SLO County OKs medical marijuana dispensaries

February 05, 2007

Sarah Arnquist, The Tribune (San Luis Obispo)

The Board of Supervisors gave its final approval Tuesday to allow medical marijuana dispensaries in the county’s unincorporated inland areas.

Dispensaries cannot be in a downtown business area or within 1,000 feet of any school, library, playground, park or youth recreation area under the ordinance that takes effect in 30 days.

The dispensaries must get a special business license to sell marijuana to qualified identification-card holders who receive prescriptions from their physicians.

They must also follow specific safety and security provisions, and cannot cultivate marijuana on the premises. All employees must be 21 or older.

Coastal zones of the county are excluded from this ordinance pending approval from the state Coastal Commission, which has the final say on land-use laws in those areas.

The board vote was 3-1, with Chairman Jerry Lenthall dissenting and Supervisor Harry Ovitt absent.

"The people do not want medical marijuana dispensaries in the district I represent," Lenthall said. His district includes most of San Luis Obispo and the coast from Avila Beach to Grover Beach.

Supervisor Jim Patterson supported the ordinance, saying it addresses the public’s safety concerns while providing access to medical marijuana patients who need it.

"I think we’ve factored in ample public participation," he said.

San Luis Obispo County has one marijuana dispensary now operating in Morro Bay.

The county began a medical marijuana identification card program in January, becoming the 21st county in California to do so.

A 2003 state law requires counties to issue cards to qualified medical marijuana patients and their primary caregivers. Those names then go into an online registry that law enforcement officers can use to verify an ID card’s validity.

Before approving the program last summer, supervisors discussed at length the discrepancies between state and federal law regarding marijuana use. Federal law forbids all use or sale of marijuana.

In 1996, California voters approved Proposition 215 — also known as the Compassionate Use Act — legalizing marijuana for medical use.



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