Colma pot clubs killed by council
August 23, 2007
Christine Morente, Oroville Mercury-RegisterMedical marijuana dispensaries are now banned from this town.
While no one has applied to open up shop, the Colma City Council unanimously approved an ordinance Wednesday night to prohibit any establishments that would sell medical marijuana.
Police Chief Robert Lotti said city staff has discussed the issue for more than a year and that it was just "time to take it off the back burner and get it done."
At the meeting, council members did not debate the issue during the public hearing, nor did anyone in the public speak for or against the dispensaries described by police as "dangerous enterprises."
According to Colma Police Cmdr. Greg Hart, there are four facilities in San Mateo and 29 in San Francisco.
He reported that there are complaints of loitering and traffic problems in San Mateo outside the businesses, while in San Francisco, there have been aggravated assaults, robberies and homicides.
Last year, South San Francisco outlawed storefront pot clubs, but approved allowing patients to collectively grow cannabis at least 500 feet from residential areas. It further defined a "caregiver" as someone who is responsible for the "housing, health or safety of the patient."
Under California law, patients and caregivers who have the appropriate identification cards are allowed to collectively grow or possess a certain amount of marijuana depending on medical needs.
Lotti added that nothing in state law allows for medical marijuana dispensaries.
In 2006, the San Mateo County Health Department — which does not permit or regulate dispensaries — started issuing ID cards, said John Conley, deputy public health director.
Since then, 880 cards have been issued.
The cost for a card is $98, and needs to be renewed every year with a new doctor's note after county verification. The state then reviews the application before the card is issued, Conley said.
Kris Hermes, spokesman for Americans for Safe Access, said the prohibition of dispensaries is disheartening and asserted the facilities are legal under state law.
In 2005, Americans for Safe Access filed a lawsuit against Fresno, which had established a ban the year before. The case is still pending, he said.
Hermes was not at the Colma council meeting.
"(A ban) hinders and restricts safe access for patients who need (marijuana) in their communities," he said Thursday. "It's tantamount to the punishment of patients who might have mobility issues or the inability to travel long distances to obtain their medicine.
"The scare tactics used by law enforcement to spread fear and obtain a knee-jerk reaction from these bans are very over-inflated."
Staff writer Christine Morente covers faith, families and North County. She can be reached at (650) 348-4333 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.