Alameda County halts crackdown on pot clubs
September 24, 2005
Karen Holzmeister, Oakland TribuneQuicker than a puff of smoke, county efforts to clamp down on medical marijuana sales in unincorporated areas have been placed on hold.
Alameda County has reined in its efforts to close three medical marijuana clinics by Oct. 1, and to subsequently issue three prized cannabis club operating permits in unincorporated areas, a county supervisor and sheriff's captain said Friday.
Instead, We Are Hemp in San Lorenzo, the Garden of Eden in Cherryland, and A Natural Source in Ashland — all of which faced closure after not applying in time for the county-mandated permits — can continue operating while the application process is re-reviewed.
Three other dispensaries, which met the Aug. 30 application deadline, will be in limbo until the five county supervisors — who set policies for unincorporated areas — decide later this fall if the application process should be revised.
Heat over dispensary application forms — from politicians as well as marijuana sales outlet operators — prompted the delay.
Applicants were asked questions about family members, past employment, driving records and non-felony arrests or convictions.
Supervisor Alice Lai-Bitker of Alameda said the county has to balance the need for medical marijuana sales facilities with safety and good business practices.
"The application forms were not approved by the board, and perhaps they went too far in terms of invasiveness, in the personal background information sought," Lai-Bitker explained.
She referred to recent robberies at several clinics, including one on Aug. 19 at a dispensary on Foothill Boulevard in unincorporated San Leandro that resulted in the death of one of the robbers.
Six dispensaries are operating in Ashland, Cherryland and San Lorenzo. In June, county supervisors approved an ordinance that would halve that number, but added Castro Valley as one of the communities where marijuana could be sold. Supervisors also decided that sales should be limited to three locations with county permits and supervision.
The sheriff's department is in charge of the permit process. Sheriff's Capt. Stephen Roderick said Friday that various county departments might ask the supervisors to revise the ordinance and modify the application form.
That review could occur as soon as October, he said, adding that "there are a lot of factors to be reviewed."
Operators of We Are Hemp and A Natural Source, and the attorney for the Garden of Eden, could not be reached for comment Friday afternoon.
Jack Norton operates The Health Center on East 14th Street in Ashland, one of the three dispensaries that submitted applications on time. A sheriff's deputy stopped by his business Friday to announce the continuation.
Norton declined comment, stating "I'd like to see how this plays out."