Medical pot dispensaries on hold

August 15, 2006

Sushma Subramanian, Orange County Register (CA)

PLACENTIA - A man facing felony charges for growing and selling medical marijuana at a Placentia dispensary has become the center of a legal tug of war between the city and medical marijuana advocates.

City Council members Tuesday voted to ban the establishment of cannabis dispensaries for 45 days in order to make rules to regulate their establishment.

"All of the folks who came to him have legitimate ailments and prescriptions," said dispensary owner Steele Smith's attorney, William Paoli.

Police in May confiscated 18 marijuana plants from Smith's dispensary, which was in a Placentia apartment. They also took patients' medical records and his computer. Smith has sued to have those items returned. He is scheduled to answer charges in a criminal case Sept. 15.

Smith had run the facility without a business license since January, Placentia police said. But Smith says he has a license in Anaheim, the dispensary's mailing address.

Smith said he uses medical marijuana to treat his condition, Zollinger-Ellison syndrome, which has given him 11 ulcers.

Federal law prohibits the sale of marijuana. State law under Proposition 215 exempts patients and their primary caregivers from criminal prosecution for growing and possessing marijuana.

Smith requires his patients to list him as their primary caregiver.

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