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Tehama County Planners Vote to Ban Pot Dispensaries

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California--After nearly two hours of discussion and speculation Thursday, county planners voted to recommend an outright ban on medical marijuana dispensaries, for now.

The Tehama County Planning Commission was hit with the task of reviewing zoning ordinances created during four study sessions, that began in November 2009, with the county supervisors, Assistant County Counsel Arthur Wylene and Planning Director John Stoufer.

The ordinances apply to land use, whether dispensaries should be allowed to operate on county lands or not.

A temporary prohibition, or moratorium, of the establishment and operation of marijuana dispensaries in Tehama County has been in effect.

However, the moratorium will expire Sept. 14, 2011, and cannot be extended, Wylene said. If a new ordinance is to be adopted, it must be done no later than mid-August, he said.

The planning commission first looked at the ordinances on May 19, to either ban or regulate the establishment of dispensaries. With a mixed bag of concerns and with a potentially split vote, they pushed any decision ahead two weeks.

At Thursday's meeting, only three of the five commissioners were present. Commissioners Kim Tipton and Tom Gano, who had said they were more supportive of a regulation ordinance at the previous meeting, were absent.

In a 3-0 vote, the commission decided to disapprove the regulation ordinance and approve the ordinance to ban marijuana dispensaries in the
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county.

District 1 Commissioner Don Jones, who spoke very little during the meeting and who was absent at the previous meeting, voiced his concerns before voting.

"I'm very upset that we're asked to make this kind of decision on something that has such high emotional value to our citizens," Jones said.

Admitting to being socially liberal, feeling that people can and should do what they want in their own homes, he is fiscally conservative, he said. The way the law is written is not something he could support.

Commissioner Lynn DeFreece, District 2, who told the commission he was ready to vote for an outright ban at the previous meeting, brought up several areas of concern.

With either decision, there's no way to win, he said.

"It's hanging on a razor blade banister and not letting go," DeFreece said.

District 5 Commissioner, Chairman Delbert David, also balked at the uncertainties of medical marijuana legislation.

"I firmly believe that medical marijuana has a place in our society," he said.

There is just insufficient information and guidance from the federal level, David said. Such an important issue needs to be made clear and concise.

"I cannot go forward with a law called a 'grey law,'" David said.

Returning advocates, both for and against dispensaries, Richard Clapp, Kathy Nelson and Robert Alejandre, spoke during a public comment portion of the meeting.

Alejandre supports having well-regulated dispensaries to give veterans a safe way to obtain medical marijuana and to contribute financially to the community.

Street dealers are "licking their chops" for profits when low income and disabled people, namely veterans, have to look to illegal means for their medicine and aren't able to grow their own, he said.

Kathy Nelson has spoken against "grocery store" dispensaries and in support of small, patient-focused collectives.

David, who interrupted two of the speakers multiple times, made it clear that he would only allow them to speak about "something new" that they hadn't brought before the county officials before.

Arthur Giles told commissioners he had never touched marijuana before he turned 69. Then, his wife was diagnosed with a terminal disease and given 10 months to live, he said. The doctors pushed her to eat marijuana-laced cookies.

Giles was advocating for honest dispensary operations to be allowed to continue so people like his dying wife could get medication.

Commissioners asked Sheriff Dave Hencratt to step forward to answer questions about the law enforcement point of view.

DeFreece asked how the sheriff's department would be affected taking into consideration budget constraints and law enforcement should dispensaries be allowed to operate.

There will be more work to do, Hencratt said.

"We still have the issue of how the marijuana gets to the dispensaries," Hencratt said.

Transporting marijuana to distribute or sell still needs law enforcement, he said. His job is to collect evidence and enforce the law, but it is the court's job to interpret and judge.

Law enforcement is seeing an increase in transportation of marijuana and related crimes, Hencratt said. However, those people who have recommendations for medical marijuana and who are behaving legally are left alone.

"It's fair to let you guys know that there are a lot of people that stay within the law," Hencratt said.

The commission discussed options for permit fees to recover money spent on law enforcement and regulation and tracking dispensary patients through various means.

Neither issue had conclusive solutions.

The next step will be to send the commission's recommendations back to the board for a public hearing. The supervisor's may then make a decision to accept the planning commission's recommendation or to adopt a different ordinance.

The issue should come before the board either late June or early July to give the board time to meet the August deadline, Wylene said.


News Hawk- Jacob Ebel 420 MAGAZINE
Source: contracostatimes.com
Author: Andrea Wagner
Contact: Contact Us
Copyright: Bay Area News Group
Website: Tehama County Planners vote to ban pot dispensaries
 
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