Pubdate: Mon, 15 Dec 2008
Source: Marin Independent Journal (CA)
Copyright: 2008 Marin Independent Journal
Author: Richard Halstead
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)


Down an alley in the back of an aging commercial building on Gate 5 Road in 
Sausalito, members of the county's newest marijuana collective, Gate Five 
Caregivers, come to pick up their "medicine."

Inside the collective's steel-caged door sits Darryl Compton, a burly 
22-year-old Marin City resident and collective member. Compton watches a 
large-screen TV monitor that connects to a closed-circuit camera trained on 
the alley.

"Darryl's the door man. He's keeping it real safe," said Kris Scott, 24, of 
San Rafael, another collective member.

Despite a Sausalito city ban on marijuana dispensaries, Gate Five 
Caregivers opened in September without informing local officials. It joins 
the Marin Alliance for Medical Marijuana in Fairfax as the second local 
medical marijuana collective, but more may be on the way: Two other groups 
are seeking to establish medical marijuana collectives in Novato and Corte 

The first thing visitors do when they enter Gate Five Caregivers is sign an 
agreement stating that a licensed California physician has found them 
qualified to use marijuana and that they agree to be part of the Gate Five 
collective. Then they're ushered into the back room where they select their 
"medicine" and make their "donations," which range from $25 to $50 for an 
eighth of an ounce of pot.

"It's donations, and we refer to everything as medicine, not pot," Scott said.

The marijuana is packed in plastic medicine bottles and arrayed in long 
glass cases. The range of choices would humble Baskin Robbins. There is 
Train Wreck Haze, Purple Afgoo, Organic Grandaddy, Super Plat Kush, New 
York City Deisle, Chunky Monkey, Swazi, Romulan and Purple Dream, to name a 

The Gate Five collective occupies the same space where last December the 
Marin County Major Crimes Task Force and Sausalito police confiscated $1 
million worth of marijuana plants and processed pot. Four men, three of 
them Marin residents, were booked into Marin County Jail on suspicion of 
cultivation of marijuana and possession for sale.

Scott called that a "coincidence." But Sausalito Councilman Mike Kelly said 
he doesn't buy that; he said the Gate Five collective is illegal because it 
violates a city ordinance prohibiting dispensaries passed by the council in 

Sausalito adopted its ban after a group calling itself Capitol 
Compassionate Care Co-op of Fort Bragg sought to open a medical marijuana 
cooperative there in 2005.

"The question is, how do we enforce that ordinance?" Kelly said.

Proposition 215, approved in 1996 by 55.6 percent of California voters - 
and 76 percent in Marin - made it legal for patients and caregivers to 
possess and cultivate marijuana for medical treatment as recommended by a 
doctor. The federal government, however, has never recognized the 
legitimacy of the state law.

David Nix, a San Francisco lawyer who is working with the Gate Five 
Caregivers, said Sausalito's ordinance prohibiting medical marijuana 
dispensaries is illegal.

"You don't have to be an attorney to understand that if the city of 
Sausalito passed an ordinance tomorrow that said there shall be no abortion 
clinics in this town that is not going to hold up in court," Nix said.

Mary Wagner, Sausalito's city attorney, said, "The city is exploring its 
legal options."

In Marin, San Rafael, Mill Valley, and Larkspur have also adopted 
ordinances banning medical marijuana clubs.

Attorney General Jerry Brown in August ordered a crackdown on medical 
marijuana clubs that are generating big profits. Brown also issued an 
11-page directive outlining the rules such clubs must observe to be legal: 
they must operate as nonprofit collectives or cooperatives and pay sales 
tax, and they are prohibited from buying marijuana from illegal commercial 
growers. They must obtain their "medicine" from patients or caregivers, who 
may grow no more than 12 immature or six mature plants.

On Dec. 2, Scot Candell, a San Rafael lawyer, told the Corte Madera Town 
Council that he represented a group of 20 medical marijuana users who 
wanted to open a collective there. Since then, Candell said the council has 
warned him that it would close down the club on the basis that it would 
violate federal law. Candell is scouting alternative sites in Marin. He 
declined to say where.

Soon after Candell sounded out Corte Madera, William Ringgold, 33, of San 
Francisco informed the Novato City Council that he plans to establish a 
medical marijuana collective in Bel Marin Keys. Ringgold said he has 
identified two possible sites, but declined to identify them.

Ringgold, who works as a manager at an online dry cleaning delivery service 
and part-time for a marijuana dispensary in San Francisco's Bernal Heights, 
said he has received no response from the city.

"I'm really interested in doing this with the city's permission," Ringgold 
said. "Everything that Jerry Brown set forth as what we need to do to make 
this legitimate we're going to do."

Novato Mayor Jim Leland said, "I didn't have a reaction one way or the 
other when he spoke, and I have no opinion."

Candell said Brown's guidelines may be just one of the factors fostering 
new interest in Marin among medical marijuana club organizers. With the 
Obama administration coming into office soon, club organizers may be 
anticipating less federal harassment, Candell said. Also, enforcement of 
Brown's guidelines may result in many of San Francisco's clubs closing 
down, he said. In November, the Office of National Drug Control Policy 
estimated that San Francisco had 98 marijuana dispensaries, more than the 
city's 71 Starbucks shops.

"People can make money by opening them. I think that's the bottom line," 
said Marin County Sheriff Robert Doyle. "I have no issue with people who 
are very ill and believe marjuana in some way helps them, but I'm opposed 
to these cooperatives because as far as I'm concerned they're hiding behind 
(Proposition) 215 to be distributors and sellers of a banned substance."

There are 770 Marin residents who have been issued a state card identifing 
them as having received a doctor's recommendation to use medical marijuana. 
The cards not required, however, under Proposition 215. The Marin Alliance 
for Medical Marijuana, which received a use permit from the town of Fairfax 
in 1997, has 5,000 members, said founder and director Lynette Shaw. 
Ringgold estimates there are 11,000 medical marijuana users in Marin.

Ringgold said, "If there were 11,000 people who had a cold, would they all 
have to go to the same Walgreens?"
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MAP posted-by: Jo-D