Clovis' New Pot Law Criticized

December 05, 2005

Marc Benjamin, The Fresno Bee

A new medical marijuana ordinance takes effect next month in Clovis, but activists told the council Monday night that banning medical marijuana dispensaries will be a problem.

The ordinance does not allow dispensaries but allows cooperatives where up to 99 plants can be grown. City officials said they do not want money to be exchanged if the marijuana is being grown in a cooperative situation.

David Wolfe, assistant city attorney, said the city's ordinance was an effort to strike a balance between prohibiting dispensaries and allowing a cooperative growing effort.

Dispensaries are against federal law, but some California medical marijuana advocates say they are written into California law. It was a significant reason for a lawsuit against the city of Fresno by Americans for Safe Access.

Wolfe disagrees, saying he does not view state law the same way.

Mark Stout, a member of Californians for Safe Access, a group that has sued the city of Fresno for its ban on dispensaries, said dispensaries are needed because many people who are prescribed to use medical marijuana live in apartments or do not have room to grow their medicine.

"The ordinance is a de facto prohibition on dispensaries," Stout said. "Without dispensaries, you take the only safe way many patients have for safe access to medical marijuana."

He said Americans for Safe Access consider a ban on dispensaries a violation of state law.

California voters passed the Compassionate Use Act in 1996 to ensure seriously ill Californians have a right to obtain and use marijuana for medical purposes. Patients must obtain a doctor's order and can use the drug for treatment.

Under the Clovis ordinance, cultivation will be limited to six mature plants or 12 immature plants per patient and requires the collective cultivation of no more than 24 plants in an industrially zoned area or on certain large residential lots that exceed 24,000 square feet. A cooperative must be located in a similar industrial setting. In all cases, growing marijuana must be done inside a locked enclosure.

The ordinance also limits the number of patients for a provider to four, including relatives who use the drug as a pain medication in the same home.

The city will allow smoking outdoors as long as it is done out of public view.

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