Salinas leaders vote down medical marijuana

November 20, 2007

Sunita Vijayan, Salinas Californian

After months of discussion, the Salinas City Council has banned medical marijuana dispensaries within city limits.

A 4-3 vote Tuesday decided in favor of an ordinace that will keep them out of Salinas.

“I’m sorry for the people who have cancer, who’ll die because they don’t have this to make it better,” Councilman Sergio Sanchez said. “We talk about being a city of peace … if we don’t respect their rights, we’ll be hypocritical.”

As in August’s tied decision, Sanchez and councilmembers Jyl Lutes and Gloria De La Rosa voted to reject the ban, while council members Janet Barnes and Tony Barrera and Mayor Dennis Donohue voted in its favor.

“This ordinance is the right thing to do at this time,” Donohue said.

Councilman Steven Villegas, absent during the August meeting, broke the tie in favor of the ban Tuesday night.

The federal government considers marijuana used to ease chronic or serious illness illegal, but California voters passed Proposition 215 in 1996 to allow its use.

About half a dozen people, including law enforcement officials and residents, spoke for and against the ordinance during the hour-and-a-half meeting.

“Do not put your police department in a situation where they’re at odds with the federal government,” cautioned Monterey County District Attorney Dean Flippo.

But Daniel Gutierrez of Salinas, who has Chrohn’s disease, urged the council to consider seriously ill community members who must travel at least an hour to reach a dispensary.

“You shouldn’t punish law-abiding citizens,” Gutierrez said. “Between gas prices and traffic, it’s a lot easier to survive (if dispensaries are) local.”

Read more in tomorrow's Salinas Californian.

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