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No Marijuana Dispensary In Templeton


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County supervisors Tuesday barred a medical marijuana dispensary planned for Templeton, saying it was too close to a playground and did not fit with the character of the community.

The Board of Supervisors' 5-0 vote upheld two appeals that were filed after the county Planning Commission voted in January to allow the North County Resource Center to open.

"The biggest part of this whole thing is that the community is not accepting it," said Supervisor Harry Ovitt, whose district includes Templeton. He added that the lack of oversight of marijuana dispensaries contributed to his vote against the one proposed for Templeton.

Applicant Austen Connella said he would continue to fight for a location to open a marijuana dispensary on the Central Coast, looking for potential sites in Atascadero or possibly elsewhere in Templeton.

"There is a large demand and a need here," Connella said.

It took the Planning Commission three tries over nearly six months to reach the 3-2 decision made earlier this year to allow Connella to open the cannabis co-op.

A county ordinance allows dispensaries in unincorporated inland areas such as Templeton, but prohibits them from operating in downtown business districts or within 1,000 feet of any school, library, playground, park or youth recreation area.

The cities of Paso Robles, Morro Bay, Pismo Beach and Grover Beach have permanent or temporary bans of dispensaries. Atascadero voted in 2006 to craft an ordinance governing where dispensaries could operate in the city.

Paso Robles police Chief Lisa Solomon and Templeton resident David La Rue had filed appeals against the Planning Commission approval of the dispensary. They argued that the plan violated federal law, would increase crime and consequently affect local law enforcement and public service requests.

"The dispensary is not legal and it is not safe," Solomon said. "It is not safe for the patrons, management or of those living nearby."

Calling the co-op a "compromise to public safety," Solomon said criminal activity would increase in surrounding communities if the dispensary were allowed to open.

Solomon also called the county supervisors attention to Connella's MySpace account, which includes photographs of him smoking marijuana recreationally.

"Do these pictures portray someone responsible enough to run this facility in our community?" Solomon asked.

When asked by Supervisor Jerry Lenthall about the My- Space account, Connella responded that he supports the legalization of marijuana.

Nearly two hours of public comment addressed concerns of residents who oppose the opening of a local dispensary and included comments from those who support it.

Representatives of North County schools, law enforcement, parents and school children spoke passionately about keeping the dispensary out. Nearly 50 people attended.

"Isn't this sending a mixed message to our children?" parent Diana McPartlan asked.

Others spoke fervently about the medical relief prescribed marijuana brought to their lives.

"I consider this area a medically impoverished place," said Dennis Robison, who said smoking marijuana helped him overcome lung cancer.

Since federal agents raided the Central Coast Compassionate Caregivers in Morro Bay one year ago, the closest medical marijuana dispensaries to San Luis Obispo County are in Buellton and Santa Barbara.

The supervisors' decision does not prohibit dispensaries such as the one proposed by Connella from seeking a business license in other unincorporated areas of the county.

Source: Tribune, The (San Luis Obispo, CA)
Copyright: 2008 The Tribune
Contact: letters@thetribunenews.com
Website: San Luis Obispo County's website | Homepage
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