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Martinez Tweaks Medical Marijuana Dispensary Proposal

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Nug of the Month: Aug 2008
City leaders on Monday tweaked a proposal to allow medical marijuana dispensaries, but they did not address most of the concerns advocates have raised.

Vice Mayor Lara DeLaney and Councilman Mike Menesini, who sit on the city's Public Safety Subcommittee, agreed to consider additional changes before the draft ordinance is presented to the full City Council next month.

Martinez has had an ordinance allowing medical marijuana dispensaries on the books for nearly 10 years, but has never approved one. In the past few months, several groups seeking to open dispensaries have approached Martinez. In response to Police Chief Tom Simonetti's call for a ban on the facilities, the Public Safety Subcommittee has been considering changes to the existing ordinance.

The draft ordinance transfers authority for approving dispensaries from the Planning Commission to the city manager. The license would be valid for one year and is eligible for annual renewal. Once the council adopts the ordinance, one dispensary could operate for a six-month trial period with a maximum of three allowed in the city.

On Monday, DeLaney and Menesini agreed to raise the minimum age for dispensary employees from 18 to 21, to reduce the required distance from a public park from 1,000 feet to 300 feet, to permit dispensaries to deliver to patients and to allow sales of some devices, such as vaporizers.

However, they did not resolve questions about some of the key provisions of the ordinance such as restricting each dispensary to serving a maximum of 500 patients per month, capping monthly visits at 1,000, limiting dispensaries to a total floor area of 1,000 square feet and banning cash sales.

"The number of patients is less important than the viability of the dispensary and the way the dispensary is run," Menesini said.

City Attorney Jeff Walter, who drafted the ordinance, argued that he restricted the number of patients and visits to limit traffic at the dispensary and minimize impacts on neighbors.

While DeLaney endorsed the concept of allowing "holistic" dispensaries that offer yoga and massage, Menesini was unsure. However, he said the ordinance should not "overload" responsible dispensaries with regulations other businesses don't have to abide by, such as installing bulletproof glass. They struck that condition.

Other provisions include criminal background checks for licensees, requirement for on-site security personnel and cameras, and set hours of operation.

It also prohibits dispensaries from opening within 1,000 feet of schools, churches with schools or day care centers and facilities serving young people. Dispensaries must be located in commercial zoning districts no closer than 300 feet to residential parcels.

Christina Mota, 42, said she gets medical marijuana from the Berkeley Patients Group to help her deal with symptoms associated with multiple sclerosis.

"I would love for my tax dollars to support my community," said Mota, who has lived in Martinez for about six years.

Under the current proposal, patients may receive up to one ounce of dried marijuana per visit, but Mota believes the city should allow people to get as much as their doctors prescribe.

Of the 34 people who submitted comments on the ordinance – including three people who don't live in Martinez – 11 supported it, 20 were opposed and three indicated they would support the rules with a few changes. Critics said dispensaries would increase crime and lower property values.

NewsHawk: Ganjarden: 420 MAGAZINE
Source: San Jose Mercury News
Author: Lisa P. White
Contact: San Jose Mercury News
Copyright: 2010 San Jose Mercury News
Website: Martinez tweaks medical marijuana dispensary proposal