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San Bernardino County Planners Recommend Pot Dispensary Ban

Jim Finnel

Fallen Cannabis Warrior & Ex News Moderator
The San Bernardino County Planning Commission voted Thursday to recommend a ban on medical marijuana dispensaries over the objections of more than two dozen patients and medical marijuana advocates.

Opponents of the ban gathered on the sidewalk in front of the County Government Center before the meeting to protest the proposed ban and what they expected to be a decision not to allow them to speak at the commission meeting. Some carried signs saying "Your refusal to implement state law is killing people" and "Legal medical marijuana now."

In the end, after consulting with county lawyers, the commissioners allowed them to speak. They told commissioners that a provision in the proposed law that would prohibit outdoor marijuana cultivation poses a hardship. Some also contended that banning dispensaries would encourage medical marijuana users to turn to drug dealers for their medicine.

"What our regulation is about is not about your use of medical marijuana," Commissioner Audrey Mathews said. "Our regulation is about land use. You can outdoor cultivate as long it is covered and has four walls," she said.

The hearing became testy at times, with medical marijuana advocates accusing the commissioners of ignoring their medical needs and of aiding the cause of drug cartels. One speaker was escorted out of the meeting room by a sheriff's deputy after lingering at the microphone beyond the three-minute time limit.

A two-year moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries in the county is set to expire in June. It had been enacted after a federal court ruled against the county in its challenge of a state law legalizing medical marijuana passed by voters in 1996.

County planning-staff members contend that a federal law still stands that categorizes marijuana as a dangerous drug. With 19 of San Bernardino County's 24 incorporated cities having already enacted permanent dispensary bans, county Principal Planner Judy Tatman warned the commission that unincorporated areas could become a magnet for pot distributors.

The proposed ordinance would outlaw dispensaries, defining them as any group of three or more people involved in cultivating or distributing marijuana.

It also would ban patients from growing marijuana outdoors. The only exception would be at state health facilities, such as nursing homes or hospices.

Lanny Swerdlow, a nurse and medical marijuana advocate who helped organize Thursday's protest, said he expects advocates to mount a legal challenge if the Board of Supervisors enacts the ban.

He challenged claims by law enforcement agencies that crime would go up if dispensaries opened, quoting a Denver study that showed a decline in crime after dispensaries opened there.

NewsHawk: Jim Behr: 420 MAGAZINE
Source: pe.com
Author: Darrell R. Santschi
Copyright: 2011 Enterprise Media
Contact: PE.com
Website: San Bernardino County planners recommend pot dispensary ban
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