Planners want to snuff pot clubs

November 07, 2004

Vanessa Turner , Calveras Enterprise

An ordinance to regulate medical marijuana dispensaries in Calaveras County was denied by the Planning Commission Thursday.

Marijuana should go through the Federal Drug Administration to become a legal drug, Commissioner Suzanne Kuehl said.

Federal law says marijuana use, medical or otherwise, is illegal. But Proposition 215, which California voters passed in 1996, allows California patients to use medical marijuana with a physician's recommendation.

'I uphold the Constitution of the United States, not the laws,' said Commissioner Mike Dell'Orto, who was the lone vote for the ordinance.

'Being the law says we can do it, doesn't say we have to do it,' Commissioner and Chairman Ted Allured said.

A motion by Dell'Orto died for lack of a second. Commissioners then voted 4-1, with Dell'Orto voting no, to recommend to the Board of Supervisors that it not approve the ordinance since it is not in the best interest of the people of Calaveras County.

The board will take up the issue Nov. 22 when it will also revisit an ordinance that set enforcement guidelines for the sheriff to regulate the use of medical marijuana.

Supervisor Paul Stein said he wants to take up the legality issue and asked county counsel to bring all the history involved.

The issue of dispensaries was prompted by Kim Cue of San Andreas, who applied to open a dispensary in San Andreas at Highway 49 and Mountain Ranch Road near the county surveyor and 4-H offices.

Cue was at the commission meeting and said she was disappointed with the decision.

'The people of California have already spoken on this,' Cue said.

The county initiated a ban on such dispensaries in September until it could study the issue further and come up with an appropriate zoning ordinance.

Cue said there are 200 patients in Calaveras County needing medical marijuana.

'There are sick people out there,' Cue told the commission. 'I've got patients who are dying, … and who need it to walk.'

'This is not the way to treat medically ill people,' Kuehl said.

Kuehl said she has chronic pains, which she takes medication for.

'I'm in that group you're talking about,' she told Cue. 'This is not the way to go about it.'

Subhed: The ordinance

Currently marijuana clubs are not listed as a permitted use in any county zone.

The proposed ordinance puts the dispensaries as a conditional use in all zoning districts designated as professional offices. Conditional uses require an administrative use permit, which is issued by the planning director and is good for one year with an option to reapply every year.

Sheriff's Capt. Mike Walker told commissioners the ordinance is a cause of concern for the Sheriff's Department. His concerns ranged from where the marijuana would be stored to where it's grown and site security.

There would be a large amount of cash going in and out of the dispensary, Walker added.

He said the conflict between state and federal law puts the Sheriff's Department in a precarious position.

Also the ordinance would allow the dispensary to have six mature plants and 12 immature plants per patient.

'That's a huge indoor growing operation,' he said.

There are people who take advantage of Proposition 215, Walker said.

'Every day we monitor people who are growing under 215,' he said. 'Doctors are prescribing to patients that need 99 plants. You couldn't smoke that in five years.'

'I personally know of abuses and of doctors who are just handing these cards out,' Kuehl said.

'You can get a verbal recommendation from a doctor,' Allured said. 'It's pretty loose. Some doctors you give $10 and you'll get anything verbally recommended. I don't think it's regulated enough.'

Cue admits there are some who have taken advantage of Proposition 215, but said, 'I've got zero tolerance for that.'

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