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Registered: 07/26/04
Posts: 13,985
Loc: Flag
The race is on to open pot clubs [CA]
    #4262596 - 06/06/05 04:17 AM (12 years, 10 months ago)

Alameda County races sheriff's deadline to license its clubs
Jun. 05, 2005 - mercurynews.com/

OAKLAND - On Tuesday, Alameda County will become the first county in the state to pass its own law overseeing the operations of medical marijuana dispensaries -- or else.

Though the proposed law has been reviewed for a year by committees and community groups, it comes before the Board of Supervisors amid an air of urgency, because Sheriff Charles Plummer has threatened to shut down the county's seven medical cannabis dispensaries if a law is not passed within the next two weeks.

Since the board does not meet June 14, Tuesday is likely to be the last time the county can pass its law before the June 17 deadline Plummer set in April.

Plummer was out of town Friday. His position has not changed, said Assistant Sheriff Robert Maginnis: "The sheriff has been very clear that by the middle of June the board needs to get off the dime or we're going to invoke federal law and close down those clubs."

The law would require dispensaries to obtain a county license, contingent on passing a background check and facility inspection performed by the sheriff's office.

Dispensaries would be barred from operating within 1,000 feet of one another and would also be barred from being within 1,000 feet of any school.

The draft law suggests that only five dispensaries be allowed in unincorporated areas; Supervisors Alice Lai Bitker and Scott Haggerty are on record saying they want three at most.

Haggerty said he's less concerned about Plummer's threats of a shutdown than he is about ensuring the county law doesn't inadvertently help recreational marijuana users find a way to legally obtain their drug.

'I don't feel like I'm up against the wall because of the sheriff's ultimatum, because if he acts to (shoot) down these clubs I would be all right with that," Haggerty said. "It's more important that we pass a law that truly clarifies the rules of the game."

Sparky Rose, who operates Compassionate Caregivers dispensary on E. 14th St., near San Leandro, said he believes Plummer's threat could be a good thing, because it probably will move the county to action when otherwise the talks could drag on.

"If we open this up to more discussion, I think we're looking at three to four more months at least," Rose said.

Local governments around the state are scrambling to find ways to oversee the distribution of marijuana under state Proposition 215, which made marijuana legal to grow and possess for medical needs.

Though cities like Oakland and Berkeley have passed such laws, none of California's 58 counties has finalized an ordinance, said Dale Gieringer, California coordinator for National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

Alameda County supervisors were poised to pass a law May 24, but backed off after a contentious four-hour hearing at which the board decided the proposal was too vague. The county's legal staff has since added new requirements to the proposal the board will consider Tuesday.

Requirements include: On-site consumption of marijuana will be allowed only through the use of a vaporizer, a device that releases psychoactive substances in marijuana but does not produce smoke.

Any dispensary near a school will be required to close down its operations for 90 minutes after the close of school each day. The draft law does not define "close," so county officials will still need to establish such a parameter.

Nobody under 18 would be allowed at a county-licensed dispensary. Each dispensary must have a men's and a women's restroom, a provision attached after the operator of one dispensary near San Leandro told the board last month that his facility had no restrooms, even though it serves up to 400 people each day.

Dispensaries will not be allowed to make door-to-door deliveries of marijuana.

Critics have blasted the proposed law for setting limits that are arbitrary, and not based on patient need. They say reducing the number of dispensaries in unincorporated Alameda County to five or fewer will worsen loitering and other problems that have been associated with the seven current operations near Hayward, San Leandro and Castro Valley.

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