California, San Mateo

Medical marijuana by county.

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California, San Mateo

Postby palmspringsbum » Sun Feb 18, 2007 4:07 pm

The San Mateo County Times wrote:
Pricier pot ID card a concern

<span class=postbigbold>Higher fees may make document unaffordable for many who need medicinal marijuana</span>

The San Mateo County Times
Article Last Updated: 02/11/2007 02:40:07 AM PST

An impending tenfold hike in the state fee for medical marijuana identification cards is riling county health officials and pot advocates, who say the sticker shock could turn off legitimate users and hobble a program that helps protect them from arrest and seizure of their weed.

In response, one San Francisco supervisor wants the city — by far the leader in pot ID cardholders — to pull out of the state-mandated program and return to city-issued cards.

That renegade move, say health officials in other counties, could cripple the state ID card program by forcing the fees still higher. State law requires the program to fully fund itself.

The law also says every county must join the state ID program but doesn't set a deadline. State officials say they expected many more applicants and blame the fee increase largely on the lag.

The program requires pot users to apply for the cards in the county where they live. But 18 months after it started, 34 of the state's 58 counties remain holdouts, including some of the state's largest. Los Angeles may begin soon, but San Diego and San Bernardino have refused, while they challenge Proposition 215, the 1996 ballot measure that authorized pot for medical use.

Even so, the extent of the increase has county health officials scratching their heads.

Beginning March 1, the state Department of Health Services wants $142 for each card, up from $13.50. Medi-Cal beneficiaries pay half. Counties also charge a fee for their work. The result: In Contra Costa County, pot patients will pay $204, up from $75, for cards they must renew each year, county officials said. The cost does not include a doctor's visit for a recommendation.

"I don't quite know what has caused it to jump," said Francie Wise, director of communicable disease control for Contra Costa County Health Services.

"We verify the physician. We meet with the person. We take the pictures. We fill out the forms. We send them a picture and our verification. They send us back a little plastic card with the picture on it," said Wise. "Maybe they have a lot of things going on up there, but it seems like we're doing the majority of the work."

Spokeswoman Michelle Mussuto said the agency must pay staff to maintain a database and a Web site that allows police or pot clubs to check the validity of card numbers.

It also contracts out for making the cards and mailing them. The program's budget for the 2006-07 fiscal year is $852,000, down from $1.2 million in the prior year and

$983,000 the year before.

County officials say they give little information to the state, out of concern over the clash between Proposition 215 and federal law, which considers pot an illegal drug with no medical use. Contra Costa health officials say they give the state no names — only a picture, Medi-Cal status, and whether the applicant is a patient or caregiver. Most counties mirror that policy, officials said.

The coming fee equals the price of about a half-ounce of good quality pot at many dispensaries. That equates to 36 average-sized joints, a two-month supply for the average pot smoker, according to federal estimates, which do not distinguish between recreational and medicinal use.

Under state law, medical pot users can cultivate six mature or 12 immature pot plants, and can possess half a pound of dried marijuana for medical use, unless their doctor recommends more.

"If people choose not to get a card because it's too expensive, medical providers won't be in the process," said Dr. Joshua Bamberger, San Francisco's medical director for housing and urban health. "People will fall back on the way it was before 1996."

Some dispensaries accept doctors' notes, but more require cards. City policy in San Francisco says pot clubs must accept only patients with cards if they want to remain in good standing.

San Francisco Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi is pushing a resolution to urge the city's public health department to scrap the state IDs and print its own cards as before. That program charged $50 and also let patients from San Mateo, Santa Clara, Marin, Napa and Sonoma counties get cards.

"It's not an ideal situation," Bamberger said. "If you have a San Francisco card and you're in Tehachapi smoking a joint, I have no way to know what the sheriff in Kern County's going to do to you."

Of nearly 9,500 cards that the state had issued as of last week, 3,642 cards — nearly four in 10 — went to San Franciscans, state data shows. Next was Marin County, with

1,184, followed by Alameda County with 841. The state had issued 78 cards to Contra Costa residents.

Mayor Gavin Newsom is concerned that the higher fees will make the cards unaffordable, but has not weighed in on the supervisor's proposal, spokesman David Miree said.

Mirkarimi did not return several calls from the Times. But one medical pot advocate said the gambit could backfire.

"If the state decides not to react, the unintended consequence is the state program is at risk, because it no longer has the largest single chunk of patients for their program," said Kris Hermes, legal campaign director for Americans with Safe Access.

Hermes said the cards provide pot patients valuable protection, particularly from the highway patrol, which "recognizes the card and will treat patients with the card with kid gloves."

