Pubdate: Sat, 17 Apr 2010
Source: Weekly Calistogan (CA)
Copyright: 2010 Lee Enterprises
Author: Kevin Courtney


Commission Voted 3-2 Thursday to Support Allowing Pot Clinics in Office Zones

Napa's plan to authorize only one medical marijuana dispensary struck 
three planning commissioners as perhaps not enough.

For two commissioners, even one would be too many.

The Planning Commission voted 3-2 Thursday night to support a zoning 
change that would allow pot clinics in office zones. The City Council 
will be the final word on this.

A majority of commissioners supported the council's decision to allow 
medical marijuana dispensaries under highly regulated conditions.

"The words 'Napa' and 'progressive' usually don't go together," said 
Commissioner Gordon Huether, who approved of the city's new direction.

Commissioner Michelle Benvenuto disagreed. "I don't think Napa 
actually needs to be this progressive," she said.

Benvenuto said marijuana had a proven medical benefit, but she 
preferred that patients grow their own or go out of town to buy their 
medicine. "I don't think it's an appropriate land use for Napa," she said.

Commissioner Jay Golik voted with Huether and Chairman Arthur Roosa 
in recommending that the council create zoning for marijuana clinics, 
but said the city was being too conservative in wanting to allow only 
one clinic in the first year.

"My feeling is we're not looking at this big enough," Golik said. He 
agreed with potential applicants who said the demand might swamp a 
single clinic and lead to higher prices.

The city's proposed ordinance would allow the first clinic to serve 
about 7,700 patients - 10 percent of the city's population - yet the 
demand could be greater than that, potential applicants said.

Stephanie Tucker, a San Francisco attorney who advises marijuana 
clinics, said the 10 percent cap was unrealistic. "The more people 
learn about it, the more the demand grows," she said.

Tucker estimated that 30 percent of the population could potentially 
benefit medically from marijuana, which struck Roosa as an amazingly 
high number. "It could be I'm out of touch," he said.

Roosa said capping clinic membership at 10 percent of the city's 
population could result in the operation not being economically 
viable. Many members might become inactive after a while, he said.

In voting against zoning that would determine where the first clinic 
could be located, Commissioner Tom Trzesniewski said he couldn't make 
the finding that the "public health, safety and general welfare" 
would be served.

"I don't really understand the scope of what we're doing here is and 
where it's going," Trzesniewski said.  If clinics are approved, the 
city might need two or three to meet demand, he said.

Representatives of potential applicants want the city to allow more 
than one clinic during the first year and allow buildings zoned for 
light industrial to be eligible.

David Aten, representing Safe Medical Access, said his group was 
having trouble finding a medical office location with enough parking 
and a willing landlord.  Industrial sites might work better, he said.

Several commissioners supported industrial sites, saying applicants 
should be able to make the case that they work better than office zones.

Roosa asked about a statewide proposition planned for the November 
ballot that would legalize marijuana for recreational use. How would 
this affect Napa's medical marijuana ordinance? he said.

Legally, the proposition might not have any consequence, but it could 
reduce the economic viability of a pot clinic, Deputy City Attorney 
Peter Spoerl said.

The commission's zoning recommendation and comments on medical 
marijuana will go to the City Council, which will hold a hearing on June 1.

Once regulations are in place, the city will invite applications for 
the first license. 
- ---
MAP posted-by: Richard Lake