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Hemet Wants To Keep Out Medical-Marijuana Dispensaries

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HEMET - Alarmed by recent queries about the possibility of opening medical-marijuana dispensaries, City Hall is rushing an ordinance that would ban such types of establishments inside the city limits.

The City Council, at a study session Tuesday, reviewed policies in neighboring cities and directed staff to draft an ordinance that council members could soon approve.

"I don't think I'm ready to set up drug houses," Councilman Eric McBride said at the study session.

He added that if marijuana is truly legal for medical use, it should be sold in pharmacies.

The council discussion was prompted when Planning Director Richard Masyczek said that in the last month, there have been three "fairly serious" queries to the department about requirements for setting up medical-marijuana dispensaries.

Advocates of medical marijuana use say the dispensaries provide a valuable service to patients and should not be banned in Hemet.

"It's certainly a hardship issue for patients," said Kris Hermes, spokesman for Americans for Safe Access, an Oakland-based advocacy group for medical-marijuana use and research. Hermes said patients who have no access locally to marijuana for medical use have to travel long distances to get it.

"There are people in Hemet, just like people in LA and Oakland, who need them," he said by phone.

Dege Coutee, president of Patient Advocacy Network, a Los Angeles-based medical-marijuana advocacy group, said the council needs to be better educated about the issue.

"These types of responses are based on the ignorance of the council between a medical recommendation and a prescription," she said by phone. "Just because they choose to ban an activity doesn't mean there's no need for it."

Hemet is one of at least seven Inland cities to discuss some kind of ordinance banning medical-marijuana dispensaries in the past year. Norco, Fontana and Redlands are also on that list. Earlier this year, federal drug enforcement authorities raided or closed four Inland marijuana dispensaries -- in Corona, Perris, Riverside and Norco.

State law approved by voters in 1996 allows people suffering from AIDS-related complications, cancer, multiple sclerosis, glaucoma and other diseases to use cannabis to relieve pain. Patients must first get a doctor's recommendation and can possess no more than 8 ounces of marijuana and six mature plants.

But marijuana use remains a federal crime, and federal officials view state and local laws as irrelevant.

At the Hemet council study session, Masyczek said the proponents of the potential medical-marijuana dispensaries did not identify themselves but inquired in detail about what steps are needed to set up such dispensaries.

Masyczek said he has determined that such establishments were not permitted in Hemet but said that the City Council should adopt an ordinance specifically prohibiting them.

"The clear intent is to prohibit marijuana dispensaries," he said.

At the study session, Masyczek gave the council a handout informing how several nearby cities have taken steps to deal with the issue:

Moreno Valley: City Council approved a moratorium in February 2007 prohibiting new marijuana dispensaries pending the city's study on potential impacts.

Murrieta and Temecula: Dispensaries are prohibited within all zoning districts.

Los Angeles: City Council approved a one-year moratorium in July prohibiting new dispensaries.

San Marcos: Dispensaries are prohibited within all zoning districts.

Source: Press-Enterprise (Riverside, CA)
Copyright: 2007 The Press-Enterprise Company
Contact: letters@pe.com
Website: PE.com | Southern California News | News for Inland Southern California
 
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