Still, some pot users say the risk and the cost outweigh the benefits.

"I don't trust the state," said Lauren Unruh of Pleasant Hill, who said she takes marijuana for depression. "I really don't think (the card) is that big a deal. I have all these pot bumper stickers all over my car. Nobody's pulled me over."

For more on the state medical marijuana ID program, visit

<center><small>Reach John Simerman at 925-943-8072 or e-mail</small></center>

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County May Regulate Pot Shops

Postby palmspringsbum » Mon Dec 03, 2007 6:08 pm

The San Mateo County Times wrote:County May Regulate Pot Shops

The San Mateo County Times
Tue, 11 Sep 2007
Michael Manekin, Staff Writer

<span class=postbigbold>Some Officials Want to Protect Legal Use</span>

Two weeks after the DEA raided three San Mateo medical marijuana dispensaries that the county district attorney said violated state law, the County Counsel's office is preparing guidelines for the distribution of medical marijuana.

A model ordinance which the county and cities could adopt to regulate the distribution of medical marijuana would be good government, said San Mateo County Supervisor Jerry Hill.

"San Mateo County has always been at the forefront of attempting to meet the needs of its citizens, and we have a heart," Hill said. "If someone is suffering, then we want to prevent that. And if someone is suffering from a disease, and medical marijuana is their only relief, we want to facilitate that within the law."

That's the way San Mateo Mayor Jack Matthews feels about the matter.

A few days after the raids, Matthews proclaimed himself "absolutely 100 percent, four-square behind the use of marijuana for medical purposes."

Matthews, along with 66 percent of San Mateo County voters, supported Proposition 215, the 1996 measure which legalized medical cannabis in California.

The federal raids left him surprised. For one thing, he was uneasy that four establishments -- the three that were raided and another that shut its doors when the DEA came to town -- had "popped up, seemingly overnight," he said. And he was concerned that these dispensaries were operating illegally.

So Matthews and City Manager Arne Croce contacted Hill to discuss a county ordinance reining in the dispensaries. Initially, Hill said it was an issue for the state to resolve, a position echoed by other supervisors.

Then, the county supervisor backtracked. Recognizing that "any chance in the future that the state will take up this issue was slim to nil," he scheduled a chat with District Attorney James Fox.

Fox, the man who called in the DEA to raid the dispensaries, has insisted that the issue should be solved by the state. Nonetheless, he agreed that regulations could be useful in the absence of state regulation.

Today, medical marijuana advocates will converge in Redwood City for the county's Board of Supervisors meeting to voice their support for local regulations.

Regulating the distribution of medical marijuana legitimizes the rights of patients to get their medicine, they say. Establishing rules for law-abiding dispensaries fosters trust among cannabis providers, law enforcement and the community.

"People have a right under state law to have access to this medicine," said Bruce Mirkin of the Washington D.C.-based Marijuana Policy Project. "It's better for everybody to have safe, regulated access, and the way to achieve that is through a reasonable set of regulations.

"We think that regulation makes a lot of sense," he explained. "As long as it's real regulation and not regulation designed to create so many obstacles that it's a ban in the form of regulation."

<span class=postbigbold>Regulating Marijuana</span>

Oakland is one of 26 cities in one of the eight counties in California that have ordinances allowing and regulating dispensaries, and their regulations represent a compromise between advocates, who want to maximize the freedom of dispensaries to serve patients, and politicians, who want to balance security concerns with the needs of a small community that relies on medical cannabis.

There are four dispensaries in Oakland, and they have each been chosen by the city to operate with a one-year, renewable license. Under state law, the dispensaries must be non-profit or not-for-profit collectives or cooperatives and serve only patients who have been given recommendations from a doctor to treat their illness with marijuana.

The patients, who use medical cannabis to treat ailments ranging from chronic arthritis to terminal diseases such as leukemia and HIV sign a form which allows them to be members of the cooperative. Their member status entitles them to the purchase of cannabis, and their money goes toward operations overhead, which includes everything from security to rent to growing expenses. The patients may also grow marijuana and sell their excess to the dispensaries.

Since Oakland introduced medical cannabis regulations in 2004, "the dispensaries have been so problem-free and crime-free that citizens who aren't participating hardly even know they exist," said Barbara Killey, an assistant to the Oakland city administrator.

Killey, who oversees the permitting and regulation of the city's dispensaries, would rather the federal government legalize medical cannabis so that pharmacies could sell the drug.

"Since that's not really a current option, then I think dispensaries are the next best alternative," she said.

The collectives pay business taxes to the city, draw people to the community to shop and even reduce crime in their neighborhood because of the security they hire to protect their operation, said Killey.

Medical marijuana advocates point to the success of cities like Oakland when advocating regulations, but they also complain that regulations are sometimes overly restrictive.

The city of San Francisco has an ordinance that makes it very hard for new dispensaries to open, said Kris Hermes of Americans for Safe Access, an Oakland-based medical marijuana advocacy group. Meanwhile, Oakland's four-dispensary limit may create higher prices through a monopoly, said Mirkin of the Marijuana Policy Project.

Naturally, law enforcement in jurisdictions which have established regulations think otherwise. If cities and counties enact regulations for medical marijuana dispensaries, lawmakers must set out "reasonable" guidelines, said Santa Cruz police spokesman Zach Friend.

Santa Cruz, which established its ordinance in 2005, has two dispensaries located in an industrial part of town, and few problems have been reported, Friend said.

Initially, there were fears that the dispensaries were situated too close to a public park, but the dispensaries "have done a pretty good job of policing themselves," Friend said.

The city of Santa Rosa passed an ordinance in 2005 which zoned dispensaries at least 500 feet away from parks or schools. The ordinance also limited the city to two dispensaries, and capped the membership at 500 people each.

Santa Rosa City Councilwoman Jane Bender said that the zoning restrictions protect children, and the caps ensure the city doesn't become a magnet for medical marijuana patients from outside the county.

Like many officials throughout the state, she worries that unethical doctors are providing recommendations for people who don't truly need medical marijuana, but she says there's nothing they can do to control that aspect. In any case, putting up with the failures of the medical board to control "phony prescriptions" is a "trade-off" in exchange for not "criminalizing sick people."

"I hope that people can work this out in San Mateo so that families who desperately need medical marijuana can get it," she said.

<span class=postbigbold>Non-Profit Versus For-Profit</span>

Medical marijuana advocates worry that sick people in San Mateo County will be limited in how they get their medicine under new regulations.

While cities like Oakland, Santa Cruz and Santa Rosa allow dispensaries that serve hundreds -- even thousands of patients -- there is already doubt that such facilities could exist in San Mateo County.

That's because the county district attorney has a different opinion of state law than medical marijuana advocates. While defenders of medical marijuana argue that the law allows for dispensaries that accept money from multiple patients in exchange for cannabis, Fox maintains that such operations serve "customers, not patients."

Dispensaries serving hundreds of patients are hardly non-profit cooperatives, Fox said.

"Can you explain to me any difference between these dispensaries and Safeway stores?" Fox said. "These growers are making money. (They're) not non-profit operations."

That's the reason he called in the DEA to investigate the three medical marijuana dispensaries in downtown San Mateo, he said. The operations were not "legitimate collectives," because they were selling marijuana to a list of patients, Fox said.

But that's exactly what the law allows, said Matt Kumin, a San Francisco-based attorney who represents a number of medical marijuana dispensaries throughout the state, including the Patients Choice Resource Cooperative, one of the raided San Mateo dispensaries.

Kumin, a former president of the California Association of Cooperatives, argues that Fox does not have a proper understanding of consumer cooperatives under state law. Far from operating like Safeway, the dispensaries are modeled after alternative supermarkets and businesses like REI, the outdoor-sports equipment cooperative.

Such consumer cooperatives offer members high-quality goods at low cost for those who don't grow their own food or manufacture their own sporting goods.

"Some patients just don't have the capability to cultivate their own medicine," said one East Bay dispensary operator. "Maybe they're blind, maybe they're in a wheelchair, maybe they live in a rental property where they're not allowed to grow medical cannabis. Maybe they don't have the thousands of dollars it takes to set up a grow room. There are plenty of legitimate reasons for medical cannabis patients not to grow their own medicine."

Fearing reprisal by the federal government, which does not acknowledge the state's medical marijuana law, the dispensary operator asked to remain anonymous.

He warned that a narrow view of state law which prohibits large-scale cooperative dispensaries would only "force patients to find each other in dark alleys somewhere," leaving them without the resources that a cooperative can provide.

"If you want responsible, professional people to distribute the medicine, you have to give them a license," he said.

<span class=postbigbold>Drafting Fair Regulation</span>

San Mateo's mayor agrees that patients are better served by cooperative or collective dispensaries which can offer medical cannabis in exchange for money.

Forcing patients to grow their own medicine is "a very primitive way" of providing medicine, he said.

