Pot club options explored
October 13, 2005
Mike White, Oakland TribuneLIVERMORE — Two years ago, Michael Ferrucci was a plaintiff in a landmark marijuana case that reached the Supreme Court.
Today, he is working in his own back yard to cultivate better access to medical marijuana for those who need it.
Livermore, like other cities in the area and state, has a moratorium on the establishment and operation of medical marijuana dispensaries. Just Monday, the city extended a short moratorium another 20 months.
Even though there is no dispensary in Livermore, officials feared that if one opened, the city would experience the same kinds of problems as other communities, such as unincorporated Hayward, where crimes have been reported at several dispensaries.
But unlike places such as Fresno that have created outright bans on marijuana dispensaries, officials insist they are not trying to block a dispensary from opening in Livermore. Instead, they want to work with people such as Ferrucci to create guidelines that will make dispensaries function safely.
"If they wanted to create a simple moratorium, that would have been unacceptable," said Ferrucci, 55, who used marijuana to battle the pain associated with his serious case of testicular cancer. He has been clear of cancer for more than 10 years.
"I was encouraged to see consensus on the council to ask for a comprehensive report," Ferrucci said. "I just hope our staff looks at the facts and ignores misinformation associated with dispensaries."
A range of options will be presented to the City Council before the moratorium ends, police Chief Steve Krull said.
"What would be the model dispensary?" Krull asked. "We might be able to find that out by talking to people like Michael (Ferrucci) and other members of the community. We can take a look at other places that may have well-designed dispensaries."
Over the past year, the city has received at least four inquires about opening a medical marijuana dispensary, and the perceived interest was one reason the council created a 45-day moratorium on such establishments in September. Ferrucci spoke at that time against banning dispensaries, and has met with city staff members since then to argue the case for access to medical marijuana.
He has been part of the fight for a long time. In 2003, he was one of five plaintiffs in the medical marijuana case Walters v. Conant, which reached the Supreme Court. It was a major victory for Ferrucci and other marijuana advocates. Supreme Court justices rejected the Bush administration's request to consider whether the federal government can punish doctors for recommending or discussing the use of marijuana for their patients. The court's decision cleared the way for state laws allowing ill patients to smoke marijuana if a doctor recommends it.
The pony-tailed Ferrucci may not fit the public's image of a marijuana advocate. Ferrucci owns the music shop Fine Fretted Friends in Livermore, is married to a teacher, has a science degree and is active in his Rotary Club and church. But he's equally committed to the cause of access to medical marijuana. He hopes the city will establish reasonable guidelines and that a shop will one day open.
Not having a dispensary is a "threat to the health and welfare of the community," Ferrucci said.
On that point, he might not get much agreement from law enforcement personnel, who spend much of their time battling drugs and associated crime. But Krull said the issue is not about whether marijuana is good or bad.
"The question is, if it is allowed under California law, how should it look and how should it function?" Krull asked.