Second S.C. pot shop stalled by appeals

May 03, 2006

Shanna McCord, Santa Cruz Sentinel

Concerns about adequate parking, lighting and litter removal have brought a halt to the opening of the medical marijuana dispensary unanimously approved by the city Planning Commission last month.

Two appeals of the Harvey West neighborhood shop will hold up the project until at least June when a public hearing by the City Council can be scheduled.

The council will decide whether to allow K.E. Sampson, a Corralitos resident and medical marijuana patient, to go ahead with plans to turn an empty office building on Limekiln Street into The Santa Cruz Patient Collective.

"I don't see their arguments as sound," Sampson said Wednesday of the appeals. "but I still respect them and plan to work to settle this."

The Santa Cruz Patient Collective would be the city's second such medical marijuana shop. Greenway Compassion Inc. was started on Dubois Street, also in the Harvey West area, in September by Lisa Molyneux of Boulder Creek.

Molyneux faced almost no community opposition when planning her business.

But Nancy Anecito and Dr. Josee Belanger, both of Fern Street near Sampson's proposed dispensary, filed appeals Monday with the Planning Department that raise concerns about his proposed medical marijuana outlet.

Belanger cited parking and safety issues for the people who would be using the medical marijuana shop in her appeal letter.

"For such a facility, most of the parking offered must be adjacent to the building," wrote Belanger, who declined to be interviewed Wednesday. "It should hopefully offer more than one ADA adjacent parking spot for their patients."

Anecito's appeal letter faulted the Planning Commission for not taking "all circumstances into a broad enough consideration."

Anecito, who didn't return phone calls Wednesday, referenced the city municipal code that allows special-use permits for medical marijuana providers. In her letter, she said parking, adequate lighting, litter removal and the concentration of two medical marijuana outlets in one neighborhood are "items that have not satisfactorily been met."

City planner Mike Ferry said Sampson's proposed medical marijuana business includes 11 on-site parking spots, which is two more than the city requires.

The city permit also requires Sampson be responsible for picking up any litter and removing graffiti from the site, Ferry said.

The Santa Cruz Patient Collective would be subject to a six-month review by city officials to address any troubles or community concerns.

Greenway Compassion Inc. went through the review last month.

"They're doing fine," Ferry said. "There's no call to change their operations."

Sampson believes his business would improve the neighborhood, which is known for being a spot for homeless people to gather, in addition to helping the estimated 3,000 medical marijuana patients countywide access the drug.

"We're just an unknown," Sampson said. "I aim to be a great neighbor and I plan to make the area better. Not a little better, a lot better."

While state voters approved the use of marijuana for medical reasons by passing Proposition 215 in 1996, federal authorities have made it clear that U.S. drug laws prohibiting possession, distribution and use of marijuana will be enforced regardless of California law.

Marijuana critics say the drug has no medicinal benefits, and its harmful effects are often underrepresented.

Contact Shanna McCord at smccord@santacruzsentinel.com.



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