Ban on medical pot stores stays

July 24, 2006

Raheem Hosseini, Folsom Telegraph

With its temporary moratorium set to expire, the Folsom City Council was expected to adopt a permanent ban against operating medical marijuana dispensaries in the city at last night's meeting.

Citing a conflict between state and federal law and a feared burden on police services, city council members held a public hearing on the prohibitive ordinance at its July 11 meeting. No residents stepped forward to offer comments.

Interim Assistant Community Development Department Director Gail Furness De Pardo said last week she couldn't see "why it wouldn't be adopted." Results of the meeting were unknown at press time.

No dispensaries have sought to open in the city, she added. "This is more just making sure there wouldn't be any conflict."

Both Roseville and Rocklin have adopted similar bans. Elk Grove has adopted prohibitive measures that make opening a dispensary in the city difficult.

"There are a number of communities that prohibit or to some degree legislate whether dispensaries can operate," said Folsom Police Captain Paul Bonaventure.

While California voters approved Proposition 215, which allows the use of medicinal marijuana with a doctor's recommendation, Bonaventure said the decision to allow dispensaries to operate remains a community decision. "There's nothing in the law that says you have to put in a dispensary or allow a dispensary."

The impetus for the original moratorium came in 2004, shortly after the state Legislature adopted a voluntary identification card program for qualified patients and primary caregivers, among other regulations.

Federal law still prohibits the possession and use of controlled substances. Nor does it make a distinction when it comes to medicinal marijuana users.

The conflict between states' rights and federal law has seen clashes in the past, with a Roseville dispensary closing after a federal raid in 2004. The city ultimately repealed its ordinance allowing such dispensaries to operate.

As recently as April, federal drug enforcement agents raided a medical marijuana store in midtown Sacramento.

But Bruce Mirken of Marijuana Policy Project says a fear of federal raids isn't a good reason to prohibit dispensaries from operating. "The Feds have really gone after very few of these establishments," he said, adding that by honoring voters' decision to approve "The Compassionate Use Act of 1996," California will "drag the federal government kicking and screaming into the 21st century."

As for the argument that dispensaries would increase the burden on police resources, medicinal marijuana advocates call the notion counterintuitive.

"I have yet to see any convincing proof of it," said Mirken. "(These arguments) get trotted out without any evidence that they're true."

Both Mirken and Ryan Landers, political affairs director for The American Alliance For Medical Cannabis, say regulating these facilities and bringing them above ground would actually lessen the burden on law enforcement.

"That is ultimately what Sacramento realized," said Landers. Half a dozen dispensaries have been operating in the city without any significant issues, he added. "Ultimately, we're better neighbors than any other business I've ever seen."

Bonaventure said he couldn't comment on whether regulated dispensaries would lessen people's reliance on street dealers, but pointed to other communities that have adopted similar bans because of law enforcement issues.

At a drugs and sexual predators forum in May, Folsom law enforcement officials said drug complaints had tripled since last year and that marijuana use is "huge" among teenagers.

But Landers says it is the patients - dealing with issues ranging from chronic pain to terminal illness - who are being victimized. "You can't just dump your problem on other cities," Landers said.

"There's no doubt these dispensaries provide a necessary and useful benefit. Patients shouldn't have to get their medicine on the street," added Mirken. "There's no reason that a medical marijuana dispensary needs to be treated differently than any other business that needs a little oversight," he said, pointing to stores that sell prescription medicines.

Be the first to Comment

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.