Pubdate: Wed, 26 Sep 2012
Source: San Francisco Chronicle (CA)
Copyright: 2012 Hearst Communications Inc.
Author: Carolyn Jones


Measure Would Allow 3 Dispensaries in Commercial or Industrial Areas

Palo Alto may soon be leafy in a whole new way.

Voters in the upscale town will get a chance Nov. 6 to allow three 
medical marijuana dispensaries. If approved, they would be the only 
pot retail shops on the Peninsula.

Measure C would allow three retail marijuana stores in any commercial 
or industrial area, including the chic shopping districts around 
Stanford University.

"This measure will strengthen (Palo Alto's) character by providing 
medicine to our terminally ill neighbors," according to the measure's 
chief proponents, Cassandra Moore and her husband, Thomas Moore, a 
senior fellow at the Hoover Institution.

The dispensaries would not be allowed near residential areas, 
schools, parks, libraries or substance abuse treatment centers. 
Owners would also be allowed to grow marijuana on-site.

The dispensaries would be taxed at a rate of 4 percent, which is 
among the lowest rates in the Bay Area. San Jose, for example, taxes 
its dispensaries at 7 percent.

Feds cracking down

Palo Alto appears to be bucking a trend. With federal crackdowns on 
marijuana operations in the past few months, many cities, including 
San Jose, have repealed their medical marijuana ordinances.

"This does stand out," said Allen St. Pierre, executive director of 
the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, or Norml, 
a Washington, D.C., organization that promotes pot legalization. 
"This takes some chutzpah. ... It means someone is willing to take 
quite a remarkable risk."

The risk would be that of arrest and closure. Large dispensaries, 
such as Harborside in Oakland, pay thousands in legal fees to sort 
through the byzantine and contradictory marijuana laws.

Palo Alto, and the suburbs generally, are good places for 
dispensaries because they tend to have more older people, and older 
people tend to suffer more often from illnesses, St. Pierre said. 
Those patients deserve a safe, local place to buy marijuana if they 
need it, he said.

But many in Palo Alto say pot clubs do not fit in with the town's 
family-friendly ethos. The City Council voted unanimously against the 
measure, and several school board members and former mayors have also 
voiced their opposition.

"Palo Alto is a lovely residential community. We have an awful lot of 
young families and kids here," said Lanie Wheeler, a former mayor who 
works at a child care nonprofit. "Pot clubs are not compatible with that."

Stanford, home to about 16,000 students, has not taken a position on 
the matter, said a university spokeswoman.

Little space, high rents

Even if the measure passes, a pot club might have trouble finding 
space, said Russ Cohen, executive director of the downtown business 
association. The vacancy rate downtown is only about 2 percent, and 
rents are a hefty $3 per square foot.

"Personally, I wouldn't want to see a dispensary here," Cohen said. 
"We have a good mix right now: high-end restaurants, boutiques, bars. 
It doesn't seem like something medicinal would fit."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom