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Santa Cruz Could Extend Moratorium On New Medical Pot Dispensaries

Jim Finnel

Fallen Cannabis Warrior & Ex News Moderator
City leaders on Tuesday will consider extending a 45-day moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries passed last month for another 10 months and 15 days to meet staff's request for more time to examine the issue.

But one entrepreneur, who hopes to open a shop on Mission Street, wondered if the extension instead would drain city resources and dampen Santa Cruz's full tourism potential.

"I don't want city planners to do this study when there's much higher priority items to take care of," said David Manolos of San Jose, who in May applied to open TheraLeaf Careness Center on Mission Street at Younglove Avenue.

Manolos also wondered if the moratorium is driving away tourists who might combine a visit to the dispensary with a day hanging out in Santa Cruz, thus depriving the city of needed tax revenue.

At issue is a temporary ban on new medical marijuana dispensaries after a surge in interest since President Barack Obama's administration said earlier this year that federal raids on medical marijuana dispensaries would cease. The shops, which sell marijuana to patients with a prescription, are legal under state law but illegal under federal rules.

When the moratorium was approved last month, two applications were on file, one for TheraLeaf and another for Westside Medicinal Cannabis Collective. Stuart Kriege, applicant for the latter, hoped to open on Ingalls Street across from the Swift Street Courtyard complex.

Two more applications were in the pipeline, planners said, and calls were coming in everyday from entrepreneurs up and down the West Coast, city officials said.

That interest prompted the City Council to approve the moratorium and give staff time to review current rules governing dispensaries in Santa Cruz. Tuesday's extension, to be considered at a regular council meeting, would give planners a full year to see if anything needs to be changed or tightened.

Without an extension, "If we have changes that need to go to the planning commission and the council, there's just not time to do it," said Alex Khoury, assistant planning director.

Rich Hansen, owner of Java Bob's Coffee Roasting on Ingalls Street, said he supports the extension to ensure staff is able to thoroughly review existing rules, which were written almost a decade ago. Hansen said dispensaries should be regulated like liquor stores, where city leaders limit the number allowed in town and where shoppers can consume their purchases, among other issues.

"Unless we want [dispensaries] every city block," Hansen said, "it's probably wise that they think out a complete policy that they can live with for many years to come."

Councilwoman Lynn Robinson agreed.

"Since its been 10 years since the ordinances were written, it's very appropriate that we're reviewing it at this time and looking at changes we might want to make," she said.

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Source: San Jose Mercury News
Copyright: 2009 San Jose Mercury News
Contact: Help - San Jose Mercury News
Website: http://www.mercurynews.com/centralcoast/ci_12888595
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