California, Contra Costa

Medical marijuana by county.

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California, Contra Costa

Postby palmspringsbum » Tue Apr 11, 2006 10:42 am

The Contra Costa Times wrote:Posted on Tue, Apr. 11, 2006

Supervisors to vote today to block new dispensaries

By Tom Lochner
CONTRA COSTA TIMES

A cannabis club is in business in unincorporated El Sobrante, just as the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors prepares to vote on an urgency moratorium today on the opening of any new ones.

MEDelivery, a medical marijuana delivery service with clients throughout the county, has set up shop as MEDelivery's Dispensary in a small shopping center on San Pablo Dam Road. Owner Don "Buzz" Fowler got his business license amended to the new address March 16.

Elsewhere in unincorporated Contra Costa, MariCare, a former Concord cannabis club, has reopened in Pacheco. MariCare was forced out of Concord late last year after that city's council, invoking federal law, enacted a ban on medical marijuana dispensaries, popularly known as cannabis clubs.

California's Compassionate Use Act, approved by voters in 1996, allows people to possess, use and grow medical marijuana with a doctor's recommendation to treat chronic pain, cancer, arthritis, AIDS and other illnesses. It also envisioned a "safe and affordable distribution of marijuana to all patients in medical need of marijuana."

The federal government considers marijuana an illegal drug with no medical application.

County Supervisor Gayle Uilkema, the sponsor of the proposed moratorium, said she acted after hearing from constituents that dispensaries might be about to open in Pacheco, Rodeo and an East County location she would not name. Rumors placed at least one of the potential dispensary sites in a residential area, she said.

"I almost had the sense that a tsunami was coming at us and that there was literally nothing we could do about it," Uilkema said.

Currently, no county zoning ordinances address cannabis clubs.

Rodeo and Pacheco are in Uilkema's district. El Sobrante and East County are not.

"When I got the calls about the residential use, I said, 'Stop. Let's take a deep breath,'" Uilkema said. "Let's examine what are the potential impacts. In the meantime, let's put a stop to this.

"One of the dilemmas that we're looking at is, there's a conflict between federal and state law," Uilkema said. "Our board has not discussed that. We haven't educated ourselves yet. We have a lot of work to do."

Critics, including Americans For Safe Access, a patient advocacy group, say local governments have had ample time to regulate the dispensing of medical marijuana in the almost 10 years since voters approved it. The group has sued Concord for its ban on cannabis clubs.

Uilkema said she introduced the moratorium on an urgency basis because the potential proliferation of medical marijuana dispensaries absent any zoning regulations poses "an immediate threat to public health."

She said there may be "legitimate marijuana uses for people who are very ill."

The urgency moratorium initially would be for 45 days and could be extended.

Fowler said his dispensary will dispense by appointment only to those with the proper credentials, such as a state medical marijuana identification card or a doctor's recommendation plus another medicinal ID card. He will continue to do deliveries, but now some of his patients who don't want to wait for once-a-month deliveries will have a faster alternative.

"Before, I used to go to them," Fowler said. "Now they can come to me."

Reach Tom Lochner at 510-262-2760 or tlochner@cctimes.com.

IF YOU GO

The proposed urgency interim ordinance prohibiting medical marijuana dispensaries will come up for discussion about 10 a.m. today in the Board of Supervisors chamber, 651 Pine St., Martinez.

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Postby budman » Wed Apr 12, 2006 9:35 am

Inside Bay Area wrote:Article Last Updated: 04/12/2006 02:55:34 AM PDT

Contra Costa passes ordinance barring new pot clubs

Decision allows time to explore issue further
By Rebecca F. Johnson, STAFF WRITER
Inside Bay Area


MARTINEZ — Cannabis clubs looking to set up shop in unincorporated Contra Costa County can no longer do so under a new ordinance the Board of Supervisors unanimously approved Tuesday.

The urgency measure, which establishes a moratorium on new medical marijuana dispensaries, went into effect immediately and must be extended within 45 days by law.

Supervisor Gayle Uilkema said the ordinance will provide the county with the opportunity to complete a study that is expected to provide recommendations on medical marijuana dispensary regulation.

