City OKs having marijuana med site

July 24, 2007

Will Bigham, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin (CA)

The City Council gave approval early Wednesday morning allowing a medical-marijuana dispensary in the city, but don't expect an operation to open in the immediate future.

The council decision sets in motion a months-long planning process that will determine where the dispensary will be located, what specific restrictions will be placed on it and who will operate it.

"I would expect there's going to be a lot of input not just from the council, but from the public as well, about how can we put together an ordinance, a restrictive ordinance, that would identify a dispensary what would be appropriate for Claremont," Councilman Sam Pedroza said.

Pedroza was in favor of allowing a dispensary in the 3-2 vote.

The vote, which came at the conclusion of a nearly six-hour meeting, makes Claremont one of the first cities in the Inland Valley to allow a medical-marijuana dispensary.

The motion to allow a dispensary was also supported by Councilwomen Linda Elderkin and Ellen Taylor. Mayor Peter Yao and Councilman Corey Calaycay favored banning dispensaries.

"I find compelling the arguments of people who need this for their own health, or sanity, or whatever," Taylor said.

She cited a recent article in the Daily Bulletin by staff writer Leo Greene, who discussed the issue of medical-marijuana use in terms of his own battle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease.

"This is a man who has Lou Gehrig's disease," she said, "who says `I'm not going to live. I know I'm not going to live for a long time, but I'd like to live a little bit longer. I'd like to live to see my son graduate from high school. And I'd like to live to see my daughter get married, and that's in a year or two.'

"I don't think those are unreasonable requests. I don't think people are asking for things that I wouldn't think I would want if I were in that situation."

Operating details for a dispensary, such as who the operator will be and what specific limitations it will be subject to, will be worked out at future meetings.

At the council's meeting Sept. 11, a timeline will be presented detailing the steps in the process, City Manager Jeff Parker said.

A draft ordinance to regulate the dispensary will be presented first to the Planning Commission before being brought before the council for review, Parker said.

The location of the dispensary has also not been determined, though Elderkin said after the meeting that a dispensary would likely be placed in an industrial zone.

Medical-marijuana activist David Kasakove, a Claremont native, has been meeting in recent months with city officials about opening a dispensary.

He explained his vision for a dispensary at the meeting on Tuesday night. He said he was willing to limit his operating days and hours, present financial paperwork to the city to prove nonprofit status and locate the dispensary wherever the city favors.

"We'll work with them," Kasakove said. "Whatever they are comfortable with within this community is what should be done. We can provide services still, and not be a hindrance or a sore thumb for those who don't need it."

The council rejected a staff proposal last month to ban dispensaries.

The city was initially forced to address the issue of medical-marijuana dispensaries in September 2006 when Chino resident Darrell Kruse opened a dispensary without first obtaining a business license.

That month, the City Council passed a moratorium on dispensaries. Kruse was forced by court order to shut down in February, though the city's case against him is still pending, with a trial date set for next Jan. 14.

California voters legalized the use of marijuana for medical purposes in 1996 with the passage of Proposition 215. Senate Bill 420 clarified the law when it was passed in 2003.

Despite its legal status under California law, the federal government still recognizes no legitimate use for marijuana.

The federal Drug Enforcement Administration recently raided several dispensaries in Southern California.

In the Inland Valley, the only city that has allowed a medical- marijuana dispensary is Diamond Bar. The rest have banned or passed moratoriums on the businesses. Dispensaries in Pomona, Norco, Corona and Riverside have been shut down.

The mixed reaction to medical marijuana in the Inland Valley mirrors the split among cities and counties throughout the state.

According to a city staff report, 27 cities and counties now allow dispensaries, 30 have banned them, and 62 have passed moratoriums.

Staff writer Will Bigham can be reached by e-mail at will.bigham@dailybulletin.com, or by phone at (909) 483-8553.



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