Colfax considers weeding out medipot

November 05, 2005

Kerana Todorov, Auburn Journal

Should the sale of medical marijuana be banned in Colfax?

The difficulty in interpreting the state and federal laws dealing with the sale of medical marijuana led city staff to discuss a possible ban at a staff retreat Oct. 13, said Colfax City Manager Bob Perrault.

"There was no consensus," Perrault said Monday. "(But) it is an issue that I think needs to be discussed." No date was set for that discussion.

Selling medical marijuana became legal in 1996 under California Proposition 215. In June, however, the U.S. Supreme Court decided that federal authorities can prosecute patients who use medical marijuana in California. That decision led to Colfax city officials discussing whether to follow the state or federal law.

"We feel like we're kind of left in this land in between," Perrault said.

Golden State Patient Care, the county's sole medical marijuana collective, opened last year off Highway 174 in Colfax.

Placer County Sheriff Sgt. Dave Wells, who manages the Colfax substation, was out of town and could not be reached for comment. The substation's Deputy Sheriff Gregg Hopping said last week that staff is not allowed to discuss Proposition 215-related issues.

But according to Lt. George Malim, spokesman for the Placer County Sheriff's Department, the Colfax medical marijuana dispensary has not created any law enforcement problems.

"It's up to the city to determine what they want to do," Malim said.

Sharon Gieras was mayor when Golden State Patient Care opened.

On Monday, she voiced support for the collective, which she said is run professionally.

Gieras, who used to own a health food store for seven years on Main Street, believes the dispensaries should be allowed to operate in Colfax.

"It's an herb," said Gieras. "I believe (the dispensary) should be there."

The possible ban on medical marijuana dispensaries in Colfax was news to Golden State Patient Care owner Cheryl Riendeau.

"I don't know anything about it," Riendeau said, adding she is unaware of what complaints the city would have against the dispensary. "We haven't had any problems."

Medical marijuana dispensaries like hers, Riendeau said, provide a "safe environment" for the clients. Between three to 30 customers daily visit the store, six days a week.

Customers Kim Stiebing, 44, of Grass Valley, and Alex Colston, 47, of Auburn, praised Golden State Patient Care.

"The people who work there are the most compassionate people I've ever met," said Stiebing, who injured her back in 1997 when she fell at work and began to use medical marijuana last year.

Colston, who said the marijuana relieves the number of his seizures, said the staff at the Colfax store is friendly and reminds him when his prescription is up.

Stiebing, a mother and grandmother, said she buys marijuana candy and suckers from Golden State Patient Care to ease her severe back pain, insomnia and nausea.

If a ban was in effect, Stiebing predicted clients would buy marijuana illegally.

"It would be a bad thing to shut it down," said Stiebing.

Twelve Californian cities have banned medical marijuana, according to Americans for Safe Access, an Oakland-based nonprofit organization that supports the sale of medical marijuana.

These cities include Roseville and Rocklin.

Hilary McQuie, Americans for Safe Access spokeswoman, said the ban on medical marijuana dispensaries is illegal under state law.

Americans for Safe Access is suing four cities over the bans - Fresno, Concord, Susanville and Pasadena, said Rebecca Saltzman, another organization spokeswoman.

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