Pubdate: Tue, 08 Feb 2011
Source: Times-Herald, The (Vallejo, CA)
Copyright: 2011 The Times-Herald
Author: Jessica A. York


A Vallejo neighborhood watch group concerned about medical marijuana 
dispensary proliferation downtown called on Fighting Back Partnership 
to facilitate a public discussion Monday night.

In response, more than 60 people piled into the Joseph Room at the 
John F. Kennedy Library with sometimes competing visions of medical 
marijuana sales in Vallejo. The mixed group of concerned residents, 
community members, dispensary owners and patients shared one thing, 
however: The desire to question and challenge each other during a 
mostly civil discourse.

Fighting Back Partnership's Weed and Seed Coordinator John Allen took 
a verbal lashing when he showed a photograph of two young 
"healthy-looking" young men in front of a city marijuana dispensary 
and cast doubt on their need for pot. Many audience members pointed 
out that it is difficult to tell what others' ailments might be.

"A 'destination city' should not be for the purchase of drugs. That 
is our reputation," Allen's slideshow stated.

Santa Rosa attorney Ken Beyries represents the California Collective 
Care dispensary. He said a month-old eight-member Vallejo dispensary 
owners' group agree that appropriate zoning restrictions and taxation 
above standard sales tax are reasonable.

Other residents raised concerns that a recent increase in crime 
seemingly has been tied to an increase in foot traffic to the dispensaries.

Dispensary defenders said the city needs to regulate them, with 
Beyries denying that their sites draw more crime than a 7-Eleven or 
bank. In fact, at least two dispensary managers claimed that area 
crime has fallen since their arrival.

Downtown business owner LaVonne Sallee said that the reason some 
businesses fail has nothing to do with dispensaries. She urged the 
audience to keep an open mind on the issue and people involved.

Four Vallejo City Council members appeared at the meeting -- with 
Councilwoman Joanne Schivley entering after Mayor Osby Davis and 
Councilwoman Erin Hannigan and Marti Brown had left. The city 
leaders, however, sat mostly without comment during the meeting. 
Brown briefly acknowledged that the issue is "a real lightning rod" 
and said the city should look into regulating dispensaries and 
creating "clear, transparent policy now."

The night meeting marks the only significant public discourse on the 
issue since dispensaries began multiplying in Vallejo in recent years.

Last week, the Bencia City Council voted unanimously to ban medical 
marijuana dispensaries, just as an 18-month moratorium against such 
establishments is set to expire next month.

In outlawing the dispensaries, Benicia joins fellow Solano County 
cities Dixon and Fairfield. Vacaville is studying the issue.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom