Pot a drag, unincorporated areas say
October 15, 2004
Michelle Meyers, Oakland Tribune
|Medical marijuana dispensaries have been sprouting up in the unincorporated areas of Ashland and Cherryland, just as neighboring cities have been nipping their pot facilities in the bud. |
There are now six known medical marijuana dispensaries in a two-mile area between the cities of Hayward and San Leandro. Three are clustered within a few blocks of each other along East 14th Street in Ashland.
All but one opened in recent months after the cities of Oakland and Hayward began imposing stricter regulations on their existing dispensaries. The cities of Emeryville and Fremont have since passed moratoriums on dispensaries.
Most of the dispensary owners said the patient market is big enough to support all six unincorporated area dispensaries and more.
But residents are worried that the proliferation of the dispensaries will attract the wrong element to neighborhoods they've worked hard to improve.
'We've fought hard to rid Ashland of illegal drug activity,' said Richard Hancocks, an Alameda County planning commissioner who is spearheading the effort to incorporate Ashland, Cherryland and San Lorenzo as the future city of San Lorenzo. 'I don't see this as taking the community a step up. I see it as taking a community a step down.'
Kathie Ready, president of the San Lorenzo Village Home Association, added that the community should be involved in the sanctioning of such uses.
'It's an extreme slap in the face, because we're working to raise the bar, not lower it,' Ready said.
Alameda County law enforcement, health and county officials have been working on an ordinance that would limit the number of dispensaries allowed, said Bob Swanson, assistant to Alameda County Supervisor Nate Miley, who oversees the Ashland area.
Swanson said Miley had hoped to have an ordinance on the books before the dispensaries started opening. 'But there's been extreme caution on behalf of the board of supervisors,' Swanson said.
Some of that stems from what's perceived as an inherent conflict between state and federal law. Proposition 215 legalized marijuana for medical use in California, and last year's Senate Bill 420 further specifies standards. But the drug is still illegal under federal law.
That conflict could be resolved in a related case scheduled to go before the United States Supreme Court.
In the meantime, Swanson said the dispensaries are allowed to conduct their business. He doesn't expect the county ordinance to grandfather in existing facilities, so he's been warning owners that they are operating 'at their own risk.'
Miley's office hasn't received complaints about the facilities, with exception of a parking issue at one on East 14th Street, Swanson added.
'These are just business people who want to be cooperative with the community.
The oldest of the dispensaries is We Are Hemp, on Lewelling Boulevard, which former Kaiser nurse Adele Morgan opened 31/2 years ago. She's not too happy about the new dispensaries.
'I think that six clubs in the area is too much,' she said.
Another club, with roots in Hayward, is located on Mission Boulevard in Cherryland. Three others are located along East 14th between 159th and 162nd Avenue, including one with roots in Oakland.
Another facility, 'A Natural Source,' is more of a holistic health center on Foothill Boulevard. In addition to the dispensary, which is behind a velvet curtain, A Natural Source sells natural products and will soon serve organic teas and coffee.
Owner William McDonald, who sometimes sees drug activity and prostitution outside his building, argues that his business isn't a threat to the community.
'Our customers are part of the community,' he said.