Pleasanton delays medical pot decision

April 03, 2007

Meera Pal, Tri-Valley Herald (CA)

After one member asked for additional time to gather information, the Pleasanton City Council agreed to continue consideration of an ordinance that would ban the operation of medical marijuana dispensaries in town.

Councilman Matt Sullivan made the request at Tuesday night's meeting. None of the other council members objected to continuing the discussion to the next meeting, April 17.

The ordinance had been proposed by Pleasanton's police Chief Michael Fraser and City Attorney Michael Roush. They cited incidents of armed robberies, burglaries, vagrancy and resale to nonqualified persons in other communities with marijuana dispensaries.

The ordinance, if adopted, would not prohibit those qualified under state law from privately using medical marijuana.

The statute also would not prohibit patients at state-licensed facilities, such as health care, hospice and residential care for the elderly, from partaking as long as the facilities operate within city zoning guidelines.

Along with dozens of other cities, Pleasanton originally adopted a moratorium in 2005, shortly after the Supreme Court's decision that federal marijuana laws could be enforced despite California's law allowing for personal medical use.

When Pleasanton extended its moratorium last summer, the council had asked for information on whether the community's needs for medical marijuana were being met, as well as additional information about Alameda County's identification card program, dispensaries operating in the county and whether any communities with dispensaries did not have criminal problems.

According to the city staff, the only local organization prescribing medical marijuana is Tri-City Health Center in Fremont. The staff at the health center said some patients are uncomfortable going to dispensaries in Hayward or Oakland, because of unsavory customers and vagrants outside the establishments.

The staff report lists other communities with dispensaries, includingCastro Valley, San Lorenzo, Berkeley, Pacheco, Santa Clara and San Francisco.

Voters approved the Compassionate Use Act in 1996, making medical marijuana legal for patients with a doctor's recommendation. SB420 established guidelines for distribution, as well as an identification card program.

Many cities in the Bay Area have adopted outright bans on medical marijuana dispensaries, including Concord, Dublin, Pleasant Hill, Antioch, Oakley, Pinole, Livermore, San Pablo and Hercules.

Several other cities — including Oakland, Berkeley, Hayward, Martinez and San Francisco — have regulatory ordinances allowing dispensaries.

In November, Albany voters approved a measure that would allow a single dispensary in the city. El Cerrito is also considering allowing one dispensary to operate in a three-block area.

Alameda County began issuing identification cards in August. They had issued 1,186 cards by February. The cost of the cards increased from $50 to $103 on April 1.

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