Panel dislikes pot shop plan for Templeton

April 19, 2007

Stephen Curran, San Luis Obispo Tribune (CA)

Discussion grew heated Thursday night as the Templeton Area Advisory Group voted to urge county officials to turn down a plan for a medical marijuana dispensary in an industrial area at the north side of town.

Property owner Kent Connella accused group members — who voted 5-2 against his plan — of intentionally shutting him out of debate over whether the panel should recommend that county planners approve or deny his proposal.

Calling them “liars,” Connella said he never received telephone messages that reportedly were left for him by advisory group members.

“I will help the sick and dying, and I will go out on a limb for that,” Connella said, noting that the advisory group has no official say in the matter.

The advisory group makes nonbinding suggestions to county officials on planningrelated issues in the Templeton area. County planners and

the Board of Supervisors do not have to act according to advisory group recommendations.

Connella — who protested last month as federal agents and sheriff’s deputies raided a Morro Bay dispensary— said such facilities provide muchneeded medicine to patients and are protected under California’s voter-approved Compassionate Use Act.

He did not step forward when advisory group members asked if he was in the audience. He later interrupted the discussion and identified himself after a sheriff’s deputy and a Paso Robles police officer spoke against an application for a permit for a dispensary at 3850 Ramada Drive.

Community leaders, including Templeton schools Superintendent Deborah Bowers, have argued that Connella’s plan for a 1,450-square-foot cannabis co-op is a poor fit for the conservative town and that it would undermine the school district’s anti-drug efforts.

The group’s recommendation will be forwarded to county Planning and Building Department staff, which will determine whether Connella’s proposal meets a set of guidelines created to monitor medical marijuana dispensaries.

Three patients who say they rely on the substance to treat a variety of ailments argued in favor of the facility.

“People have the idea that people who go to these clubs are low-life stoners,” said Jane Garrison, a Templeton resident who said she uses medical marijuana to treat severe migraines. “I’ve tried it, and it works for me.”

Thursday’s meeting was the latest in a statewide debate over medical marijuana.

Dispensaries such as the one proposed by Connella have operated in a legal gray area since California voters approved Proposition 215 in 1996.

The federal government has argued that national prohibitions outlawing all marijuana use trump exceptions passed at the state level.

Some local leaders, meanwhile, have remained leery of such businesses.

The county Board of Supervisors in February voted over the objection of Supervisor Harry Ovitt, the Templeton Unified School District and Templeton Chamber of Commerce to allow medical marijuana dispensaries in some unincorporated inland areas.



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