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Ventura Public Input Sought On Safe, Lawful Access To Medical Marijuana

Jim Finnel

Fallen Cannabis Warrior & Ex News Moderator
CA - Last fall, when dozens of medicinal marijuana users went to the Ventura City Council to urge it to show compassion and give them a legal place to get their medicine, the council responded just as every other community in Ventura County had in the past: It said no.

But then the council did something unexpected: It gave the crowd hope and a challenge.

The council adopted a 10-month moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries but directed city officials to use that time to further study the issue, hold public meetings and examine alternatives, including potential land-use language allowing medical marijuana cooperatives and collectives in certain areas of town.

The city plans two town halls on Thursday and April 1 to solicit public input and begin dialogue on how to allow safe and lawful access to medical marijuana. The 5:30 p.m. meetings are set in the Community Meeting Room at City Hall, 501 Poli St.

The council has opposed for-profit dispensaries but expressed a willingness to look at possible rules allowing nonprofit collectives and cooperatives, which typically are operated by medical marijuana users and focused on patient care.

Local patients are eager to get started and craft rules everyone can live with, said James Devine, a Ventura attorney who specializes in medical marijuana law and represents scores of users like himself.

“We have to change the dialogue so it isn’t just about weed,” he said, pointing to the medical benefits and how legal outlets could provide a financial windfall for the city.

Future cooperatives must do more than just sell pot, he said. They must offer other services, like health classes, counseling, yoga, acupuncture and gardening and vegetable-growing skills.

“The only way to survive is to be something more than just a dispensing cooperative,” he said. “My plan is for these centers to be able to say the men’s bathroom is larger than the area where they actually dispense medical cannabis.”

While Ventura could become the first to allow over-the-counter distribution in Ventura County (only delivery services are now available), Oakland voters last year overwhelmingly passed a measure to tax the city’s four medical marijuana dispensaries, which is expected to raise upwards of $400,000 annually.

Proponents say it showed voters were comfortable with the way Oakland, a city of more of nearly 500,000, has limited and regulated dispensaries.

“I think the best thing we did was limit the number to four,” said Arturo M. Sanchez, an assistant to the city administrator who oversees special business permits, including medical cannabis dispensaries.

Oakland dispensaries must comply with 27 conditions. They can’t stay open past 8 p.m., are limited to areas away from schools and libraries, must provide licensed security and face annual inspections, and must make sure patients’ recommendations to use marijuana are from legitimate doctors.

Since the Ventura City Council voted last fall, several new developments have occurred:

n Backers of an initiative to legalize marijuana possession for those 21 and older in California have submitted more than 700,000 signatures, a number probably high enough to get it on the November ballot. The measure would allow adults to possess up to one ounce of marijuana for personal use. Cities would decide whether to allow retail sales and levy taxes.

n In January, the Los Angeles City Council adopted a medical marijuana ordinance that experts say will impose some of the toughest rules in the state and allow city officials to shut down hundreds of dispensaries. Restrictions on where they can be located — at least 1,000 feet from schools and churches — are expected to eliminate most sites outside of isolated industrial parks. Countering, medical marijuana advocates sued the city on Tuesday, saying the sweeping rules violate state law and are so restrictive they will cause even law-abiding businesses to shut down.

Recent polling shows more than half of Californians support legalizing and taxing marijuana, and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said he no longer would take action against medical marijuana dispensaries if they comply with state and local laws.

A majority of Ventura voters embraced Proposition 215, the Compassionate Use Act of 1996, which permits patients to legally use medicinal marijuana in California.

Still, it could be a tough sell.

The California Police Chiefs Association has said marijuana clubs across the state are little more than fronts for drug dealers.

Prosecutor Gregory Brose of the Ventura County District Attorney’s Office urged Ventura to develop rules to block all dispensaries, which he testified were illegal.

And one of the medical marijuana camp’s biggest sympathizers, former City Councilman Ed Summers, lost his re-election bid in November and was replaced by Mike Tracy, a former Ventura city police chief.

Further, city officials expressed concern that pot outlets, even ones run by well-intentioned owners, could lead to enforcement issues, complaints from neighbors and increased crime.

NewsHawk: User: https://www.420magazine.com/
Source: vcstar.com
Author: Kevin Clerici
Copyright: 2010 The E.W. Scripps Co.
Contact: Contact Us Information & News from Ventura County Star (Ventura, CA)
Website: Ventura public input sought on safe, lawful access to medical marijuana Ventura County Star

• Thanks to MedicalNeed for submitting this article
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