Pot store to reopen -- in Morro Bay

March 28, 2006

Cynthia Neff and Leslie Griffy, San Luis Obispo Tribune

A marijuana dispensary shut down by Atascadero city officials has found a new location in Morro Bay.

Central Coast Compassionate Caregivers has received a business license and is expected to open April 1, said Louis Koory, the co-op's attorney.

"I think they decided to focus on the patients," instead of fighting Atascadero to remain open in the strip mall on El Camino Real, Koory said.

"It was just a matter of finding a location," he added. "Morro Bay turned out to be that location."

The dispensary will be at 780 Monterey St., he said. According to Koory, the business has 300 customers.

Mayor Janice Peters said Monday the city has no restrictions on such businesses.

"Our council is definitely sympathetic to the medical use of marijuana," she said.

She said a temporary ban on dispensaries was lifted last June.

Councilwoman Betty Winholtz said a number of people attended that June meeting to say that their relatives or friends use marijuana to manage pain because nothing else worked.

"People have to have a doctor's prescription" to obtain the drug, she noted. "You can't just walk in off the street."

Compassionate Caregivers opened in Atascadero largely unnoticed Jan. 9.

But after learning of the new business, the Atascadero City Council voted to craft an ordinance governing where such dispensaries can operate in the city and ordered that Compassionate Caregivers close while the law is developed.

Owner Charles Lynch had sued the city to allow his dispensary to stay open. The request was denied, and Lynch later dropped his lawsuit.

All seven cities in the county weighed in on the medical marijuana issue over the past year.

While Atascadero opted to regulate where such centers could open and Morro Bay voted to lift a temporary ban on dispensaries, Pismo Beach and Grover Beach both put outright bans on the centers.

San Luis Obispo City Attorney Jonathan Lowell has previously said he didn't feel the city needed to reinstate its temporary ban. He argued that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled marijuana illegal even for medicinal purposes, and so anyone dispensing it could be shut down without a local ordinance.

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