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A Ukiah cannabis club with a branch in LA and some 20,000 customers has closed its doors after it said it got a warning that federal drug agents may be coming to close it down.
Scott Feil, who runs the United Medical Caregiver Clinic on North State Street, said Thursday that he believed the DEA would come to Ukiah to shut them down.
A second cannabis club on North State Street -- Compassionate Caregivers of Ukiah -- appeared to have shut down as well.
The buzz among marijuana dispensaries at the moment is that the federal Drug Enforcement Agency is linking up with the Internal Revenue Service to go after cannabis clubs. The LA branch of the UMCC voluntarily closed down Tuesday.
"The main decision to close (in Ukiah) was made because I have no defense," Feil said. "The defense was taken away. California voters' rights were taken away."
Feil refers to Monday's U.S. Supreme Court decision that gave federal drug agents authority to continue to prosecute medical marijuana growers, patients and caregivers despite Prop. 215, the California law that legalized medical marijuana use and cultivation.
According to Feil, the closest place for medical marijuana patients to buy marijuana now is in Oakland, and he predicted the Supreme Court decision would simply "drive people to the black market."
Theresa Schilling at state Attorney General Bill Lockyer's office said Thursday that while under state law medical marijuana remains legal, "the sad reality is, there is a risk."
Feil said he'd been told the DEA was in Ukiah Thursday, but Sheriff Tony Craver said Thursday he'd not heard of it. Craver said when the Supreme Court decision came down, he "had a hunch the DEA may crack down on the large scale dispensaries."
The medical marijuana dispensaries have become controversial in Ukiah, where many residents and government authorities have come to believe they are mostly serving recreational marijuana users through marijuana prescriptions written by doctors who are ready to provide them to anyone. They are said to reap hundreds of thousands of dollars in the process upon which they pay no taxes and still charge medical marijuana patients street prices for the pot they buy.
For those reasons, the city of Ukiah had passed an urgency ordinance in May putting a moratorium on more cannabis clubs.
Meanwhile, the city is continuing to move forward on backyard medical marijuana growing regulations.
The Ukiah Planning Commission on Wednesday night passed its version of an ordinance that will now go to the Ukiah City Council for consideration.
The ordinance would limit medical marijuana growing to state regulations which allow six mature and 12 immature plants at any time. Of those, the Planning Commission limited outdoor growing to two plants per patient or caregiver, but no more than four outdoor plants at any household. Also, outdoor plants must be no taller than 6 feet and must be kept at least 15 feet from the fence line.
All other plants would have to be grown in a secure, enclosed space either in the home itself or a shed, greenhouse or garage.
According to Planning Commissioner Judy Pruden, "A secure location is not a gated fence." The indoor operations must have roofs, doors and locks.
According to Pruden, the new regulations make medical marijuana growing in the city a "permitted use," which means that anyone who wants to grow it at home must get a use permit from the city. To do that, the patient or caregiver would have to show a medical marijuana ID card (available with a doctor's recommendation from the county health department by appointment) to city staff.
Also, any greenhouses or sheds that patients or caregivers want to build that would be bigger than 126 square feet would also have to conform to building codes and be permitted by the city.
Even though it was controversial, the commissioners also retained the suggested provision that no medical marijuana growing be allowed within 300 feet of schools, parks, rest homes, churches and recreation areas.
However, they allowed that any medical marijuana patients living in those restricted zones could appeal to the planning staff directly for an exemption.
Finally, the commission also recommends forming a five-member citizens advisory board to help mediate neighbor complaints -- particularly odor complaints -- surrounding medical marijuana growing. Pruden said she would like to see such a board formed under the auspices of the county health department.
"It could be effective in mediating the nuisance factors," Pruden said and lauded the medical marijuana proponents for the idea.
Included in that group were representatives of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws and the Medical Marijuana Patients Union, which Pruden said had written a very good "declaration of policy," which the commission adopted as it own introduction to the ordinance.
"It really set a positive note," she said.
The new growing ordinance will now go to the City Council, but Pruden points out that the council is not likely to be able to take it up before its meeting in the third week of July, and then even if it passed it would not take effect for 30 days.
That means, if the city extends the urgency moratorium on outdoor planting at its meeting next week, growers could lose what they consider important outdoor growing time in this season.
Well at least they're pursuing other ways, thats good news at least. Much harder for the DEA to prosecute all those homegrowers without state cooperation.
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