Newark council: No additional pot clubs

July 31, 2006

Angela Woodall, ANG Newspapers

Just say no. That's what the City Council did by approving a move to keep more pot clubs from setting up business in Newark.

"It seems like a prudent course of action," Mayor Dave Smith said at last week's council meeting.

The move will not shut down the Kindcare Resource Center, a medical marijuana outlet at Central Avenue and Cedar Boulevard, although the city is seeking to oust that business through other methods.

Council members voted 4-0 to give city officials the muscle to reject permit applications by such outlets or any other businesses that do not meet federal or state laws. Councilman Luis Freitas was absent.

Pot clubs already are prohibited in Newark, City Manager John Becker said.

"Common sense would tell you a business should be in compliance with federal and state laws. This further clarifies that," Becker said. "We felt it was necessary to be crystal clear" so the city did not in any way break federal law, he added. The ordinances came about when city officials discovered Kindcare was selling medical marijuana (consuming it on the premises is prohibited), though it had stated that it was a vitamin and food supplement store on its business license application.

The city already has moved to shut the center down through a zoning action, Assistant City Manager Jim Reese said. James Anthony, an attorney representing the center, said he was not aware of any such action.

Before council members voted, Anthony asked them to reconsider. Using zoning to regulate outlets is a better way to balance community safety with the rights of medical marijuana patients under state law, he said. California law permits marijuana dispensaries, whereas federal law prohibits them.

Licensing and regulating dispensaries allows cities such as Berkeley and Oakland to control them instead of driving them underground, the land-use attorney said.

Newark chose to follow the example of Union City, which adopted an identical measure in May to prevent medical marijuana outlets from opening in the city. Fremont banned the outlets outright.

The council decision will not change the Newark Police Department's enforcement policy, Chief Ray Samuels said. The department follows the district attorney's lead on whether to prosecute cases involving marijuana, he said.

But the federal Drug Enforcement Agency can prosecute dispensaries and likely would, he added. Just because the state declines to prosecute "doesn't mean the DEA won't do it."

 

Staff writer Angela Woodall covers Newark and Ohlone College. She can be reached at (510) 353-7004 or at awoodall@angnewspapers.com.



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