"This is merely a period of time to allow that to happen and it is not a position one way or the other on the subject of whether such dispensaries should exist," she said.

Although the county began issuing medical marijuana identification cards to people who are eligible since last December, Contra Costa had not addressed the establishment of dispensaries in an ordinance.

Cities across the state, including some in Alameda and Contra Costa counties, have adopted similar ordinances to prevent people from applying to operate marijuana dispensaries in their jurisdictions.

One such dispensary, MariCare, relocated from Concord to Pacheco — an area that is unincorporated — following the Concord City Council's adoption of a similar moratorium.

But as long as MariCare is operating legally in the correct zoning district, the medical marijuana dispensary may continue its practices, county officials said.

"This is a land-use decision. It's not about closing an existing lawful business," Supervisor Mark DeSaulnier said.

MariCare Director Demetrio Ramirez said he thinks the dispensary is in compliance and urged the supervisors to carefully consider the issue of medical marijuana, which was legalized by California voters under Proposition 215 in 1996, also known as the Compassionate Use Act.

"We provide a safe, clean and professional environment where the ill are treated with dignity and respect," Ramirez said. "It is my hope that the Board of Supervisors lead by example and exhibit tolerance and compassion.

Several members of the audience at Tuesday's meeting addressed their need for medical marijuana and asked the board not to prevent them from obtaining cannabis in a legal manner by forcing the dispensaries to move elsewhere.


Rebecca Johnson can be reached at (925) 416-4882 or rjohnson@angnewspapers.com.

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Trio faces amplified drug charges Manufacturing charges file

Postby budman » Wed Sep 13, 2006 9:51 am

The Contra Costa Times wrote:Posted on Wed, Sep. 13, 2006

Trio faces amplified drug charges Manufacturing charges filed for trio in pot case

SAN RAMON: Trial fuels debate between medical marijuana advocates and law enforcement officials

By Bruce Gerstman
CONTRA COSTA TIMES


A fire and explosion in a suburban San Ramon garage in February exposed a lesser-known form of marijuana and ignited a debate about its safety.

Prosecutors say three men were mixing butane with crushed marijuana leaves to extract what is known as honey oil, a concentrated form of cannabis, which was going to be used in a medical marijuana dispensary.

In what county prosecutors call a first for a marijuana case, the District Attorney's Office has filed charges against the three men for manufacturing a controlled substance -- a charge usually associated with methamphetamine and rock cocaine. A conviction on the charge carries a penalty more than double that of cultivation charges.

"If you're going to say this is medicine, then the public has a right to know how it's made," said deputy district attorney Dana Filkowski

The District Attorney's decision brings out a dispute between law enforcement officials who say the manufacturing process might harm sick people and medical marijuana advocates who say butane use poses no health risk and patients know about the process.

Prosecutors say William Stoeckel, 20, Ashley Stoeckel, 24, and Eric Hughes, 23, caused a fire on Feb. 7 on Joree Lane. The are charged with manufacturing a controlled substance, cultivating marijuana, possessing marijuana for sale, conspiracy and poisoning.

The trio appeared last week in Contra Costa Superior Court in Walnut Creek where a judge reduced their bail from $1.2 million to $620,000 each.

They have pleaded not guilty. Their attorneys did not return calls to the Times.

Filkowski said they were making oil for Ken Estes, owner of a Richmond medical marijuana dispensary, who was arrested last month when police pulled his truck over on a routine traffic stop and found 27 pounds of marijuana inside.

Honey oil is produced by extracting THC from marijuana leaves. Butane is added to crushed marijuana to separate the chemical from the leaves. Users consume the oil in food or smear it on cigarettes or marijuana joints.

Butane is a flammable gas often used in cigarette lighters and in canisters for cooking and camping. It evaporates almost immediately after hitting the air.

Filkowski said the men were working with dozens of canisters of butane, which could have been ignited by even a small spark.

She said the idea behind the manufacturing charge, which carries a sentence of up to seven years in state prison, is that the men used the butane to transform one material into another with different properties. "It turns the marijuana into another substance," she said.

Filkowski compared the process to making methamphetamine, where cooks change pseudoephedrine, contained in medications like Sudafed, to methamphetamine.

