Contra Costa supes ban medical marijuana dispensaries

Written by FCJ Editor. Posted in News

Published on February 26, 2008 with No Comments

By Caitilin McAdoo

February 26, 2008

Contra Costa County Supervisors voted unanimously today to permanently ban medical marijuana dispensaries in unincorporated areas of the county.

The ordinance prohibits all land uses that violate state or federal law, thereby banning medical marijuana dispensaries through an amendment of county code.

The ordinance does not prohibit people from growing medical marijuana in their homes or in small groups for personal use under the Compassionate Use Act of 1996.

The county has had a moratorium on new dispensaries in unincorporated areas since April 2006.

A facility in El Sobrante will not be affected by the new ban because it was established legally before the moratorium went into effect.

The facility, however, could still be subject to enforcement from the federal government.

The problem has been that while supervisors have said they support the use of marijuana for legitimate medical purposes, too many people have allegedly been abusing the privileges allowed under the act and medical marijuana dispensaries have reportedly attracted crime and become community nuisances.

Because the sheriff’s office reportedly doesn’t have the resources to regulate the dispensaries, supervisors decided instead to treat the matter as a land use issue.

Linda Jackson, who was a nurse for many years and who uses medical marijuana, said the decision to ban dispensaries put patients at risk. Safe access to marijuana continues to be a major issue for her and many other patients. She said growing it in her home was not an option.

“I have children and grandchildren,” she said. “I don’t hide what I do, but it puts them at risk, too.”

“The issue deserves leadership, not a knee-jerk reaction,” said Dimitrio Ramirez, founder of Mericare, a dispensary located in Pacheco that now serves patients mainly as a delivery service.

Ramirez continued to rail against the supervisors’ decision even after officials turned off his microphone.

Armando Soto said banning dispensaries would move the problem into residential neighborhoods where there would be no possibility of regulation.

“I think it’s a recipe for disaster,” Soto said. On the other side of the issue, Harold Parsley, a member of Contra Costa Health Services Alcohol and other Drugs Advisory Board, told supervisors he believed medical marijuana was a danger to the community, both as a so called “gateway drug” and as a “drug of choice.”

The Contra Costa County Sheriff’s office and the District Attorney’s office also support the ordinance.

During a hearing on the issue in January, District Attorney Robert Kochly said that he didn’t believe that any amount of enforcement could stop people from abusing the access provided by the Compassionate Use Act.

The ordinance passed today does not impact regulations put in place in within the county.

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