Area pot clubs handed mixed bag

December 22, 2005

Karen Holzmeister, Daily Review

After years of sneers that selling medical marijuana is a back-alley operation, Adele Morgan felt vindicated Thursday.

The owner of We Are Hemp on Lewelling Boulevard in Cherryland got an early Christmas present: an Alameda County Sheriff's Department letter stating her business has tentative approval for a permit to sell medical marijuana in unincorporated areas.

"I am glad, and I do feel vindicated, in a sense," said Morgan, who opened her storefront business five years ago, after 29 years as a nurse and seven years with the county probation department.

"We have been here so long, and have been no trouble," she explained. "I have a clean, clean background; we cater to older people here."

Thursday was a day of contrasts for the six existing dispensaries competing for the three prized permits:

- The Garden of Eden on Foothill Boulevard in Cherryland also received a letter of tentative approval, along with We Are Hemp and the previously-notified Compassionate Collective of Alameda County on Mission Boulevard in Cherryland.

- A Natural Source on Foothill Boulevard in Ashland got the equivalent of a lump of coal. The sheriff's department cited the dispensary's proximity — about a block — from a Montessori school as the reason for denying its permit application. It has 10 days to appeal the denial to a panel of county administrators.

Sheriff's Captain Dale Amaral said location only, and not criminal problems — including the shooting death of a suspected robber outside A Natural Sourcelast August — was behind the denial.

- Amaral said The Health Center and Alameda County Resource Center, both on East 14th Street in Ashland, may be able to ask county supervisors to overturn denials by the sheriff's department and administrative panel as soon as Jan. 10.

Both cannabis clubs were denied permits because they are too close to schools and an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting hall. Restrictions cited in the medical marijuana ordinance adopted by supervisors last summer, and revised this fall, limit dispensaries from locating near educational sites — a 1,000-foot buffer zone is required — and community facilities as well as other marijuana sales outlets.

The next hurdle


The ordinance identifies three specific zones in the unincorporated area where each of the three permitted clubs can operate.

The first zone includes San Lorenzo and a narrow strip of Cherryland running east along Interstate 238. The second zone covers portions of Ashland west of Interstate 580 and the southernmost areas of Cherryland. Ashland south of

I-580 and Castro Valley make up the third zone.

We Are Hemp appears to be the only dispensary in the first area, while both the Compassionate Collective and Garden of Eden are in the second area.

If A Natural Source's denial is upheld on appeal, there would be no existing marijuana sales outlet in the third area. This area — Castro Valley in particular — interests medical marijuana sellers who want to come to Alameda County. In October 2004, supervisors banned any more dispensaries while the ordinance was being prepared.

"We have gotten calls from outside vendors who want to come in, and the community they ask about is Castro Valley," Amaral said. "We are not accepting applications from any other businesses than the six we now are processing."

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