Reaction varies on pot clinic proposal

September 28, 2004

Chris Nichols, Union Democrat

A proposal to open Calaveras County's first medical marijuana dispensary in San Andreas drew mixed reaction yesterday.

Some county residents said such a business was long overdue. Others criticized the location, near the county's 4-H office.

Kim Cue last week applied to open a cannabis club at Highway 49 and Mountain Ranch Road and only 20 feet from the county 4-H administration office.

Citing concerns over the proposed location and how to regulate the business, Calaveras County supervisors Monday voted to prohibit any clubs from opening for 45 days.

Supervisors said they would work with the Sheriff's Department and the county counsel to devise a plan to regulate clubs.

Cue did not respond to calls for comment.

Marijuana dispensaries became legal under state law in 1996, after California voters passed Proposition 215. Although federal laws prohibit the use of marijuana for any purpose, the initiative allows harvest and sale of limited amounts of cannabis for medicinal purposes.

'It could be a little further away,' said Valerie Young, a coordinator who works at the 4-H office.

Young said middle school-aged children commonly hang out near the building after school and sometimes accompany their parents to the administrative office.

'I would rather they order it online and not have these outlets,' said Karen Riley, an assistant at the office.

But several residents and two county workers near the site, said they did not foresee any problems with a cannabis club, as long as it is regulated.

'It doesn't bother me a bit,' said County Surveyor Bruce Child Jr., who works in the same building as the 4-H workers. 'We'll probably have better law enforcement here than we've ever had.'

Some residents said it was about time the county had a place to legally buy marijuana.

'By all means, open it,' said Richard Kline, who said he uses cannabis to relieve pain associated with his lung and liver cancer. 'The voters of California overwhelming approved (medical marijuana). We want it.'

Kline said several doctors have rejected his requests for a medical marijuana recommendation, adding that he thought they were afraid to prescribe it.

'A lot of people up here need (medical marijuana),' said Caleb Miles, co-owner of Hemptation, a business that sells smoking pipes and accessories. Miles said he receives questions each day from sick residents about where to find it.

County officials, including Sheriff Dennis Downum and County Counsel James Jones, said they will use the next 45 days to review plans devised by other towns regarding cannabis clubs. Officials might suggest how close to schools or churches the clubs can operate. They will also review how much marijuana the clubs can harvest and sell.

'This is a whole new ballgame for us,' Downum said Tuesday, adding his department will have to balance conflicting state and federal laws regarding the sale of marijuana.

Earlier this month, the Angels Camp City Council adopted an ordinance prohibiting cannabis clubs from operating within 1,000 feet of schools or any youth-oriented establishments. The ordinance also banned clubs from opening in residential areas or within 1,000 feet of another cannabis club.

Contact Chris Nichols at cnichols@uniondemocrat.com



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