy Group Sues Fresno

April 25, 2005

Tonya Alanez, The Los Angeles Times

Medical marijuana advocates sued the city of Fresno on Monday, hoping to overturn what they called unreasonable restrictions on medical marijuana dispensaries. Americans for Safe Access, an Oakland-based nonprofit group, and William McPike, an attorney, caregiver and qualified medical marijuana patient, filed the complaint in Superior Court in Fresno.

They contend that what they refer to as a 'ban' unlawfully deprives qualified medical marijuana patients the medicine allowed them under California state law.

In 1996, California voters passed Proposition 215, which legalized the use of marijuana for medical treatment.

Since then, cannabis clubs have opened in many parts of the state to distribute the drug. Many cities have instituted moratoriums on such clubs; three others have banned them.

Under a Fresno ordinance approved Oct. 26, 2004, a dispensary cannot distribute pot to more than two people.

'It's not a ban,' said city spokesman Ken Shockley. 'The city law is clear that, in the city of Fresno, a dispensary is limited to providing for two patients. If his position is that he cannot dispense medical marijuana in the city of Fresno, that simply is not true.'

Shockley said city officials had not received a copy of the lawsuit or had a chance to review it.

Joe Elford, the attorney representing Americans for Safe Access and McPike, conceded that the Fresno ordinance is 'oddly worded.'

'It looks like they may be leaving the door open to dispensing to two people,' Elford said. 'But limiting membership in collectives or cooperatives to no more than two people does not allow collectives and cooperatives to function.'

Thirty-two cities throughout the state have enacted moratoriums to halt dispensing while they develop policies to regulate pot clubs.

The Northern California towns of Rocklin, San Rafael and Yuba City have banned cannabis clubs outright.

Medical pot advocates hope to overturn Fresno's ordinance and encourage other California cities and counties to adopt 'sensible' policies and regulations around dispensing medical marijuana, said Kris Hermes, legal campaign director of Americans for Safe Access.


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