City looks at ban on pot clubs

September 10, 2004

Tim O\'Leary, Press-Enterprise

TEMECULA - The possible formation of one or more medical marijuana dispensaries in Temecula has prompted city officials to seek a temporary ban while the issue can be studied.

The proposed ordinance, which will be considered Tuesday night by the City Council, is a rare move in Riverside County, which has lagged behind other parts of the state on the medical marijuana issue.

'This ordinance would put everything on hold until we can take a look at it,' Mayor Mike Naggar said Friday.

Temecula recently received some informal inquiries on the formation of medical marijuana dispensaries, Assistant City Manager Jim O'Grady said. The temporary prohibition, which would last 45 days but could be extended up to one year, would allow the city to research the issues before deciding how to proceed.

'Federal law says one thing and state law says another thing, so we thought we'd look into it,' O'Grady said. O'Grady said he did not know who inquired about the possible formation of a dispensary, or medical marijuana 'club.'

While federal law prohibits the sale or use of marijuana, California and at least eight other states permit using the drug for medical purposes. California voters legalized medical marijuana in 1996.

In March, about a dozen medical marijuana advocates urged Riverside County supervisors to direct law enforcement to stop harassing residents and learn the guidelines established under the 1996 law. At the time, leaders of the Palm Springs-based Marijuana Anti-Prohibition Project said they were pleased with supervisors' willingness to examine the issue.

A Temecula couple, Martin and La Vonne Victor, have emerged as leading advocates of medical marijuana use in southwestern Riverside County. In January, the couple began a cannabis acceptance project that they hoped would lead to the creation of a dispensary where people with cancer, AIDS and other illnesses could possess and use the drug.

Martin Victor suffers from cluster headaches, the result of progressive eye disease. His wife suffers from multiple sclerosis, emphysema, panic attacks and compressed vertebrae in her back. Both smoke marijuana, eat it raw and cook with it.

The couple kicked off their acceptance push at a Jan. 10 gathering at Temecula Public Library, a session that followed a successful three-year legal battle they waged after being arrested for growing pot to treat their illnesses.

The Victors could not be reached Friday to determine whether they approached the city about a marijuana dispensary or for comment about the proposed city ordinance.

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