Pubdate: Wed, 14 Jul 2010
Source: Fresno Bee, The (CA)
Copyright: 2010 The Fresno Bee
Note: Does not publish letters from outside their circulation area.
Author: Brad Branan


Concerns About Crime Drive Moratorium.

The Fresno County Board of Supervisors approved a moratorium on 
medical marijuana dispensaries Tuesday, citing their rapid growth and 
concerns about crime.

At least 15 dispensaries are operating in unincorporated parts of the 
county, many of which opened after the city of Fresno banned their 
activity last year, officials said.

The board's action means no new dispensaries can open in 
unincorporated parts of the county, while existing ones will be 
evaluated on a case-by-case basis to see whether they can continue 
operating. The county also will draft regulations for dispensaries.

In the meantime, county officials will look at each dispensary to see 
whether it should close. One consideration will be whether the 
operators previously worked with county planners to establish a right 
to open, County Counsel Kevin Briggs said.

Only four of the county dispensaries contacted the planning office 
about where they could open, and two of those are clearly not 
properly zoned, officials said. Two others are essentially operating 
as pharmacies and are properly zoned for now, they added.

Several patients and dispensary operators told the board that 
dispensaries are run safely and according to the law, providing 
treatment to people who otherwise suffer through pain.

"I don't want to die because I can't get good medicine," said Diana 
Kirby, a double amputee who spoke from her wheelchair.

Supervisor Judy Case, who has long worked as a nurse, said she was 
touched by some of the stories she heard, particularly by people who 
spoke about an inability to take traditional medicine.

At the same time, Case added, she thinks the dispensaries attract 
crime, and she is worried about them flooding into rural areas she 
represents, as cities and other counties ban dispensaries.

Sheriff Margaret Mims said she wanted a moratorium because 
dispensaries increase crime. Fresno County dispensaries have been the 
sites of seven burglaries this year, she said.

The emergency ordinance approved by the board was effective 
immediately and will last for 45 days. County officials said they 
expect to return to the board to continue the measure, because they 
will need more time to draft regulations.

A California appeals court could set the terms of the county's 
efforts by Monday when it is expected to rule on a dispensary ban in 
the city of Anaheim.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom