Pleasanton passes ban on pot shops

June 05, 2007

Meera Pal, ANG Newspapers

After some additional vetting of the medical marijuana issue, Pleasanton has become the latest East Bay city to ban marijuana dispensaries from operating within its borders.

The City Council adopted the ban Tuesday night — at the recommendation of the police chief and city attorney — following heated discussion among council members.

The council unanimously approved an ordinance that makes it illegal to operate a storefront for selling medical marijuana in Pleasanton.

Coupled with the vote, the council also directed city staff to keep an eye on pending federal legislation that would eliminate the state/federal conflict surrounding medical marijuana use. The council plans to write to local congressional leaders in support of the State's Rights to Medical Marijuana Act, or

HR2233.

While reaching council unanimity on the ordinance and direction to staff took several motions, the council could not all agree on a second motion made by Councilman Matt Sullivan.

A majority of the council did eventually approve his motion calling for the formation of a task force to study the community's needs for medical marijuana and whether those needs are being met. Council members Cindy McGovern and Jerry Thorne voted against the task force.

Both McGovern and Thorne said medical marijuana should not be distributed from a storefront, but a licensed pharmaceutical facility, like other controlled substances.

"I will not support outlets for any regulated drug," Thorne said. "The current distribution system is stupid."

And, while council member Cheryl Cook-Kallio said she cannot disregard federal law and support the operation of medical marijuana dispensaries, she did support the idea of forming a task force.

"There is a piece here that I would like to know," she said. "This may provide an opportunity for people to come forward in a safe way."

One man, dressed in a shirt and tie, did come forward on Tuesday to address the council. He began by showing everyone his Alameda County-issued medical marijuana ID card. The man, fearing retribution from the federal government and the possible harassment of his children, requested he not be identified.

Speaking of the Oakland dispensary he visits to pick up his prescription, the man said, "It's not a place I want to go, it's a place I need to go."

He added that he would be happy to serve on a task force to provide perspective from a patient who benefits from the drug, which was prescribed to him by his doctor.

While a majority of the council said it wanted to study the issue further, the council did agree that a ban should be in place before the city's two-year moratorium on operating dispensaries expires in August.

Assistant City Attorney Larissa Seto told the council that having a dispensary come in without regulations in place would be risky for the city. She added that repealing the ban is always an option.

According to Seto, the city was contacted by a dispensary owner in April looking to open a storefront in Pleasanton, after he was turned away in Stockton.

Seto, along with Police Chief Michael Fraser, made the recommendation to adopt the ban, citing statistics showing increased crime around dispensaries, including a rise in the incidence of armed robberies, burglaries and vagrancy. Fraser also said there are documented cases of medical marijuana being diverted to people who are not legally entitled to use it, including teens.

Two residents spoke in favor of the ban, urging the council to prevent local teens from having access to the drug.

Three people spoke against the ban, with one person arguing that if a medical marijuana dispensary is banned to protect local youth, shops that sell alcohol and cigarettes should also be banned.

A staff liaison with Alameda County Supervisor Nate Miley noted in a letter to the council that if dispensaries are located throughout Alameda County and within each city, patients would have easier access and each community could meet the needs of its own residents.

As more cities continue to ban dispensaries, existing locations have become overwhelmed.

In the past few years, about 20 cities have adopted bans, including Concord, Dublin, Pleasant Hill, Antioch, Oakley, Pinole, Livermore, San Pablo and Hercules.

Qualified patients can still obtain medical marijuana in Hayward, Oakland, Castro Valley, San Lorenzo and Berkeley.

Contact Meera Pal at (925) 847-2120 or mpal2@cctimes.com



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