Texas-based chemical toxicologist Thomas Dydek said the butane causes no change.

"It's more like extracting the essence of the marijuana into an oil, like getting peanut oil out of peanuts," he said.

Health risks are unclear, Filkowski said. Patients who use cannabis for their ailments might not know that people who make the oil use butane.

"If you're making medicine for sick people, you must let them know that it's being made with butane," she said.

But patients are aware of it, said Jeff Jones, executive director of the Oakland Cannabis Buyers Club. Clubs promote the process as risk-free.

"Yes, they know," said Jeff Jones, executive director of the Oakland Oakland Cannabis Buyers Club. Clubs promote the process as especially risk-free. "It's popularized as a butane process. It's usually advertised as such."

A half-dozen doctors who prescribe medicinal cannabis contacted by the Times said they were aware of the oil, but did not know how safe it is.

Sausalito-based physician and psychiatrist Eugene Schoenfeld said butane might pose a threat of explosion to the makers, but not to the patient.

"I don't think there would be enough butane in the hash oil to affect people," he said. "I don't think the butane is much of a danger to the consumer."

Dydek said people who consume the oil are not at risk.

"(The butane) would tend to dissipate. It doesn't tend to hang around very long," Dydek said. "The toxicity of butane is not very great.

"I think there would be more problems with people manufacturing it," he said.


<hr class=postrule>
Reach Bruce Gerstman at 925-952-2670 or bgerstman@cctimes.com.


<span class=postbold>See Also</span>: Police confiscate pot club owner's marijuana
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Pacheco pot store ordered to close

Postby palmspringsbum » Wed Jan 17, 2007 7:57 pm

The Contra Costa Times wrote:
Pacheco pot store ordered to close

By Ryan Huff
CONTRA COSTA TIMES
January 16, 2007

A Pacheco medical marijuana dispensary must shut down because it has operated for the past year without a proper zoning permit and stands in violation of the Contra Costa's moratorium on such facilities, county supervisors ruled today.

The supervisors voted unanimously after a contentious two-hour hearing that saw more than a dozen medical marijuana users speak out to save the Maricare shop, one of three in the county.

Maricare's attorney, however, promised to appeal the county's decision to Superior Court. Business owner Demetrio Ramirez said he never sought a land-use permit because it would prevent or delay him from opening his dispensary.

"Throughout California, they use that as a reason to throw up red flags," he said after the hearing. "They would hold emergency hearings and stop me."

The Board of Supervisors passed a moratorium in April preventing new medical marijuana facilities from opening in unincorporated areas of the county. Furthermore, county officials said, Maricare never applied for a use permit.

"It doesn't matter if this is marijuana, rice, beans or a widget," said Carlos Baltodano, county building inspection director. "The fact is they need a land-use permit."

Ramirez moved his business from Concord last year after the City Council passed a ban on medical marijuana dispensaries.

Two sanctioned medical marijuana businesses -- in Richmond and El Sobrante -- remain in Contra Costa County. Others East Bay facilities are located in Berkeley and Oakland.

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Many CA Residents Worry About Cost of Marijuana ID Card

Postby palmspringsbum » Sun Feb 18, 2007 5:47 pm

KCBS 740 AM wrote:
Posted: Monday, 12 February 2007 2:18PM

Many CA Residents Worry About Cost of Marijuana ID Card

KCBS 740 AM

MARTINEZ, Calif. (KCBS) -- An impending state increase in the cost of medical marijuana identification cards has both county health officials and medicinal marijuana users in Contra Costa concerned about its potential financial impact.

Medical marijuana users in Contra Costa say the impending increase in the state-issued cards could "break the bank" for those living on fixed incomes.

KCBS' Dave Padilla Reports

Contra Costa's Director of Communicable Disease Control Francie Wise told KCBS' Dave Padilla the ID cards will cost substantially more, beginning March First.

In the county, the cost of a card will rise from $75 to more than $200 and that's not including the purchase of the medicinal marijuana.

"Well, my concern about the increase in fees for the medical marijuana program is that people who have very little money or who have a fixed income are not going to be able to get one of the cards," said Wise.

One medicinal marijuana user who was leaving a dispensary in Pacheco said the impending increase will have an adverse impact on his bottom-line.

"I'm getting by on a very thin thread now. I'll have to do it myself or do it illegally."

He also said he foresees other medicinal marijuana users going to the streets to buy their supply, adding that route could be dangerous for many, including the elderly.

The increase is affecting all medical marijuana dispensaries in California that are part of the state program.


Copyright 2007, KCBS. All Rights Reserved.
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Contra Costa Supervisors Move To Ban Pot Clubs

Postby palmspringsbum » Sun Jan 20, 2008 4:48 pm

cbs5 wrote:Jan 15, 2008 3:16 pm

Contra Costa Supervisors Move To Ban Pot Clubs

cbs5

MARTINEZ (BCN) ― Contra Costa County supervisors took a step today toward permanently banning medical marijuana clubs in unincorporated areas of the county.

The county's current temporary moratorium on new medical marijuana facilities is set to expire April 10.

The board voted unanimously Tuesday to direct the community development department and county counsel to prepare an ordinance that would amend the county code to prohibit all land uses that violate state or federal law, thereby banning medical marijuana dispensaries.

Even if the final ordinance were passed, it would not affect the one remaining facility in the unincorporated community of El Sobrante because it was established before the emergency moratorium. The facility, however, could still be subject to enforcement from the federal government.

In December, the property owner where the El Sobrante facility is located received a letter from the U.S. Department of Justice notifying them that having the dispensary on the property violates federal law. The letter also said that the state's Proposition 215 is not a defense to the crime, according to the supervisors' staff report.

District Attorney Robert Kochly said that the Department of Justice had begun to crack down on medical marijuana facilities as well as holding landlords responsible as aiders and abeters for knowingly leasing property to people dispensing medical marijuana.

Supervisor Mary Piepho said the medical marijuana task force had discussed the possibility of trying to regulate the facilities, but decided that the county didn't have the resources for that extent of regulation.

Kochly said that he didn't believe that any amount of enforcement could stop people from abusing the access provided by medical marijuana dispensaries.

According to Kochly, anybody with a few hundred dollars in cash can pay a doctor to write a prescription for medical marijuana. He said he supported use of marijuana to treat serious medical conditions, but that he had seen people with written recommendations from doctors for use of marijuana to treat insomnia, depression and grief, which he did not consider legitimate medical uses.

Banning the facilities altogether in unincorporated areas would not impact the regulations incorporated cities had set up to govern the facilities.

The ordinance will go to the county planning commission Jan. 29 for consideration and will likely go to the full board for consideration in February.

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Discovery Bay raids net 160 marijuana plants

Postby palmspringsbum » Mon Feb 11, 2008 8:57 pm

The Contra Costa Times wrote:
Discovery Bay raids net 160 marijuana plants

By Matthias Gafni
STAFF WRITER
The Contra Costa Times
Article Launched: 02/07/2008 03:08:25 AM PST


<table class=posttable align=right width=300><tr><td class=postcell><img class=postimg width=300 src=bin/contra-costa_grow-house.jpg></td></tr></table>DISCOVERY BAY -- From Stephen Hernandez's back yard you can watch Discovery Bay Country Club golfers tee off from the Par 4, 380-yard 13th hole. Hook a drive far enough, and a golfer could even roll a shot right up to his swimming pool.

Despite the expensive view his rented golf course home afforded him, though, Hernandez covered all his windows with thick black tarps and foam. He eschewed the view, preferring his privacy.

Police say there was a reason for the secrecy. They allege that Hernandez was running a 110-plant marijuana operation, using two upstairs bedrooms to grow his own cash crop.

Hernandez stole electricity by dangerously bypassing the Pacific Gas & Electric meter, police say. He strung high-wattage hydroponics lights over beds of plants and installed a sophisticated irrigation system that pumped in water and fertilizer chemicals. He tweaked the upstairs ventilation system, pumping the marijuana stench into the attic.

"This is an indication that these grows are not only in the quote-unquote bad areas but also in the good areas," sheriff's spokesman Jimmy Lee said.

