Seaside Weighs Medical Pot Plan

April 21, 2006

Sukhjit Purewal, Monterey Herald

The city of Seaside Thursday unanimously approved an emergency 45-day moratorium on marijuana dispensaries while it closely studies a request made earlier this month from a San Francisco Bay Area man who has proposed opening one in the city.

John Rico Carrneshimea of San Lorenzo said Friday his intent isn't to open just a traditional cannabis cooperative, but to offer other services including physical therapy and support groups to people suffering from a host of debilitating diseases, including AIDS. Carrneshimea said his research shows him "thousands of people" in the area could benefit from his proposal.

Seaside police Capt. Steve Circone and Community Development Director Lou Dell'Angela said Friday city officials need more time to study the controversial issue.

There currently are no medical marijuana clubs in Monterey County.

It's one thing for the city not to have anything in its current zoning code to address such an enterprise, Dell'Angela said, but it's quite another to wade into the tense, legal minefield surrounding the issue.

California voters in 1996 approved Proposition 215, the Compassionate Use Act, allowing for the possession and use of marijuana for medical needs under a doctor's care.

While 10 states in addition to California have legalized medical marijuana, the federal government opposition to it remains undiminished.

Last year, the Supreme Court ruled that federal law trumps state laws and users can be prosecuted.

On Thursday the Food and Drug Administration stated there was no evidence that marijuana has any medical benefits, further stoking the government's opposition.

In Santa Cruz, the issue has grown to a fever pitch when the city, along with the American Civil Liberties Union and Drug Policy Alliance, filed a federal complaint in February asking the government to allow the city's own Office of Compassionate Use to dispense medical marijuana to the ill.

Last month, Riverside County Board of Supervisors continued a moratorium on any new dispensaries, first issued last August. A dispensary already existed in Palm Desert.

And even with the huge legal hurdles aside, there are safety concerns that will have to be addressed, said Seaside city officials.

"There have been incidents around the country and some in the Bay Area with serious crimes, such as armed robbery or burglary," Circone said.

Carrneshimea, 25, said he wasn't denying crime has been a problem with medical marijuana clubs, but the same is true of liquor stores.

Carrneshimea said worked at a cooperative for close to a year and is intimately familiar with the medical issues. He said he has been working on crafting zoning ordinance language that would suit his project.

Dell'Angela said city officials won't dismiss Carrneshimea's proposal out of hand and are seeking as much information on the topic they can find. Meanwhile, Circone said the city would "err on the side of the caution." He added the moratorium could be extended to 10 months.


Sukhjit Purewal can be reached at 646-4494 or spurewal@montereyherald.com.


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