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US - Action Held On Cannabis Club Permits

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CA - Alameda County supervisors delayed passing a law to license medical marijuana dispensaries, despite threats by the county sheriff that he will move to shut down seven pot distribution points in the county without it.

The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday postponed any action on a proposed dispensary law until at least June 7. That means the county will be bumping right up against a June 17 deadline set by Sheriff Charles Plummer because the law must survive two readings by the board before it takes effect.

Plummer said Tuesday he would extend his deadline -- as long as he sees movement by the county to adopt a law.

"Four days is no big deal," he said. "As long as they're committed to getting this done."

County Supervisor Nate Miley asked for a two-week delay to give his colleagues more time to develop provisions of the proposed law, including the criteria that will be used to decide which operations get a county license.

Currently, Alameda County is one of about 35 local jurisdictions in California that have banned new dispensaries while they work on local ordinances to regulate the operations.

Alameda County passed its moratorium last October, and has since extended it twice, after six clubs moved into the unincorporated Ashland and Cherryland areas. The clubs shifted to county land in the wake of a 2004 licensing law in Oakland that reduced the number of dispensaries allowed in that city from 12 to four.

Local governments around the state are scrambling to adopt regulations to oversee the distribution of marijuana to people who are entitled to it under state Proposition 215, which made marijuana legal to grow and possess for medical needs.

Alameda County has debated its own law for about a year, and its failure to enact an ordinance has frustrated Plummer, who feels his deputies must shoulder most of the responsibility for overseeing operations that have few limits on their activities.

In an April 18 letter to County Administrator Susan Muranishi, Plummer threatened to invoke federal law prohibiting marijuana and order a shut-down of the seven dispensaries in county jurisdiction if a local law was not passed in 60 days.

In the meantime, Plummer has been a hearty supporter of a novel proposal to distribute medical pot out of county-owned Fairmont Hospital in San Leandro. That proposal is still being studied by the county's legal staff, and probably won't move forward until the U.S. Supreme Court decides a pending case that could define more clearly how far authorities can go in enforcing federal laws banning marijuana.

The decision to hold off on a county dispensary law disappointed many who attended an exhausting 4-hour hearing Tuesday in which critics chided county supervisors for moving to cap the number of dispensaries.

While a draft of the law suggests only five dispensaries be allowed in unincorporated areas, two supervisors moved to lower the number to three.

Kris Hermes, legal support coordinator for Americans for Safe Access, a medical marijuana advocacy group, said the limits being discussed are arbitrary, and not based on any examination of patient need. He said the limits would worsen loitering and other problems that have been associated with the seven dispensaries now operating in unincorporated areas between Hayward, San Leandro and Castro Valley.

"There are lines outside the dispensary facilities that create problems," Hermes said. "You're inviting that type of problem by arbitrarily capping the number of dispensaries."

Other critics said the proposal would force the shut-down of three dispensaries doing business on East 14th Street near San Leandro, because all three are within 1,000 feet of a nearby middle school. The proposed law sets a 1,000-foot buffer zone around all schools.



Source: Contra Costa Times (CA)
Copyright: 2005 Knight Ridder
Contact: letters@cctimes.com
Website: East Bay Times - Contra Costa and Alameda county news, sports, entertainment, lifestyle and commentary
 
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