Hernandez's home in the 1700 block of Cherry Hills Drive was one of four Discovery Bay houses raided Wednesday by about two dozen investigators led by the Contra Costa Sheriff's Office Narcotics Unit. Detectives found two active marijuana grow operations, remnants of two others, piles of equipment and plants with a combined street value estimated at more than $300,000, Sgt. Jeff Moule said.

A Times reporter and photographer accompanied the team for most of the early morning busts.

Two weeks ago, the same unit raided five East County houses, seizing more than 6,000 marijuana plants valued at $10 million. Five people were arrested at houses in Oakley, Brentwood and Antioch.

Since September, the narcotics unit has raided 10 East County houses. Many of the growers had valid medical marijuana cards but they easily surpassed the six-plant maximum allowable by state law.

Detective Ian Gibson said Hernandez, who had a license, told him he would sell his marijuana to dispensaries. From the golf course home, Gibson and his team removed 110 mature plants, some hanging dry off plastic hangars, 12 large lamps, 12 ballasts to magnify the electrical current, $887 in cash and other equipment.

<table class=posttable align=left width=272><tr><td class=postcell><img class=postimg src=bin/contra-costa_grow-equipment.jpg></td></tr></table>Hernandez, 29, was arrested on suspicion of cultivating marijuana, bypassing a power source and operating a clandestine lab.

As officers cataloged evidence Wednesday, they walked around the damaged and dirty interior of the two-story house. A plastic bong sat on the living room counter next to a Buddha statue with the end of a joint sticking out its mouth. Beside a pile of pornographic magazines and videos sat two Cheech and Chong plastic figurines still in their boxes.

The homeowner, who rented to Hernandez, arrived at the scene and said he was "shocked."

"I never got a single call from anyone about him until I got a call this morning saying the cops were at the house," said the owner, who asked that his name not be used.

A PG&E technician worked on the electricity near the driveway. Illegal growers often skirt the power grid by creating crude wiring to bypass the PG&E meter, saving thousands of dollars in electricity costs but creating a "stick of dynamite," said Capt. Daniel Terry, who supervises the narcotics team.

"It's an extreme danger to local residents," Terry said. "From a first responder's perspective, entering one of these places during a fire ... the house becomes a stick of dynamite."

On Wednesday, detectives confiscated 50 mature marijuana plants and numerous pieces of growing equipment at a home in the 1200 block of Beach Court, deputies said. They arrested John Parker, 40, of Discovery Bay on suspicion of cultivating marijuana and bypassing a power source. He also had a medical marijuana license.

"This was not in keeping with the intent of Proposition 215," Sgt. Moule said

Hernandez and Parker were booked into County Jail in Martinez.

The narcotics team raided two other houses in the 2400 block of Bixler Road and the 1200 block of Discovery Bay Boulevard, but they only found marijuana growing equipment. No other arrests were made.

Reach Matthias Gafni at 925-779-7174 or mgafni @bayareanewsgroup.com.

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County may snuff out pot dispensaries

Postby palmspringsbum » Wed Feb 27, 2008 11:18 pm

The Contra Costa Times wrote:County may snuff out pot dispensaries

<span class=postbigbold>Suppliers could be banned from opening in unincorporated areas</span>

By Ryan Huff
STAFF WRITER
The Contra Costa Times
Article Launched: 02/25/2008 03:02:59 AM PST


<table class=posttable align=right width=300><tr><td class=postcell><img class=postimg width=300 src=bin/bruno_donuel.jpg></td></tr></table>Donuel Bruno has a list of ailments: inverted scoliosis, degenerative disk disease, carpal tunnel syndrome, insomnia.

Simply walking across a room or sitting for a half-hour caused him extreme pain until he discovered the remedy for his health problems -- medical marijuana.

The 38-year-old Oakley resident gets his marijuana from a dispensary and uses a vaporizer to breath in a mist of THC, the active chemical in the sap of a cannabis plant.

"It's been the best thing I've ever done in my life," he said. "The other medicines don't work."

Bruno and others who use medical marijuana in Contra Costa are about to face barriers to access. County supervisors Tuesday are expected to pass an ordinance that would ban medical marijuana dispensaries in unincorporated areas.

Such facilities have not been allowed to open since the county approved a temporary moratorium in April 2006. That moratorium lapses April 10, the reason supervisors are rushing to pass a permanent ordinance that bans land uses that violate state or federal law.

Using marijuana -- even for medical purposes -- is illegal under federal law, according to a 2005 Supreme Court ruling. This conflicts with a state law voters passed in 1996 -- Proposition 215 -- that allows residents with certain medical conditions to use marijuana with a doctor's recommendation.

The county would make one notable exception with the ordinance. M.E.D.'s Dispensary in El Sobrante -- the only legal medical marijuana business in the unincorporated county -- would be allowed to remain open since it applied for a land-use permit before the 2006 moratorium.

Bruno buys his medical marijuana at the El Sobrante dispensary, but said he's concerned there will never be a cannabis club closer to his Oakley home.

"To block dispensaries out of this county, it's a slap in the face to the people who voted for the (1996) Compassionate Use Act," also known as Prop. 215, he said.

The man who runs M.E.D.'s Dispensary, Buzz Fowler, said patients with cancer and other diseases don't have enough places close to home to acquire medical marijuana.

"The best thing for the patients is not to have to drive a 60- to 80-mile round trip to get to me," he said. "How stupid do I sound to say, 'Go ahead and break up my monopoly and build two new facilities?' The county wants to keep people from selling it on the street, but they don't allow places for people to buy it legally."

There are other ways that seriously and terminally ill residents can use medical marijuana legally, said Supervisor Mary Piepho of Discovery Bay.

For example, Prop. 215 allows those with a doctor's recommendation to cultivate their own marijuana plants for medical purposes.

"The community impacts of a dispensary are intense," Piepho said, citing litter, crime and smells from a dispensary. "And the cities still have the discretion to decide how they want to regulate dispensaries."

Too often people with questionable medical ailments use dispensaries as a means to buy marijuana and then sell it on the street, said District Attorney Robert Kochly.

He doesn't keep statistics on how often that happens, but anecdotally Kochly could think of three incidents in the past two years where high school or college students in Concord, El Cerrito and Moraga were selling marijuana they obtained at dispensaries.

"In California, we basically have legitimized the drug trade," he said. "I don't think there is any way to properly regulate dispensaries."

Still, that doesn't mean Contra Costa residents will be without medical marijuana, he said. The El Sobrante dispensary remains open and there are others in Berkeley, Oakland and San Francisco.

"In the Bay Area, other jurisdictions are always going to allow these businesses," Kochly said. "Our residents will have a place to go."

Ryan Huff covers Contra Costa County government. Reach him at 925-977-8471 or rhuff@bayareanewsgroup.com.

<span class=postbold>MEDICAL MARIJUANA LAWS</span>

A look at how some East Bay cities have opted to regulate medical marijuana dispensaries:

<span class=postbold>Regulates medical marijuana dispensaries:</span> Berkeley, Oakland

<span class=postbold>Bans uses that violate federal or state law:</span> Hercules, Lafayette

<span class=postbold>Ban:</span> Concord, Dublin, Livermore, Pinole, Pleasant Hill, Pleasanton, San Pablo

<span class=postbigbold>IF YOU GO</span>

Contra Costa supervisors are scheduled to discuss the ban on medical marijuana dispensaries at 11 a.m. Tuesday. The meeting will take place at the supervisors' chambers at 651 Pine St. in Martinez.

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Contra Costa supes ban medical marijuana dispensaries

Postby palmspringsbum » Fri Feb 29, 2008 1:35 am

Fog City Journal wrote:
Contra Costa supes ban medical marijuana dispensaries

By Caitilin McAdoo
Fog City journal
February 26, 2008

Contra Costa County Supervisors voted unanimously today to permanently ban medical marijuana dispensaries in unincorporated areas of the county.

The ordinance prohibits all land uses that violate state or federal law, thereby banning medical marijuana dispensaries through an amendment of county code.

The ordinance does not prohibit people from growing medical marijuana in their homes or in small groups for personal use under the Compassionate Use Act of 1996.

The county has had a moratorium on new dispensaries in unincorporated areas since April 2006.

A facility in El Sobrante will not be affected by the new ban because it was established legally before the moratorium went into effect.

