Proprietors of Marin's newest medical marijuana dispensary are locked in a battle with Marin County officials who have ordered the Santa Venetia outlet to cease operations immediately.
A county inspection is scheduled for next week at Tree of Life, a small business that has been operating in recent weeks at 292 N. San Pedro Road, between a Laundromat and a 7-Eleven store less than a mile east of the Marin Civic Center.
Tree of Life is the first dispensary in the unincorporated portion of the county. Other Marin dispensaries include Marin Alliance for Medical Marijuana in Fairfax; Marin Holistic Solutions and Going Green in Corte Madera; and Caregiver Compassion Center in Sausalito.
On March 17, county officials ordered the Santa Venetia operation to shut its doors within 15 days and schedule an inspection to prove compliance or face a code enforcement hearing and, if unsuccessful at the hearing, face fines of $2,500 per day per violation. Pending a ruling against the dispensary, if operations continue there the matter could go to court, county officials said.
An inspection will be conducted next week, but the group running the dispensary has no intention of halting operations, said Colleen Doherty, a San Anselmo land use attorney representing the dispensary she described as small, strictly controlled, protected by security cameras and staffed by knowledgeable people who follow state law.
"Tree of Life disputes that they are not allowed in Marin County," Doherty
said Friday, citing a 1992 ordinance passed by the county Board of Supervisors supporting the concept of medical marijuana use as proof it was OK to do business in the area.
"Right now there is no medical dispensary in the north part of the county, so there is nowhere for people to go," she said. "It's badly needed and we have a ordinance in the municipal code that says the Board of Supervisors fully support providing medical marijuana to people who need it.
"It's really a zoning dispute," Doherty said.
County officials disagree that the 1992 ordinance invites dispensaries to open in unincorporated areas.
"It's not a permitted use," said Brian Crawford, county planning director. "We don't have any specific permitted land use for medical marijuana dispensaries."
The 1992 ordinance, passed before medical marijuana became legal in California through Proposition 215 in 1996, "expresses compassion" for the ill people of Marin whose suffering is alleviated by medicinal marijuana use and supports federal and state representatives' interest in allowing its use for medical purposes, but makes no allowances for dispensaries in unincorporated Marin, county officials said. To allow such businesses to operate, the board would have to amend the development code to allow dispensaries as a permitted or conditional use, according to the county.
"Our position is that even though the board has made some support on medical marijuana, they have never ever adopted a policy on that, so we plan on following up," Sheriff Bob Doyle said. Specific action has not yet been determined, he said.
"It's in close proximity to schools - the 7-Eleven store has created some law enforcement issues," he said. "We're not making any value judgments about (medical marijuana). É We just don't think that's an appropriate location."
Santa Venetia resident Mary Feller agreed.
"I think my concerns are just that this is in the middle of a residential neighborhood," she said, saying she was concerned about the potential for crime and increased traffic in the area.
"In my personal view I am a total supporter of medical marijuana. I really want to be clear about that, but it needs to be appropriately sited and I think in the middle of a residential neighborhood is not an appropriate site."
NewsHawk: Ganjarden: http://www.420magazine.com/
Source: Contra Costa Times
Author: Jennifer Upshaw Swartz
Contact: Contra Costa Times
Copyright: 2010 Bay Area News Group
Website: County orders end to medical marijuana dispensary in Santa Venetia