Pubdate: Sun, 26 Jun 2011
Source: Tahoe Daily Tribune (South Lake Tahoe, CA)
Copyright: 2011 Swift Communications
Author: Kyle Magin, Tribune News Service


Boreal Hearing Delayed

GRASS VALLEY, Calif. -- Nevada County officials are one step away from
uniformly banning medical marijuana dispensaries throughout the county.

On Thursday, the county's planning commission voted 3-0, with two
members absent, to recommend its board of supervisors adopt a ban on
storefront dispensaries.

If approved at the supervisors Tuesday, July 12, meeting, such
businesses would have no place to function in Nevada County, as owners
would be barred from opening up shop in the unincorporated county,
Grass Valley, Nevada City and Truckee, which have all either already
banned the establishments or don't allow them under current zoning

At the heart of the debate at Thursday's commission meeting, and
dialogue over the controversy in general, is whether the decision
would limit access to medical marijuana for legitimate users.

"Can they get it safely?" asked District 2 Commissioner Laura

Both sides of the debate answered the question differently.

In a county replete with growers and small co-ops, access is
relatively easy for patients who actually need it, said Sgt. Bill
Smethers, who heads up the Sheriff Office's anti-narcotics operations.

"I've worked narcotics in this community for nine years now," Smethers
said. "And I've seen thousands of (medical marijuana) recommendations
in this county. And a handful... no more than 20 of those people, have
legitimate uses for recommendations."

District Attorney Cliff Newell put the access issue a little more

"I can go out, dressed as I am now, and come back with a lid of
marijuana within 45 minutes," Newell said, while addressing the
commission in a tan suit, blue shirt and tie.

Those sources are not reputable or safe, said Dr. Kirk Shults, an Alta
Sierra man, medical marijuana patient and former pharmacist who
suffers from gout.

By enacting a ban, the county would be "forcing people to go to the
same growers the sheriff is trying to get rid of.

There are inherent risks," Shults said in an interview from his home
this week. Dispensaries in Colfax or Sacramento aren't easy for
patients with severe medical conditions to get to, he added.

Smethers and Newell joined Sheriff Keith Royal in urging the ban.
Dispensaries are hubs for crime, drawing drug-seekers, drug dealers
hoping to undercut costs at dispensaries, and juveniles looking for
marijuana, Royal said.

"Establishing a dispensary establishes a central point where... you're
going to have crime occur," he said. "It would give our large growers
a place where they can do business."

It would also send a bad message to children, said Ariel Lovett, a
representative with the Coalition for a Drug Free Nevada County.

"One thing we're very concerned about is youth perception of harm from
substance use," she said. "We're concerned about the increased
normalization of substance use" and its effects on youth perception of
drug use.

A dispensary, if it is well-regulated, would provide people a safe
alternative to getting medical marijuana than going to illegal dealers
for it, said Brad Glasse, an Alta Sierra resident.

His claim was backed by Donn Coenen, chair of the Nevada County
Libertarian Party.

"There are no controls on illegal marijuana. With dispensaries we're
giving them the choice of a clean, safe drug," Coenen said. Pesticides
and other harmful products could be added to marijuana, which is not
regulated as it would be in a dispensary setting.

For those reasons, Shults belongs to a 12-patient collective that
grows and distributes marijuana to its own members, he said.

Commissioners cited slightly different reasons for their ban votes.
Duncan cited safety concerns and the recommendation of law enforcement

With relatively quick access to dispensaries in Colfax and Sacramento,
the county shouldn't need to pick up the burden of allowing a
dispensary, said District 4 Supervisor Douglas Donesky.

Noting the commission pledged allegiance to the U.S. flag at the
outset of the meeting, District 5 Commissioner Bob Jensen atrributed
his vote to federal law, which still prohibits any use of marijuana
and does not recognize the drug for medicinal purposes. Commissioners
Ruth Poulter and Suzanne Smith were absent due to family matters.

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In other commission news, the board got off to a late start Thursday,
failing to establish a quorum until 10 a.m., an hour after the meeting
was scheduled to start.

As a result, the commission postponed a discussion of a planned
expansion at Donner Pass-area ski resort Boreal until July 7 in
Truckee. Commissioners were set to discuss the application Thursday
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MAP posted-by: Richard R Smith Jr.