Patients make case for pot
October 01, 2007
Gerald Carroll, Visalia Times-Delta (CA)
Visalia Compassionate Caregivers have suspended their long-standing practice of quietly dispensing marijuana to patients as a result of the city's nuisance-ticket ordinance.
"We were going to be charged $100 for the first offense, then $200, then $500," said Jeff Nunes, who manages the Caregivers office and its Visalia-based support organization, Medicinal Marijuana Awareness and Defense. "And $500 again and again. We can't afford that."
"We will do the best we can to refer our patients to alternate places where they can get their medication," Nunes said. Dispensaries exist in the city of Tulare but patients say they are badly run and look dangerous, like "doing drug deals."
"It's safe here [at Caregivers]," said patient Shane Maroon of Squaw Valley, who has suffered chronic pain for years and cannot tolerate regular medicines.
Maroon was part of a parade of patients who told the council they suffered from painful conditions untreatable by standard medicines.
"The smoke is all I got, and I'm not going to let go of it," said Anthony Blackwolf, who said he suffers constant pain without regular doses of marijuana.
The actual closing in Visalia was Saturday, Nunes told the Visalia City Council during the public comment segment Monday at City Hall.
"That's right," confirmed Tim Burns, head of Visalia's neighborhood preservation department. "We have not closed any office. It's just that medical marijuana can no longer be distributed from that location."
The fact that medical marijuana was being dispensed from the downtown Visalia office was news to Councilman Don Landers.
"We were under the impression [Caregivers] was educational," Landers said.
Burns said that, in 2005, the city did agree to grant Nunes a "tenant improvement permit" to operate his office for the "distribution of educational materials and conventional office uses."
Earlier this year, the following sequence of events unfolded:
City attorney Alex Peltzer said there is nothing the council can do at present, but that "administrative" means can be used to try and reach an agreement with Nunes' group.
Councilman Greg Kirkpatrick said that he voted in favor of Proposition 215 and asked that some measure of compassion be shown to Nunes' efforts.
Mayor Jesus Gamboa said that "we haven't shut anyone down yet" but that a settlement of the issue and any reopening of Caregivers "will take time" to sort out.