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East Palo Alto Pot Club Loses Appeal

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An East Palo Alto medical marijuana dispensary lost its bid this week to win the city's backing, and now its owners are contemplating the possibility of trying their luck in court.

The council in a 4-1 vote Thursday rejected an appeal Peninsula Caregivers Collective filed after Planning Division Manager Brent Butler denied it a use permit. Butler also determined that the city would need to amend its zoning code to allow pot clubs to set up shop.

Peninsula Caregivers, however, has been dishing up medical marijuana without East Palo Alto's permission for several months now.

"We in California have declared it to be medicine," Scot Candell, the collective's attorney, told council members at the hearing Thursday.

Candell argued no permit is actually required. The state has recognized marijuana as a medicine, he said, comparing the collective to a typical drug store that wouldn't need a permit to operate under zoning for the 1927 Bayshore Road location.

The area is also zoned for philanthropic and charitable institutions. The collective falls into that category because the state requires that it provide marijuana only to ill patients without making a profit, Candell said.

"Peninsula Caregivers is a legally operating medical marijuana collective in East Palo Alto," he said.

Mayor Carlos Romero disagreed.

"You paint with a very broad brush if you think this falls under a medical clinic," Romero said.

Council Member Ruben Abrica also took issue with Candell's argument.

"You do seem to imply ... that because we are a creature of the state we basically have no room to make interpretations of codes or interpretations of regulations," he said.

Abrica was also angered that the collective has decided to operate without the city's permission.

"The way we operate in East Palo Alto is that people go through the process," he said.

Among the dozen speakers at Thursday's hearing were the collective's owners, Darren Powell and Willie Beasley.

"The process failed us," Beasley said. "This council, the planning department failed us."

The council's rejection of the appeal follows a 3-1 decision last week to ban medical marijuana dispensaries. City staff is currently working on an amendment to the zoning code that would prohibit the facilities.

Candell acknowledged the council's earlier decision and argued that because the collective was established before it was made, the dispensary should be allowed to operate under a "legal nonconforming use."

After the meeting, Candell said his clients won't seek a zoning amendment. However, they may take the matter to court.

City officials, meanwhile, maintain that the collective has been operating illegally and could face fines for each day it has been in business since being sent a cease-and-desist letter on May 4. Interim City Attorney Valerie Armento said the city has not yet decided what to do next.

East Palo Alto police Chief Ron Davis, who has launched a criminal investigation into the collective, said this week that it poses a potential safety risk because it hasn't been approved by the city and police aren't able to regulate it.

News Hawk- Jacob Ebel 420 MAGAZINE
Source: mercurynews.com
Author: Jesse Dungan
Contact: Contact Us
Copyright: San Jose Mercury News
Website: East Palo Alto pot club loses appeal
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