Medical pot clinic proposed

June 07, 2007

David Bolling, Sonoma Index-Tribune

A medical marijuana dispensary will open in the old Nicholas Turkey headquarters on Riverside Drive if the Sonoma County Planning Department approves a use permit application.

 The dispensary, which would be situated within a 100 yards of Sonoma city limits, would be run by the same people who currently manage a medical marijuana facility in Santa Rosa. Those people have insisted on preserving their anonymity but are represented by Forestville attorney Lisa Gygax, who told the Sonoma City Council Wednesday night that, "We're here to let you know that we're here. We found a building."

Gygax added she is still hoping that the City of Sonoma will adopt an ordinance allowing and regulating a similar facility inside city limits. "Our goal is still that Sonoma should have a clinic," she told the Index-Tribune before the council meeting.

Sonoma County has adopted an ordinance regulating medical marijuana clinics and Gygax said the county permit process could take three to four months. That process requires that all residents and businesses within 600 feet, and all existing tenants in the proposed building, must be notified by letter of the application. Public posting of the application must also be done before the Planning Commission considers the application.
Gygax said her clients did not want to wait to see if Sonoma will adopt a medical marijuana ordinance because, even under urgent priority "it would take five or six months to get approval. We're advocates ... this (Riverside Drive facility) will guarantee access to medical marijuana right now."

She added that no one knows the size of the local medical marijuana population because people keep it to themselves. But she said users often practice what she called "reciprocal demography," meaning that Sonomans may travel to Santa Rosa, and Santa Rosans may end up traveling to Sonoma, because people are embarrassed to buy the drug in their home communities.

Asked about his reaction to the news, Sonoma police Chief Bret Sackett echoed the sentiments of his predecessor, Paul Day, who opposed the clinics in the city.

"I'm very concerned about having medical marijuana clinics in the city," said Sackett. "I'm concerned about the unintended consequences, because it encourages people to cultivate marijuana and when they do it attracts crime."
Sackett said he was particularly concerned about the lack of regulation governing access to the clinics and described a case relayed to him by a fellow police chief about a traveling dispensary that would deliver both the marijuana and the doctor's note simply on the strength of a phone call.

And citing the Springs home invasion robbery last year, Sackett said that incident, in which a Springs man was shot in the face and $20,000 was stolen, involved medical marijuana.

Gygax responds that her clients go to extraordinary lengths to provide security and that the Santa Rosa facility has had an impressive safety record.

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