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Santa Cruz Considers Moratorium On New Medical Marijuana Dispensaries

Jim Finnel

Fallen Cannabis Warrior & Ex News Moderator
Almost every day, someone calls the city's Planning Department for information on how to open a medical marijuana dispensary.

Since the Obama administration announced in February that federal medical marijuana raids were over, Santa Cruz entrepreneurs have come to view dispensing the prescription drug - which is legal under state laws but illegal under federal ones - as a potentially safe and profitable business, said Assistant Planning Director Alex Khoury. Two applications have been filed for dispensaries on the Westside.

As a result of the interest, city leaders on Tuesday will consider a temporary moratorium on new medical pot shops while they review rules governing the businesses, including where they can operate and how many the city should allow. There are two existing shops in Harvey West.

Before President Obama took office, "I'd think we'd get an occasional call now and then," Khoury said. "But there was nowhere near the interest since, I think, the first of the year."

For those who operated medical marijuana dispensaries, which sell the drug to people with prescriptions, the fear of being raided during the Bush administration was real. Local advocates Valerie and Mike Corral, who run the patients' collective Wo/Men's Alliance for Medical Marijuana, were arrested in 2002 by federal agents, who seized more than 160 plants from the Davenport farm. The case pushed medical marijuana into the national spotlight. In protest of the raid, the Santa Cruz City Council allowed the Corrals to pass out marijuana to patients on City Hall steps later that year.

But now, city leaders will consider a 45-day moratorium on new dispensaries, allowing them to re-examine rules crafted in 2000 that govern the businesses. Currently, Khoury said, dispensaries are allowed in neighborhoods zoned for industrial or commercial use. Governments regulate liquor stores in a similar way, limiting where in a city they can do business and how many are allowed in town.

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.

Applications have been filed for dispensaries on Ingalls Street across from the Swift Street Courtyard complex, and on Mission Street about a block east of Safeway.

Stuart Kriege of Santa Cruz is applying to open the shop on Ingalls Street, and said he has been reaching out to neighbors to assure them that his dispensary would be well-run and responsible. He declined to elaborate on other details of his plan.

"We're trying to be good members of the community," Kriege said.

Councilman Don Lane said, considering the increase in interest, he supports a moratorium on new medical marijuana dispensaries to give the city time to ensure all rules are in order.

"I wouldn't want to send the signal that we're just trying to stop something," Lane said. "It's just taking a relatively brief moment to make sure we've got it right."

News Hawk: User: 420 MAGAZINE ® - Medical Marijuana Publication & Social Networking
Source: Santa Cruz Sentinel
Author: Genevieve Bookwalter
Copyright: 2009 Santa Cruz Sentinel
Contact: Contact us - Santa Cruz Sentinel
Website: Santa Cruz considers moratorium on new medical marijuana dispensaries - Santa Cruz Sentinel
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