"What if we decided that you could have all the aspirin you wanted as long as you grew the birch trees?" he said. "If we're worried that (marijuana) is going to be abused, then we need to have careful screening of the people who sell it and the people who buy it."

That's why local officials in cities like Oakland, Santa Rosa and other jurisdictions have approved ordinances which enable cooperative dispensaries to flourish. However, medical marijuana advocates warn that many cities pass bad regulations when they rely on law enforcement to write them.

"It's important that the public officials in San Mateo County hear from all stakeholders involved," Hermes said. "That means patients, potential dispensary operators -- and if you want to include the entire community, you'd want to also include physicians and advocates as well."

The process of drafting a model ordinance will take "months -- and not just a few," said County Counsel Mike Murphy. When the draft is completed, city and county officials will have a framework. But elected officials are under no obligation to adopt regulations.

Micheal Resendez, a disabled veteran who lives in San Mateo, is rooting for an ordinance as soon as possible.

Resendez, 35, suffered severe hemorrhaging in his brain after he fell out of a speeding truck during training as an Army Ranger nearly a decade ago. To heal, doctors prescribed him morphine, demorol, antidepressants and a host of other medication which he said turned him into "a walking zombie." When a friend turned him on to medical cannabis, he found that "it allowed me to have a life again."

Resendez grows his own marijuana, but he lost his ability to tend his garden when he injured his back several months ago. Until the dispensaries in San Mateo were raided, he visited them to get his medicine.

Now that he has nowhere to go in the county for a reliable source of medicine, he wants the county to draft regulations for dispensaries more than ever.

"If we voted for medical marijuana (in Proposition 215), then I think the county should be held responsible for regulating and maintaining distribution of cannabis," he said. "They're our government, they're the ones who we elect to work for us to make sure that the laws we vote for are enacted and regulated.

"These are the people we elect to take care of us. That's what we have government for."
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San Mateo County soon may start regulating medical marijuana

Postby palmspringsbum » Wed Apr 08, 2009 3:24 pm

The San Jose Mercury News wrote:San Mateo County soon may start regulating medical marijuana clubs

The Mercury News
By Shaun Bishop
Daily News Staff Writer
Posted: 04/07/2009 11:30:35 PM PDT

A long-awaited San Mateo County ordinance that requires medical marijuana clubs to obtain operating licenses and follow certain conditions got the nod of a subcommittee Tuesday despite some concerns raised by local cannabis distributors.

The ordinance, drafted by the county counsel's office, adds new requirements for medical marijuana cooperatives or collectives — two of which recently opened up in the unincorporated North Fair Oaks area near Redwood City.

"I'm very much in favor of having marijuana available to people who need it for their health, and I think having an ordinance like this makes us make sure that it's done in a safe practice," said San Mateo County Supervisor Carole Groom, who along with Supervisor Rose Jacobs Gibson sits on a board of supervisors subcommittee that deals with health issues. The full board could review the proposed ordinance April 28.

Medicinal marijuana was legalized in California in 1996 through Proposition 215, but federal law still prohibits cannabis possession.

The county's ordinance comes more than 18 months after federal agents raided three medical marijuana dispensaries in San Mateo and shut them down after the district attorney's office alerted the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration that they were operating illegally.

After those raids, supervisors called for a model ordinance regulating marijuana businesses that cities could adopt. The San Mateo City Council on Monday adopted an ordinance almost identical to the county's proposed one.

"We care about all the businesses in our community and we want to make sure they're all safe and that we actually have some oversight," Jacobs Gibson said.

Under the ordinance, each cooperative would have to get a license from the county that comes with several conditions, among them that the cooperative must operate at least 1,000 feet away from a school, recreation center or youth center; install an alarm system and window bars; and refrain from selling cultivated marijuana or exchanging anything of value for marijuana.

Some of those requirements concern Jhonrico Carrnshimba, the president and CEO of Universal Healthcare Cooperative Corporation, a North Fair Oaks cooperative that began distributing marijuana to patients in February.

Carrnshimba, who helped run one of the San Mateo clubs that was shut down, said he has made a concerted effort to make his club a true cooperative, establishing a five-member board of directors and a membership sign-up process and offering other services such as yoga classes and counseling.

He said he hopes to discuss changing parts of the ordinance, including its prohibition of edible products laced with marijuana, which he said could affect cancer patients who need cannabis but cannot smoke it.

"We'd like for (the county) to work with us to do an ordinance," Carrnshimba said. "They're not really looking out for the patients."

Robert Simmons, a Belmont resident who says he runs a "mobile dispensary" that distributes marijuana to patients, told the two supervisors that the prohibition against selling cultivated marijuana would have the effect of "ostracizing patients and forcing them to buy marijuana outside of the county."

But Chief Deputy County Counsel Penny Bennett said selling marijuana is already a violation of state law.

She said the county's ordinance is not about abolishing medical marijuana facilities in the county but about "regulating them and making it safe."

<small>E-mail Shaun Bishop at</small>

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County to consider more medical pot regulations

Postby palmspringsbum » Sat Apr 11, 2009 1:01 pm

The San Mateo Daily Journal wrote:The San Mateo Daily Journal | April 8, 2009

County to consider more medical pot regulations
Daily Journal staff report

The county is moving forward with a plan to further regulate medical marijuana businesses in the unincorporated areas of the county to meet growing concern about the nature of the businesses in the unincorporated areas of the county.

The Housing, Health and Human Services Committee of the Board of Supervisors approved forwarding a draft medical marijuana ordinance to the full board at its Tuesday meeting and it will likely be heard by the board April 28, according to county officials.

The draft ordinance was requested after three San Mateo collectives were shut down in raids Aug. 29, 2007 and the city began its own investigation. The San Mateo City Council had its second reading of its own ordinance Monday night that would require medical marijuana dispensaries to register through the police department and meet certain security and business regulations. It also prohibits collectives from anywhere in the city but manufacturing and service commercial areas.

For the most part, the ordinance regulates the “collective” cultivation of medical marijuana. Collectives are places where people pool their money and time to grow marijuana in one central location. Dispensaries simply distribute and are already prohibited by law.

While state law allows collectives, it places few limits on the activity and some cities, like San Mateo, are taking steps to fill the void. San Mateo County is moving forward with its own ordinance after two medical marijuana businesses opened in North Fair Oaks. The proposed county ordinance requires primary caregivers to maintain a list of people to whom they provide care and would require a license. Before such a license is granted, the County License Board would ensure that the collective would not adversely affect the economic welfare of the community and the use of property used for a school, playground, park, youth facility, child care facility, place of religious worship or library and be buffered from any residential area.

California voters passed Proposition 215, the Compassionate Use Act, in 1996, allowing sick patients to either grow their own marijuana or have a primary caregiver grow it for them. In 2003, the state Legislature passed the Medical Marijuana Program Act to clarify vague portions of Proposition 215.

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San Mateo County adopts fee for marijuana collective

Postby palmspringsbum » Tue Jun 30, 2009 9:58 am

The San Mateo County Times wrote:San Mateo County adopts fee for medical marijuana collectives

The San Mateo County Times
By Shaun Bishop
Posted: 06/18/2009 05:38:07 PM PDT
Updated: 06/18/2009 07:08:30 PM PDT

Want to open your own medical marijuana collective in unincorporated San Mateo County?

In a few weeks, you'll have to fill out an application, pay a $100 fee and submit to inspections to make sure your club is in line with all the terms of the county's new ordinance governing the collectives.

Buck those requirements and you may soon have the sheriff's office knocking on your door.

The county's first-ever ordinance governing pot clubs goes into effect on July 6, and county officials are trying to hash out how the process to license the collectives will work.

Aspiring distributors likely will have to fill out an application form, which has not been finalized but will include questions to make sure the collective is in line with the ordinance's various restrictions.

Under the requirements, which supervisors approved on April 28, cooperatives must be at least 1,000 feet away from a school, recreation center or youth center; install an alarm system and window bars; refrain from advertising or having any marijuana visible from the street; and must not distribute edible cannabis products, among other provisions.

Once the application is turned in, the sheriff's office and the county's building departments will inspect the collective's building for compliance, said Deborah Penny Bennett, a chief deputy county counsel.

If the collective passes that step, the county's three-member licensing board will have the final say on whether the club can operate.

The ordinance covers only the county's unincorporated area, though there already are at least three clubs in the North Fair Oaks neighborhood near Redwood City.

The founders of one club, the Universal Healthcare Cooperative, have criticized the ordinance for banning edibles and have been in ongoing talks with the county about the ordinance's terms.

Sheriff's office spokesman Tom Merson said officials have not been in contact with the other two clubs — Blue Heaven and the California Patients Cooperative.

The county plans to deliver applications to each of the cooperatives, though they won't be expected to have their licenses approved by July 6. The next county licensing board meeting is in early August, Merson said.

"After the license application forms are available, they would have a reasonable time to turn them in," Bennett said. "Certainly we would expect people to be under way with the application process by July 6."

If clubs refuse to fill out an application or comply with the ordinance's terms "they'd be shut down," Merson said.
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