Sheriff watching pot club patrons

July 12, 2005

Karen Holzmeister , Daily Review

As the train to regulate medical marijuana dispensaries in unincorporated areas picks up speed, local law enforcement officials are scrutinizing pot club clients as closely as transit police keep an eye on BART riders.

Baby-faced pot-club patrons, beware: Alameda County Sheriff Charles Plummer has his eyes on you.

The number of dispensaries will drop from six to three by fall, and the sheriff's department will step up its inspections and oversight under the terms of a county ordinance adopted in June.

On Tuesday, county supervisors set the fees for processing applications for the three prized dispensary permits.

Permit renewal and annual monitoring charges have yet to be established.

Applications, Plummer said, should be ready by July 27. Applicants will be given about a month to fill them out. County administrators will review the documents, check the applicants and select the permit holders.

In the meantime, Plummer remains skeptical — at best — about the medicinal benefits of marijuana and the legality of over-the-counter sales.

Accompanied by aides, Plummer toured six dispensaries in Ashland, Cherryland and San Lorenzo one afternoon last week. The sheriff, himself over 70, said Tuesday he saw only a handful of people aged 50 and older lined up for various amounts and grades of marijuana.

The rest of the assembled cannabis buyers, he explained, were young and predominantly male.

'I saw no one who looked sick,' Plummer added.

Only one of the dispensaries accepted credit cards, Plummer noted, saying he asked operators of the other marijuana sales outlets, 'Aren't your patients trustworthy?'

While the number of dispensaries will drop from six to three, Castro Valley has been added as one of the communities where a sales outlet could belocated. The field of applicants is not restricted to just the current dispensary operators.

Four supervisors, with Supervisor Scott Haggerty of Livermore dissenting, decided Tuesday to charge each dispensary applicant $3,800 for processing their initial form, plus $150 for each employee listed on the form and $32-per-person state fingerprinting fee.

The supervisors postponed a decision on biennial permit renewal fees, and an annual charge for administration and monitoring. The sheriff's department had suggested a

$2,500 renewal fee and $1,200 annual charge.

Contact Karen Holzmeister at (510) 293-2478 or e-mail

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