Pubdate: Sun, 21 Jun 2009
Source: Santa Cruz Sentinel (CA)
Copyright: 2009 Santa Cruz Sentinel
Author: Genevieve Bookwalter

Santa Cruz Considers Moratorium on New Medical Marijuana Dispensaries

SANTA CRUZ - Almost every day, someone calls the city's Planning
Department for information on how to open a medical marijuana dispensary.

Since the Obama administration announced in February that federal
medical marijuana raids were over, Santa Cruz entrepreneurs have come
to view dispensing the prescription drug - which is legal under state
laws but illegal under federal ones - as a potentially safe and
profitable business, said Assistant Planning Director Alex Khoury. Two
applications have been filed for dispensaries on the Westside.

As a result of the interest, city leaders on Tuesday will consider a
temporary moratorium on new medical pot shops while they review rules
governing the businesses, including where they can operate and how
many the city should allow. There are two existing shops in Harvey

Before President Obama took office, "I'd think we'd get an occasional
call now and then," Khoury said. "But there was nowhere near the
interest since, I think, the first of the year."

For those who operated medical marijuana dispensaries, which sell the
drug to people with prescriptions, the fear of being raided during the
Bush administration was real. Local advocates Valerie and Mike Corral,
who run the patients' collective Wo/Men's Alliance for Medical
Marijuana, were arrested in 2002 by federal agents, who seized more
than 160 plants from the Davenport farm. The case pushed medical
marijuana into the national spotlight. In protest of the raid, the
Santa Cruz City Council allowed the Corrals to pass out marijuana to
patients on City Hall steps later that year.

But now, city leaders will consider a 45-day moratorium on new
dispensaries, allowing them to re-examine rules crafted in 2000 that
govern the businesses. Currently, Khoury said, dispensaries are
allowed in neighborhoods zoned for industrial or commercial use.
Governments regulate liquor stores in a similar way, limiting where in
a city they can do business and how many are allowed in town.

Santa Cruz is the only municipality in the county that allows medical
marijuana dispensaries. Greenway Compassionate Relief Inc., which
opened in 2005, and the Santa Cruz Patients Collective, which opened
in 2006, both do business in Harvey West.

Applications have been filed for dispensaries on Ingalls Street across
from the Swift Street Courtyard complex, and on Mission Street about a
block east of Safeway.

Stuart Kriege of Santa Cruz is applying to open the shop on Ingalls
Street, and said he has been reaching out to neighbors to assure them
that his dispensary would be well-run and responsible. He declined to
elaborate on other details of his plan.

"We're trying to be good members of the community," Kriege

Councilman Don Lane said, considering the increase in interest, he
supports a moratorium on new medical marijuana dispensaries to give
the city time to ensure all rules are in order.

"I wouldn't want to send the signal that we're just trying to stop
something," Lane said. "It's just taking a relatively brief moment to
make sure we've got it right." 
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake