Marijuana outlets banned in Riverside County

August 22, 2005

Kimberly Trone, Press-Enterprise



The Riverside County Board of Supervisors temporarily banned medical-marijuana dispensaries Tuesday, over the opposition of chronically ill users who say the drug has improved their lives.

Supervisor John Tavaglione said the 45-day ban would give the county time to make sure dispensaries are located away from schools, parks and churches when applications to open them come to the county for approval.

"This item gives us an opportunity to establish regulations. It is not to prohibit them," Tavaglione insisted.

But Dr. Joanne Benzor said the county has had plenty of time to figure out how to regulate dispensaries since Californians approved medical-marijuana use in 1996. Senate Bill 420 was adopted in 2003 to set up an identification-card program to identify legal users of medical marijuana.

Benzor, who is a family practitioner in San Diego, said she fears the county is preparing for a permanent ban on dispensaries, making it difficult for medical users to obtain the drug in a safe environment.

Right now, some users say they obtain their marijuana in free co-ops.

"I have patients who benefit greatly from medical marijuana," said Benzor, who is allowed to recommend the drug to patients but may not help them purchase it.

"These are regular people like you and me," she told the supervisors. "These are not stoners."

Supervisor Jeff Stone, a pharmacist, said there are prescription drugs that isolate one of the active ingredients in marijuana, and that chronically ill users of marijuana could find prescription alternatives.

If medical marijuana is so superior to the pharmaceutical alternatives, Stone said he wonders why drug companies have not pursued marketing it.

Don Duncan, executive director of the Los Angeles Patients and Caregivers Group, which supports medical marijuana, said that until marijuana is legal under federal laws, American companies will not explore ways to market it as a whole substance.

Kyle Bashore, 21, of Cathedral City, said he supports regulation of marijuana but that he is required to grow the plant at his parents' home in the Coachella Valley.

Bashore said he has Crohn's disease and hemophilia, and had been on Dilaudid and morphine before overdosing on the drugs while hospitalized for surgery.

He said he began marijuana at the suggestion of his doctor. It helps control his symptoms without the side effects of potent pharmaceutical drugs, he said.

"This sends a negative message," Bashore said of Tuesday's temporary ban. "This makes me a criminal."

The board could extend the

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