New law eyed on marijuana clinics

February 28, 2006

Saqib Rahim, San Mateo County Times

City planners hope to snuff out fears of drug abuse when they consider Thursday a new law designed to keep medical-marijuana clinics out of residential neighborhoods.

Coming up with appropriate legislation may prove to be tricky, though, in light of the broad state laws that have largely left cities and counties to figure out what kinds of clinics are legal — not to mention the contentious history of medical-marijuana clinics in other parts of the Bay Area.

The ordinance, which South San Francisco Police Sgt. Alan Normandy will present to the Planning Commission onThursday, would require medical-marijuana "collectives" to set up at least 500 feet from residential areas and make collectives of more than 10 people illegal.

"There's two things that this law does: One is that it keeps the honest person honest, and two, it does not interfere with the patient's right to medicinal marijuana whatsoever," Normandy said.

The law comes after Tariq Alazraie, who runs a club in San Francisco called Mason Street, applied to open another club in South San Francisco last year. The city then placed a moratorium on marijuana clubs until it could decide what to do.

In San Francisco and San Leandro, Normandy's report says, having these clubs near neighborhoods has resulted in "numerous collateral impacts on public health and safety," such as increases in burglary, assault and use of weapons.

The South City ordinance also goes into new territory that hasn't been clearly defined by state law, such as the definition of "collective" and the nature of the caregiver-patient relationship. The proposed law is designed to allow specially designated "primary caregivers" to provide marijuana for an individual or small group already giving other kinds of service, such as cooking and driving, Normandy said.

But one thing the new law will not do, Deputy District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said, is permit anyone to set up "dispensaries" like those in San Francisco, where there is no limit on the number of patients a club can have. State law forbids such clubs, he said, because the operator "has to be beyond simply providing marijuana, they have to be providing for the general health and welfare of the person" through other kinds of aid.

Critics say the 10-person limit may lead to new problems, though.

"Who selects how many people come through? Who's more serious than the other one?" asked Wayne Justmann, a medical-marijuana activist and adviser to the San Francisco-based CannaMed Care club.

Some club staff also claimed that not all clubs draw trouble.

"I've been here three years, we're low-key, we have no problems whatsoever. Half of [our neighbors— don't even know we exist," said Charlie Alazraie, who works at Mason Street with cousin Tariq.

The Planning Commission's regular meeting will be held at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday in the Municipal Services Building, 33 Arroyo Drive.


Contact staff writer Saqib Rahim at (650)348-4337 or by e-mail at

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