Pubdate: Mon, 25 Feb 2008
Source: Contra Costa Times (CA)
Copyright: 2008 Knight Ridder
Author: Ryan Huff
Bookmark: (Marijuana - Medicinal)


Suppliers could be banned from opening in unincorporated areas

Donuel Bruno has a list of ailments: inverted scoliosis, degenerative 
disk disease, carpal tunnel syndrome, insomnia.

Simply walking across a room or sitting for a half-hour caused him 
extreme pain until he discovered the remedy for his health problems 
- -- medical marijuana.

The 38-year-old Oakley resident gets his marijuana from a dispensary 
and uses a vaporizer to breath in a mist of THC, the active chemical 
in the sap of a cannabis plant.

"It's been the best thing I've ever done in my life," he said. "The 
other medicines don't work."

Bruno and others who use medical marijuana in Contra Costa are about 
to face barriers to access. County supervisors Tuesday are expected 
to pass an ordinance that would ban medical marijuana dispensaries in 
unincorporated areas.

Such facilities have not been allowed to open since the county 
approved a temporary moratorium in April 2006. That moratorium lapses 
April 10, the reason supervisors are rushing to pass a permanent 
ordinance that bans land uses that violate state or federal law.

Using marijuana -- even for medical purposes -- is illegal under 
federal law, according to a 2005 Supreme Court ruling. This conflicts 
with a state law voters passed in 1996 -- Proposition 215 -- that 
allows residents with certain medical conditions to use marijuana 
with a doctor's recommendation.

The county would make one notable exception with the ordinance. 
M.E.D.'s Dispensary in El Sobrante -- the only legal medical marijuana

business in the unincorporated county -- would be allowed to remain 
open since it applied for a land-use permit before the 2006 
moratorium. Bruno buys his medical marijuana at the El Sobrante 
dispensary, but said he's concerned there will never be a cannabis 
club closer to his Oakley home.

"To block dispensaries out of this county, it's a slap in the face to 
the people who voted for the (1996) Compassionate Use Act," also 
known as Prop. 215, he said.

The man who runs M.E.D.'s Dispensary, Buzz Fowler, said patients with 
cancer and other diseases don't have enough places close to home to 
acquire medical marijuana.

"The best thing for the patients is not to have to drive a 60- to 
80-mile round trip to get to me," he said. "How stupid do I sound to 
say, 'Go ahead and break up my monopoly and build two new 
facilities?' The county wants to keep people from selling it on the 
street, but they don't allow places for people to buy it legally."

There are other ways that seriously and terminally ill residents can 
use medical marijuana legally, said Supervisor Mary Piepho of Discovery Bay.

For example, Prop. 215 allows those with a doctor's recommendation to 
cultivate their own marijuana plants for medical purposes.

"The community impacts of a dispensary are intense," Piepho said, 
citing litter, crime and smells from a dispensary. "And the cities 
still have the discretion to decide how they want to regulate dispensaries."

Too often people with questionable medical ailments use dispensaries 
as a means to buy marijuana and then sell it on the street, said 
District Attorney Robert Kochly.

He doesn't keep statistics on how often that happens, but anecdotally 
Kochly could think of three incidents in the past two years where 
high school or college students in Concord, El Cerrito and Moraga 
were selling marijuana they obtained at dispensaries.

"In California, we basically have legitimized the drug trade," he 
said. "I don't think there is any way to properly regulate dispensaries."

Still, that doesn't mean Contra Costa residents will be without 
medical marijuana, he said. The El Sobrante dispensary remains open 
and there are others in Berkeley, Oakland and San Francisco.

"In the Bay Area, other jurisdictions are always going to allow these 
businesses," Kochly said. "Our residents will have a place to go."



A look at how some East Bay cities have opted to regulate medical 
marijuana dispensaries:

Regulates medical marijuana dispensaries: Berkeley, Oakland

Bans uses that violate federal or state law: Hercules, Lafayette

Ban: Concord, Dublin, Livermore, Pinole, Pleasant Hill, Pleasanton, San Pablo


Contra Costa supervisors are scheduled to discuss the ban on medical 
marijuana dispensaries at 11 a.m. Tuesday. The meeting will take 
place at the supervisors' chambers at 651 Pine St. in Martinez. 
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake