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Neighbor Criticizes Medicinal Pot Club Near School

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Apr. 12, 00
San Jose Mercury News (CA)
by John Woolfolk
A day after Santa Cruz leaders approved a law sanctioning medicinal marijuana cooperatives, one such club has already drawn fire from neighbors. ``This just broadsided everyone here,'' said Robert Barandas, who is organizing a meeting next week over the situation. ``It's four doors down from an elementary school. This just shouldn't be operating in a residential neighborhood.''
Santa Cruz Cannabis Pharmaceuticals quietly set up shop this week in a Victorian on Seabright Avenue, half a block from Gault Elementary School on the edge of the Soquel Avenue commercial district. Neighbors did not find out about the club until it was featured Tuesday night in a TV newscast on the city council's unanimous approval of the medicinal marijuana law. The club's attorney, Kate Wells, said neighbors have nothing to fear and should be more understanding. Marijuana won't be smoked on the premises, only given to the club's 80 or so members after their medical needs are verified, she said. ``We aren't doing anything a pharmacy doesn't do,'' Wells said. ``It's not a party. We're dispensing medicine to sick people. Parents should be teaching their children compassion for sick people.'' Wells said her club is in a commercial zone and operates from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.
Gault Principal Diane Morgenstern said the matter ``is not a school issue.'' At least one parent said it wasn't an issue at all. ``You can go up and down the street here and find people smoking weed,'' said Matt Taylor as he picked up two of his kids, ages 8 and 11, at Gault. ``I don't worry about medical marijuana. These people are dying.'' Barandas, who is hosting a meeting on the issue Tuesday night at the Pacific Cultural Center, said he and other neighbors have no problem with sick people smoking pot. But they worry about kids walking to school past a place where marijuana is being distributed, and about cars coming and going throughout the day to pick up pot. Neighbors say they weren't told the new club planned to open there, and they worry about how much oversight the city will give such organizations. ``The city council passed this law with enough loopholes to drive a truck through,'' Barandas said. ``It was ill thought out and rushed through. There are a lot of technicalities that have to be thought out.''
City officials are still trying to determine how to monitor medicinal marijuana collectives. They expect to have a system in place by the time the law takes effect May 11. Santa Cruz Cannabis Pharmaceuticals is one of two new groups that have surfaced since the law was proposed. Councilman Mike Rotkin, co-author of the new law, said he did not know enough about the situation to be able to say whether the criticism of the new club is fair. That would depend upon whether the site is in fact commercial and how much traffic it draws, he said. ``They may have a valid complaint or they may just be paranoid about what medical marijuana is about,'' Rotkin said. ``I just need more information.''

Copyright: 2000 San Jose Mercury News