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Medical Pot A Burning Question


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It's a no for medical pot in Salinas -- for now.

The Salinas City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to enact a 45-day moratorium on establishment of medical marijuana dispensaries, but three council members want the issue fully researched to make sure patients who might need the drug have an opportunity to get it.

Councilwoman Jyl Lutes, whose first husband died of bone cancer when he was 30 years old, said he was given marijuana by the Department of Agriculture as part of an experiment. The marijuana eased his suffering, she said.

"If people need it and it will make life more bearable, then we need to look at it," Lutes said.

An unidentified petitioner made inquiries into opening a medicinal marijuana dispensary, and because the city has no ordinance on the matter, administrators asked council members to enact one while the issue could be studied.

Under voter-approved Proposition 215, "The Compassionate Use Act of 1996," people with certain diseases are allowed to use marijuana with a doctor's recommendation. But Proposition 215 clashes with federal law. In 2005 the Supreme Court ruled that California's pot law violated the U.S. Constitution's commerce clause. California's law does not protect a person from prosecution under federal law.

Police Cmdr. Trevor Iida, speaking before the council Tuesday, said a pot clinic could be a magnet for crime.

"That affects quality of life and safety," he told the council.

Patricia Barajas, a representative of the drug-counseling program Sun Street Centers, spoke against having medical pot clinics, saying that selling marijuana could send the wrong message to young people.

"We come across people who start using drugs earlier and earlier," she said. "Allowing dispensaries in the city is having them available indefinitely for our youth."

Lutes challenged that notion.

"I don't believe opening marijuana clinics will encourage more marijuana use among children any more than giving drugs to terminally ill patients will encourage the use of more drugs," she said.

There were people who spoke in favor of making the drug available to the sick.

"I have a friend who uses marijuana to increase his appetite because he's very sick," said Al Spindola, a Salinas resident who is on the Recreation-Parks Commission. "Forty-five days may be enough time to review the issue."

There are no medical marijuana clinics in Monterey County, and it is the third time in the past year that the issue has been brought before a municipality. Seaside and Marina have already banned such establishments.

Councilwoman Gloria de la Rosa, who is a nurse, asked the staff to research how many people in the city needed medical marijuana.

Councilman Sergio Sanchez, who has worked with terminally ill patients, said the public needs to make a differentiation between the drug's different uses.

"I see the benefits of it for medical uses and the negative effect in people who use it on the streets," he said. "The day you have some family member with AIDS or cancer, you'll want to give them whatever they need. (Marijuana) is allowed because it's needed."

Source: MontereyHerald.com
Author: Claudia Meléndez Salinas
Contact: cmelendez@montereyherald.com
Copyright: 2007 Monterey County Herald and wire service sources
Website: MontereyHerald.com : Monterey news, sports, jobs, homes, cars
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