Santa Clara Council asked to allow medicinal pot

August 26, 2005

Jessica Portner, Mercury News (San Jose)

City after city in Santa Clara County have rebuffed prospective operators of pot clubs. But Jonathan Lustig plans to do his best to make Mountain View the exception, by hounding the city council to open a medicinal marijuana dispensary close to home.

``On a moral and political front, they need to have one,'' said Lustig, 26, who implored council members at a meeting this month to save him from traveling to Oakland to pick up the substance that eases his searing migraines and stomach pain.

``I just think the last thing that sick people need to worry about is getting their medicine. It's tragic,'' he said.

Mountain View Mayor Matt Neely supports the use of medicinal marijuana. ``There are a lot of sick people with a lot of ailments who use it to heal themselves, and I am all for it,'' said Neely. ``I am anxious to look at the idea.''

Regulating such dispensaries has recently become precarious legal territory, especially in California, which, with more than 160 clubs statewide, is the epicenter of pot clubs. In 1996, California voters passed Proposition 215, which sanctioned medicinal marijuana use. State law now authorizes patients to use medicinal marijuana if they have certain diseases, including cancer, AIDS, glaucoma, arthritis or migraines.

But a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in June said that state laws did not protect medicinal marijuana users from federal prosecution.

City Manager Kevin Duggan said the city staff will soon inform council members about options for dispensaries under current city rules. The city has no medicinal marijuana ordinance, officials said. But Mountain View could dispense it through pharmacies that are already regulated, said zoning administrator Al Savay. These could be zoned under a ``conditional use'' permit, in which cities allow businesses to open under special conditions.

Kris Hermes, the legal campaign director for the Oakland-based Americans for Safe Access, said that most of the Bay Area clubs are clumped in San Francisco or Oakland. That means hundreds of ill people in Santa Clara County must travel to buy their medications in other Bay Area counties.

``It seems punitive to force patients to drive long distances get their medicine,'' said Hermes.

Mountain View Councilwoman Laura Macias said she is open to an examination of the issue, but is concerned about how the community might react to having a pot club on the next block.

``It's important to respect the needs of the neighbors,'' said Macias. ``We are a pretty small city with a lot of kids, and we want to make sure that we feel they are safe wherever they are.''

 Contact Jessica Portner at jportner@mercurynews.com or (650) 688-7505



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