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Pot Dispensary Moratorium Approved In Santa Cruz

Jim Finnel

Fallen Cannabis Warrior & Ex News Moderator
City leaders on Tuesday approved a 45-day moratorium on new medical marijuana dispensaries, giving city staff time to deal with an influx of inquiries from entrepreneurs.

"Apparently people all over the West Coast think Santa Cruz would be the perfect place to open this business," said Councilman Mike Rotkin, commenting on the surge in inquiries to the city Planning Department since President Barack Obama's administration said earlier this year that raids on medical marijuana dispensaries would cease.

Assistant Planning Director Alex Khoury said calls come in daily from people around Santa Cruz and California, as well as Oregon and Washington, who are interested in opening a dispensary. The shops, which sell marijuana to patients with a prescription, are legal under state law but illegal under federal rules.

The interest prompted the council to approve the moratorium so city staff has time to review current rules governing dispensaries to see if anything needs to be changed or tightened.

Some questioned if the city should limit the number of dispensaries allowed in town, similar to rules governing liquor stores. Already the dispensaries are limited to commercial or industrial neighborhoods, and two operate in Harvey West.

Public opinion in the council chambers was split, with some asking the council not to pass the moratorium because they want increased competition that would hopefully push down medical marijuana prices.

Others asked the moratorium be approved in order to prevent shops from opening in inappropriate locations.

Khoury said two applications were in the pipeline with two more poised to be filed.

Until last weekend, Westside resident Stuart Kriege had hoped his application for a dispensary on Ingalls Street, across from the Swift Street Courtyard complex, would be approved this summer after he met all existing rules and conditions. Now he fears the Planning Department will ask for more time to review the rules and, thus, a longer moratorium. That could push his city approval out another year, he said.

"We're getting railroaded," Kriege said.

But others, like Westside resident Michael Luffman, 45, were relieved Kriege won't be opening so soon.

"We think that having a dispensary in the neighborhood would be a step back," Luffman said.

Santa Cruz is the only municipality in the county that allows medical marijuana dispensaries. Greenway Compassionate Relief Inc., which opened in 2005, and the Santa Cruz Patients Collective, which opened in 2006, both do business in Harvey West.

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Source: San Jose Mercury News
Copyright: 2009 San Jose Mercury News
Contact: Help - San Jose Mercury News
Website: Pot dispensary moratorium approved in Santa Cruz - San Jose Mercury News
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