Council says no to medical marijuana dispensaries in Temecula

April 27, 2006

Elaine Nelson, Temecula Valley News

The Temecula City Council sidestepped California Proposition 215, also known as the Compassionate Use Act, at last Tuesday’s meeting and voted unanimously to amend the city’s municipal code and prohibit the establishment of medical marijuana dispensaries within city limits. Despite an impassioned plea to council members by Martin Victor, Sr., an advocate for the dispensaries, the council opted to follow City Attorney Peter Thorson’s advice to implement the ban.

Citing a “very substantial conflict between the [California] initiative measure and federal law,” Thorson’s argument centered around the “land use ordinance” prohibiting the establishment of such dispensaries. The ordinance “in no way deals with an individual’s rights to use medical marijuana,” Thorson said.

California voters in 1996 approved Prop 215, which allows small amounts of marijuana to be used for medicinal purposes.

Victor had petitioned the council to leave open the door for establishment of medical marijuana dispensaries so medical marijuana patients are not forced to travel long distances to obtain their medications. “Right now in our little town,” Victor advised, “we have six patients… who have to go 80 miles to get their medicine. Do you go 80 miles… or do you go right down to Rite Aid?” Victor asked the council.

“Why should any sick cancer patient — AIDS patient — multiple sclerosis patient have to go 80 miles to get their medicine? Right now, as a cultivator — as a co-op — I take care of 63 patients who live in our neighborhoods. They can’t go [anywhere] to get their medicine. I want you to help them,” Victor continued.

Victor knows firsthand the frustration and expense involved in traveling an intolerable distance to obtain medication. Afflicted personally with Fibromyalgia, a complex disease with symptoms that include “widespread chronic body pain,” Victor’s wife suffers from multiple sclerosis and liver disease and is confined to a wheelchair. “Instead of fighting us, help us. Don’t do this,” Victor implored.

“When we make a decision, we have to deal with how it affects the city as a whole,” Council Member Mike Naggar responded in defending the council’s decision. “You have to… make a decision that serves the greater good. Right now, there’s a conflict in the law. And until that conflict can get resolved, I have to go with the higher law. And that’s the federal law.” The other council members iterated Naggar’s position with minor variations.

In other business, the Community Services District, with President Jeff Comerchero presiding, voted to approve the development of a community dog park on three-quarters of an acre on the southwest corner of Margarita Community Park. Necessary improvements to the park, located off Margarita Road between Rancho California Road and Solana Way, should be completed in time for a “late fall” opening of the dog park, according to Community Services Director Herman Parker.

During the city council reports, Council Member Jeff Comerchero requested that the existing fee structure for the skateboard park be reviewed to see if “we could live without the revenue.” Following the example set by eliminating the entrance fee to the city’s swimming pool, Comerchero suggested that the fee for the skateboard park also be eliminated. The suggestion will be reviewed during the upcoming budget workshop.

Mayor Ron Roberts advised that the Riverside County Transportation Commission (RCTC) voted last week to complete a study on “a commuter rail or a high-speed rail system between Corona and Temecula… along the I-15 corridor, which we hope will tie in with SANDAG, which is San Diego County, to complete the process all the way from Corona to San Diego.”

“This is in addition to the Metrolink San Jacinto line that we’re going to build that will… be up and running within two and a half years. It will go from Riverside to… Perris at the [Highway] 74 off-ramp,” Roberts concluded.

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