Manteca seeks to weed out pot clubs

January 23, 2007

Paul Burgarino, Tri-Valley Herald (CA)

MANTECA — While the national debate over the use of medical marijuana has yet to be settled and a nearby city is debating the issue, Manteca city officials are hoping to nip the cannabis club situation in the bud.

Sometime in late February or early March, the City Council will be presented with an ordinance

that would prohibit dispensaries entirely, Police Chief Charlie Halford said.

Its illegal under federal law, so we dont want to be put in the unenviable task of making a decision about an issue thats illegal, Halford said.

Halford gave the example of a September raid of a Modesto medicinal marijuana club that authorities said was a profitable narcotics trafficking operation.

In Tracy, the situation over whether the Valley Wellness Center on Eleventh St. can operate as a cannabis club led to a hearing between the city and lawyers representing the center.

Although there is nothing in the Tracy city code specifically banning medical marijuana dispensaries, theres also nothing that allows for it. In November, the club was ordered by city code enforcement officers to discontinue the nonlisted use of distributing medical marijuana.

 

Tracy city officials contend the group misrepresented themselves on their business license, saying their activity would be retail sales conducted by a nonprofit corporation.

An attorney for the dispensary said they provide a benefit to the community on a nonprofit basis and called the citys legal position — anything not explicitly permitted is therefore prohibited — dubious and infringes on constitutionally protected property rights.

Manteca officials are hoping a tough stance now will prevent any such controversy in their town.

We would rather have another city have to deal with the litigation before we have to, Halford said, adding an ordinance would be a precautionary measure.

Some council members agreed.

I dont think that having a pot club is not conducive with our motto of being a family city, Councilman Vince Hernandez said, adding that if there was evidence that a club was vital in the community, it would have to be listened to.

If someone has specific needs, they can work with a physician. But, I dont think it necessitates having a store, he added.

In 1996, California voters passed Proposition 215 — the Compassionate Use Act — providing the seriously ill with the right to obtain and use marijuana for medical purposes.

With no restrictions in place in January 2005, Manteca passed an emergency ordinance that established a 45 day moratorium on the opening or operation of medicinal marijuana dispensaries. The item was requested at the time by Halford after a few people had contacted the police for opening up such dispensaries.

There are currently no medicinal marijuana-related businesses operating in Manteca, Halford said.

A U.S. Supreme Court decision in September ruled that Congress constitutional authority to regulate the interstate market in drugs extends to small, homegrown quantities of doctor-recommended marijuana consumed under Prop. 215.

The San Joaquin County District Attorneys office interprets the retail sale of marijuana, even to those who have a doctors recommendation, as illegal.

 

Staff writer Paul Burgarino can be reached at (209) 832-6143 or pburgarino@trivalleyherald.com.




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