Officials to shape pot policy

September 04, 2007

Dana Yates, San Mateo Daily Journal

Patients affected by the closure and recent raids of three San Mateo medical marijuana dispensaries have officials meeting to form a new countywide pot club policy, San Mateo City Manager Arne Croce told members of the City Council last night.

The announcement came on the heels of three Aug. 29 police raids of medical marijuana dispensaries, located at 164 South Blvd., 397 S. Claremont St. and 60 Third Ave. Croce asked San Mateo County Supervisor Jerry Hill to kick off the effort to form a county-wide policy.

“The County Counsel’s Office will take the lead to form an ordinance that cities and counties can adopt,” Croce told the City Council.

Medical marijuana advocates gathered to protest the raids at last night’s City Council meeting and asked for assistance in easily accessing medical marijuana. Some called on the council to pass a non-conformity ordinance that declares the city will not comply with federal law that prohibits all marijuana use.

Croce said the unclear law confuses San Mateo and other cities in the county and throughout the state. Advocates were disappointed with the city’s response.

“I’m disappointed they don’t recognize collectives,” said Sara, a volunteer with Americans For Safe Access who refused to give her last name.

California voters passed Proposition 215, the Compassionate Use Act, in 1996, allowing for sick patients to either grow their own marijuana or have primary caregiver grow it for them. It does not clearly define a collective, where patients pool their resources to provide their own marijuana. In some situations, patients grow marijuana in shared gardens. The San Mateo clubs only dispensed marijuana.

Law enforcement officials claim the clubs were not acting as collectives. Owners and directors of the clubs argue they are collectives because members are pooling their money for marijuana, providing a safe place to buy it and access to resources about using it.

Cities are stuck in the middle.

“It’s a very difficult law for cities in San Mateo County to come to grips with,” Croce said.

City Attorney Shawn Mason said passing a non-conformity law declaring that the city would not follow federal law is illegal. Instead, he advocated working with other cities and the county to “bring some clarity to an unclear law.”

“There is a great deal of confusion,” Mason said. “The service the city and county can do is clear up what is legal,” Mason said.

The council ensured residents it was working to solve the problem by urging city staff to clarify the law.

“We listened to you very carefully,” Mayor Jack Matthews told residents last night. “All of us have been very concerned about this issue.”

Hill met with county officials yesterday to kick off the group effort toward a clarifying the law.

“If it’s going to be done, it’s got to be done by the law,” Hill said.

Dana Yates can be reached by e-mail: or by phone: (650) 344-5200 ext. 106.

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