Pubdate: Tue, 28 May 2013
Source: Marin Independent Journal (CA)
Copyright: 2013 Marin Independent Journal


THE MARIN COUNTY grand jury has urged the Marin Board of Supervisors 
to open the door to more medicinal marijuana dispensaries.

The grand jury, a 19-member citizen panel that looks into local 
issues, is right to question local moratoriums that have stood in the 
way of dispensaries opening in Marin.

Federal authorities' seemingly capricious attitude toward 
dispensaries has been a big hurdle for the realization of voters' 
1996 approval of the "Compassionate Use Act," which was supposed to 
make medicinal marijuana available.

In Marin, the measure, Proposition 215, was endorsed by 73 percent of 
Marin voters.

But in many jurisdictions, city councils imposed local moratoriums on 
the opening of medical marijuana dispensaries, essentially saying 
that people who need pot for medical reasons have to go "somewhere 
else" to get it.

For many years, Fairfax was Marin's "somewhere else." Unlike cities 
that banned clinics, the Marin Alliance for Medical Marijuana clinic 
opened with the blessing of the Town Council and the police department.

The grand jury says it was a statewide model for a locally regulated, 
trouble-free operation - for 13 years,

That was until 2011, when the clinic was forced to close after it 
found itself in the sights of federal authorities, who threatened to 
confiscate the property from the landlord if he continued to rent to 
a business that violates federal law.

The conflict between Proposition 215 and federal law continues to 
stand as a huge hurdle. Without a change in federal law, which 
appears unlikely, the professionalism and strict controls of 
pharmacies are absent from medical marijuana.

Without such safeguards, the door is open to criticism that 
dispensaries are lax when it comes to making sure that marijuana 
isn't being sold for recreational use.

California voters last year rejected a measure to allow non-medical 
use of marijuana.

Complicating the issue further are local bans - in Mill Valley, San 
Rafael, Larkspur and Sausalito. Novato and Tiburon ban uses that are 
forbidden by state or federal law.

However, voters in these jurisdictions strongly supported Proposition 215.

In Mill Valley, 81 percent of the city voters backed Proposition 215, 
but there wasn't much protest when the City Council imposed a ban on 
medical marijuana clinics.

In fact, Proposition 215 won in every Marin city. It was a 
significant public endorsement allowing people access to marijuana 
for legitimate medical needs.

Today, there is only one dispensary in our county, Marin Holistic 
Solutions in Corte Madera. It told the grand jury that it has 800 
patients from across Marin. Their average age is 40.

Have voters gotten what they wanted when they approved Proposition 
215? Has "compassionate use" been improved?

The grand jury report correctly pinpoints local obstacles.

While the May 9 report urges the supervisors to remove legal 
obstacles, the grand jury could also have called on Marin cities to 
pass rules more in keeping with local voters' support for Proposition 215.

Until local cities adopt rules to allow dispensaries - at proper 
locations and require reasonable police oversight - Marin voters' 
intent in supporting Proposition 215 remains snagged in a web of 
legal ambiguities.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom