Alameda Supes OK one pot club

January 11, 2006

Karen Holzmeister, Daily Review (CA)

Amid cheers and tears, one of two Ashland medical marijuana clinics Tuesday passed a hurdle in its effort to continue operating while the other inched closer to closure.

The Alameda County Resource Center successfully persuaded Alameda County supervisors that an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting hall next to its East 14th Street sales outlet doesn't qualify as a drug recovery facility.

However, supervisors turned down The Health Center's appeal to continue its operations just down the block from the Resource Center.

Pending legal appeals, the sheriff's department plans to notify The Health Center's operators that it must close, perhaps in as few as 30 days.

The sheriff's department and a county administrative panel had previously denied both applications for county operating permits because they conflicted with the county's medical marijuana ordinance.

The ordinance states that no dispensary may be closer than 1,000 feet from a school, public park, playground, drug recovery facility or recreation center.

The Health Center is 359 feet, 10 inches from a private school and 965 feet, 7 inches, from Edendale Middle School, both on Ashland Avenue.

But the Resource Center's proximity to the AA hall became moot with Tuesday's ruling.

Paul Baerwald, the Resource Center's manager, was quietly jubilant after the 90-minute meeting as supporters and patrons hugged him and shook hands outside the supervisors' chambers.

"I'm really grateful the board of supervisors has a better understanding of what drug rehabilitation facilities are," Baerwald said.

Jack Norton, who operates The Health Center said he and his attorney will decide later this week whether to file an appeal.

County supervisors plan to reduce the six cannabis clubs, now operating in the greater Hayward area's unincorporated communities, to three businesses only, each operating in a distinct geographical area.

Now, the Alameda County Resource Center has joined We Are Hemp, the Garden of Eden and Compassionate Collective of Alameda County in receiving tentative approval for their applications. The Health Center is out of the running, and A Natural Source, on Foothill Boulevard in east Ashland, has appealed its initial application denial.

We Are Hemp, on Lewelling Boulevard, appears to be a shoo-in for the permit covering San Lorenzo and western Cherryland. The resource center, Compassionate Collective and Garden of Eden likely will compete for the permit covering the remainder of Cherryland and most of Ashland.

If A Natural Source isn't successful in getting the permit covering eastern Ashland and Castro Valley, the county likely would seek new applications for those areas. Norton already has a letter of intent to rent commercial space at an undisclosed Castro Valley location, should he obtain one of the prized permits.

Supervisors Keith Carson, Scott Haggerty, Alice Lai-Bitker and Nate Miley voted unanimously on both applications. Supervisor Gail Steele was absent.

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