The facility, however, could still be subject to enforcement from the federal government.

The problem has been that while supervisors have said they support the use of marijuana for legitimate medical purposes, too many people have allegedly been abusing the privileges allowed under the act and medical marijuana dispensaries have reportedly attracted crime and become community nuisances.

Because the sheriff’s office reportedly doesn’t have the resources to regulate the dispensaries, supervisors decided instead to treat the matter as a land use issue.

Linda Jackson, who was a nurse for many years and who uses medical marijuana, said the decision to ban dispensaries put patients at risk. Safe access to marijuana continues to be a major issue for her and many other patients. She said growing it in her home was not an option.

“I have children and grandchildren,” she said. “I don’t hide what I do, but it puts them at risk, too.”

“The issue deserves leadership, not a knee-jerk reaction,” said Dimitrio Ramirez, founder of Mericare, a dispensary located in Pacheco that now serves patients mainly as a delivery service.

Ramirez continued to rail against the supervisors’ decision even after officials turned off his microphone.

Armando Soto said banning dispensaries would move the problem into residential neighborhoods where there would be no possibility of regulation.

“I think it’s a recipe for disaster,” Soto said. On the other side of the issue, Harold Parsley, a member of Contra Costa Health Services Alcohol and other Drugs Advisory Board, told supervisors he believed medical marijuana was a danger to the community, both as a so called “gateway drug” and as a “drug of choice.”

The Contra Costa County Sheriff’s office and the District Attorney’s office also support the ordinance.

During a hearing on the issue in January, District Attorney Robert Kochly said that he didn’t believe that any amount of enforcement could stop people from abusing the access provided by the Compassionate Use Act.

The ordinance passed today does not impact regulations put in place in within the county.

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Medical marijuana dispensaries banned

Postby palmspringsbum » Fri Feb 29, 2008 2:51 pm

The San Jose Mercury News wrote:
Medical marijuana dispensaries banned

By Ryan Huff
STAFF WRITER
The San Jose Mercury News
Article Launched: 02/27/2008 09:36:51 AM PST


Medical marijuana dispensaries won't be allowed to open in Contra Costa's unincorporated areas as county supervisors Tuesday unanimously agreed to ban them.

Too often dispensaries are a gateway for people with questionable medical ailments to obtain marijuana and then sell it on the streets, supervisors said.

"While I am empathetic to patients with serious and terminal illness, the marijuana dispensaries have attracted both criminal and nuisance problems to the communities where they operate," said Supervisor Mary Piepho of Discovery Bay.

Such facilities have been prohibited since the county approved a temporary moratorium in April 2006. But that moratorium expires April 10, which is why supervisors fast-tracked the permanent ordinance banning land uses that violate state or federal law.

Using marijuana -- even for medical purposes -- is illegal under federal law, according to a 2005 U.S. Supreme Court ruling. This conflicts with a state law voters passed in 1996 that permits residents with certain medical conditions to use marijuana with a doctor's recommendation.

M.E.D.'s Dispensary in El Sobrante -- the only legal medical marijuana business in the unincorporated county -- can remain open since it applied for a land-use permit before the 2006 moratorium.

Banning new facilities will inspire a black market for medical marijuana sales, patient advocates told supervisors.

"The smart thing to do would be to regulate these (dispensaries) and have a safe environment rather than people having to go through backdoor means," said Armando Soto with Americans for Safe Access, a medical marijuana advocacy group.

Demetrio Ramirez, who used to run a Pacheco dispensary, yelled at the supervisors and had to be asked repeatedly to sit down after his three-minute speaking limit was up. County officials shut down his dispensary -- called Maricare -- last year because it violated the moratorium and didn't have a proper zoning permit.

"Maricare provides care for terminally ill patients," Ramirez said. "You have signed a death warrant."

Supervisors said that patients are still free to smoke marijuana in their homes for medical purposes or grow it themselves, as permitted by state law.

"The use of (medical) marijuana is allowed by patients who qualify," said Supervisor Susan Bonilla of Concord. "We're not changing that provision."

Ryan Huff covers Contra Costa County government. Reach him at 925-977-8471 or rhuff@bayareanewsgroup.com.
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