Supervisors extend ban on new pot dispensaries

February 12, 2008

Hillary S. Meeks, Visalia Times-Delta

The Tulare County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to extend a moratorium on new medical marijuana dispensaries.

A recent ordinance was extended until Jan. 5, 2009, or until a regulation process is approved by the board. New regulations likely would follow a business-license approach, said George Finney, the Resource Management Agency's assistant director for planning.

"I'm proud of the supervisors," said Rick Morse, special advocate for Americans for Safe Access. "They're wanting to make sure that this is done right the first time."

A more structured approach to the regulation of medical-marijuana dispensaries appealed both to supervisors and several residents who attended Tuesday's public hearing.

Morse said it's better for those wishing to open dispensaries if regulations are clear-cut. Melanie Mendes, operator of a medical marijuana dispensary in Tipton, said such regulations would have made the opening of her store less confusing.

"I spent three days at the courthouse ... wondering how do I find out if what I'm doing is OK," she said.

Mendes' made sure her business didn't break zoning regulations the board had previously set, including a requirement that dispensaries be located in a commercial or industrial zone. Other restrictions prevented them from being established within 1,000 feet of sensitive-use areas, which include schools, child-care facilities, parks and churches with children's activities.

Mendes invited the board to take a tour of the dispensary to see how it operates.

Lupe Arzola wasn't as successful as Mendes, however. Arzola's dispensary, Good Nature, in Pixley has raised the ire of many Pixley residents, some of whom spoke against his business during Tuesday's hearing.

They claim his business is within 1,000 feet of both a charter school and a preschool program.

"We're very anxious to get business in Pixley," said Louise Rambo, Pixley Town Council member. "But the community — to a person — does not want this dispensary."

She called the current way dispensaries are established "very poorly structured." In that, Rambo and Arzola agree.

"I'm for regulation, if it's going to benefit all the dispensaries," Arzola said.

In other actions, the supervisors:

  • Approved the registration and certification of the Tulare County Professional Firefighters union.
  • Approved the registration of the Government Lawyer's Association of Workers union.


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