Marijuana clubs can stay open
September 23, 2005
Guy Ashley, Mercury News (San Jose)Alameda County sheriff's officials say they will back off a Sept. 30 shutdown order and instead allow three medical marijuana clubs in unincorporated pockets of San Leandro and Hayward to stay open, at least for another month.
"We're recommending the application process be extended to allow those businesses to remain in operation, at least until late October," said sheriff's Capt. Steve Roderick.
Last month's shutdown order by Sheriff Charles Plummer was prompted by Alameda County's new marijuana dispensary law, which demanded applications by Aug. 30 from six existing pot clubs in unincorporated areas if they hoped to gain the permits needed to stay in business.
Three of those clubs withheld their applications, distributed by Plummer's office, protesting that a supplemental questionnaire sought personal information about dispensary operators and employees that went far beyond what was necessary to meet new county requirements.
The protesting clubs won some allies at the top levels of county government, including Supervisor Nate Miley, whose district is home to several of the dispensaries.
Miley attended a meeting this week with sheriff's officials, dispensary operators and County Counsel Richard Winnie, where it was decided that extending the deadline is the right thing to do.
"The initial application was pretty extensive, and I think there was a breakdown in communication so that the sheriff's department didn't realize our board should have approved what went out," Miley said.
Miley said he will ask the board to approve the deadline extension at its Oct. 4 meeting.
Roderick said the sheriff's department will allow the six clubs to continue operating as usual, unless directed otherwise by county supervisors.
The move was applauded by William McDonald, owner of one of the protesting dispensaries, A Natural Source in San Leandro.
"This is a new law and a gray area for everybody," he said. "It's only proper to give us the benefit of the doubt and make sure the process is fair for all parties."
McDonald raised deep concerns about the applications, particularly in light of an armed, invasion-style robbery at his club on Aug. 19 in which one of the bandits was shot to death. With several of the robbers still at large, McDonald said he was particularly reluctant to offer personal information that might be made public.
Roderick said the questionnaires at issue were optional, and that their contents were not going to be made public.
Nevertheless, he said the forms likely will be shortened this time around. That doesn't mean, Roderick said, that club operators will avert close background checks that authorities say are essential if the new regulations are to be effective.
"We intend to do everything we can to ensure these businesses are about providing medical marijuana as defined by state law," he said. "We don't want to open the door to operations tied to money laundering or sophisticated drug cartels."