Pinole says no to marijuana dispensaries, at least for now

May 04, 2005

Tom Lochner, Contra Costa Times

The Pinole City Council has blocked any cannabis clubs from setting up during the next 12 months.

An ordinance approved Tuesday was an emergency response to a query several weeks ago about locating a medical marijuana dispensary in Pinole, said city planner Elizabeth Dunn.

The moratorium will give the city time to set regulations for where and how a club would operate, Dunn said. The city's zoning ordinance does not address cannabis clubs.

A task force will help draft an ordinance. The task force should include 'stakeholders' such as a patient and a doctor savvy about medical marijuana, said Mayor David Cole.

Kris Hermes, spokesman for a medical marijuana and patient rights advocacy group calls a 12-month moratorium 'questionable.' Several cities have enacted initial 45-day moratoriums and extended them after additional public hearings.

Emeryville imposed a 45-day moratorium last July and later extended it in September to one year. El Cerrito imposed a 45-day moratorium last year and extended it for 10 months, to July 19. Albany's City Council unanimously passed a 45-day moratorium Monday.

Recent state Supreme Court cases confirm Pinole's 12-month moratorium is legal, Pinole City Attorney Benjamin Reyes II told the council.

Moratoriums are unnecessary, said Hermes, of Oakland-based Americans for Safe Access.

'There is no shortage of examples of how to regulate the conduct of medical marijuana dispensing,' Hermes said. His organization has drafted a sample ordinance.

'Delays of a year are disingenuous and a punitive obstacle to safe access to medical marijuana.

'Bans, even if they are temporary, prevent patients from easily accessing their medication,' Hermes said.

State voters in 1996 passed Proposition 215, allowing people to possess and grow marijuana for medical use if a doctor recommends it.

While it does not mention dispensaries, Prop. 215 calls for 'safe and affordable distribution of marijuana' to all patients who have a medical need for it.

Some cities have highly restrictive cannabis club ordinances.

Martinez's, enacted in 2000, bars clubs within 1,000 feet of schools and parks and 300 feet of residences. It also bars club employees or volunteers from carrying marijuana out of the premises, effectively scuttling a plan for an outlet to deliver marijuana to critically ill patients.

Martinez's ordinance also gives the police chief discretion to impose additional storage, record-keeping and identification conditions, an approach Hermes calls 'extremely wrong-headed.'

'The city should put the local department of health at the helm,' Hermes said, 'or the planning department, or even the city council itself, rather than delegate these powers to law-enforcement.'

Some cities, ban cannabis clubs altogether, saying federal law bars them. Rocklin did that last year,

'Rocklin may be the test case,' Reyes said.

Hermes said three other cities ban the clubs. Americans for Safe Access sued Fresno in April over its ordinance that restricts dispensaries to two patients, which the organization says amounts to a ban.

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