Pubdate: Tue, 11 Apr 2006
Source: Alameda Times-Star, The (CA)
Copyright: 2006 ANG Newspapers
Author: Matthew Artz, Staff Writer, ANG Newspapers
Bookmark: (Marijuana - Medicinal)


Consistency Ordinance Would Effectively Outlaw Medical Marijuana Dispensaries

UNION CITY -- With a yearlong moratorium to expire in July, city
leaders are set to slam the door on medical marijuana dispensaries for
the foreseeable future.

Today, the City Council will consider a law that would require any
permit, authorization or license issued by the city to "be consistent
with both state and federal law."

Because federal drug laws prohibit medical marijuana, the city
ordinance effectively would outlaw dispensaries -- the most common way
licensed marijuana users obtain the drug.

"It's not an outright ban, but in the short term it would make it
difficult, if not impossible, to operate a dispensary," Deputy City
Manager Tony Acosta said.

He said the city does not want dispensaries while cases on medical
marijuana issues are pending in state and federal courts.

The proposed ordinance is a new legal tactic to outlaw dispensaries,
said Kris Hermes, legal campaign director for Americans for Safe
Access, which has lawsuits pending against several California cities
that prohibit dispensaries.

"We would see this as a de facto ban and strongly oppose such action
by the city," he said.

Robert Raich, an attorney who represents dispensaries, said the
ordinance was "vaguely worded" and effectively would make city permit
clerks the arbiters of state and federal law.

"Union City is practically buying a lawsuit down the road," he

Since state voters passed the Compassionate Use Act of 1996 legalizing
medical marijuana, dispensaries in the East Bay have spread from
Berkeley south to Hayward but have not been permitted in Union City.

In March 2005, the council, after learning that a dispensary had
applied for a

city permit, passed the first of three moratoriums temporarily
outlawing it. Fremont also has a moratorium against

The moratoriums, according to Hermes, force many licensed medical
marijuana users in the two cities to travel north to obtain the drug

About 30 percent of the customers of the Hayward Patients Resource
Center are from Union City and Fremont, said Tom Lemos, the
dispensary's owner.

Union City police Chief Randy Ulibarri maintained that allowing
dispensaries would strain police resources.

"Based on the experience that Hayward has been having, without a doubt
there would be crime issues if the dispensaries came to Union City,"
he said.

Dispensaries remain a legal gray area in California. A state law
passed in 2003 entitles licensed patients and caregivers collectively
to grow marijuana, but it makes no mention of dispensaries.

In previous votes, the council has been nearly united against
dispensaries, and it appears poised to pass the ordinance.

"I still don't believe Union City should have one," Councilman Jim
Navarro said. "I've always been anti-drug, and that is still my stance
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