Lake Elsinore could ban marijuana dispensaries

February 24, 2006

Jose Caraval, North County Times

Lake Elsinore could soon join a growing list of California cities banning places that dispense medical marijuana ---- even though it doesn't yet have any operating within its borders.

Citing a host of public safety concerns, Lake Elsinore police Chief Louis Fetherolf is recommending that the City Council adopt an ordinance prohibiting any dispensaries from opening in the city.

The council is expected to look at a potential ordinance at its 7 p.m. meeting Tuesday at the Cultural Center, 183 N. Main St.

The proposed ordinance states that its intent is "to promote the health, safety, morals and general welfare of the residents and businesses within the city" and makes illegal all marijuana dispensaries, which it defines as any facility or location where marijuana is made available or distributed.

Fetherolf said other cities have reported that there are a bevy of public safety hazards posed by the dispensaries.

Some the examples he cited included increased loitering around the dispensaries, as well as marijuana being smoked around them. Robberies and burglaries are taking place, he said, and, in some cases, the drug is being sold illegally within them to people who don't have prescriptions for medicinal marijuana.

"Some communities have had more problems than I think they want to deal with," Fetherolf said.

And because there is a contradiction between the state and federal laws when it comes to medical marijuana, Fetherolf said, the city should wait until the discrepancies are resolved.

The state's 9-year-old Compassionate Use Act, which was approved by voters, allows medicinal marijuana, while federal laws say all marijuana is illegal and it has no medicinal value.

Councilman Bob Schiffner agreed Friday with Fetherolf. He said that though he is not inclined to lean either way on the medicinal marijuana issue, he does think it's probably best to hold off on allowing the dispensaries.

"I do think we need to get our laws together," he said.

If it adopts the ordinance, Lake Elsinore would join several California cities in banning marijuana dispensaries. Earlier this month, San Marcos became the first city in San Diego County to do so.

Last February, Murrieta adopted its own ordinance, while Temecula set a moratorium several months before on dispensaries while it studies the issue.

Hilary McQuie, a spokeswoman for the medicinal marijuana group Americans for Safe Access, said that if Lake Elsinore joined those cities in prohibiting dispensaries, it would be going against the will of state voters who overwhelmingly approved medicinal marijuana.

She also said the ordinance would force people who are prescribed the drug to turn to the black market to get it.

"Would they prefer all those patients get their medicine through the illegal market or would they prefer they get it through a safe, legal and known way?" she asked.

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