Pubdate: Thu, 17 Oct 2013
Source: Press-Enterprise (Riverside, CA)
Copyright: 2013 The Press-Enterprise Company
Authors: Alicia Robinson and Richard K. DeAtley


A Proposal From Riverside Safe Access Would Set Rules to Allow 
Handful of Dispensaries to Legally Open in Riverside

A group of medical marijuana supporters is planning a ballot measure 
that would legalize, regulate and tax a small number of dispensaries 
in Riverside, which led the fight to ban such facilities.

On Wednesday, Oct. 16, Riverside attorney Jason Thompson filed 
paperwork seeking permission to gather signatures to place the 
initiative before voters. Thompson represents Riverside Safe Access, 
a local group of about a dozen authorized users and proponents of 
medical marijuana.

Riverside has been on the front lines of the battle over medical 
marijuana. City Attorney Greg Priamos took his fight to close 
dispensaries all the way to the California Supreme Court, which ruled 
in May that cities can use zoning to ban them.

"I think Riverside is important because ... it's been in the press 
how against dispensaries they are and they've really kind of been 
instrumental in leading the effort to locally ban dispensaries, 
collectives, cooperatives," Thompson said.

California voters in 1996 passed the Compassionate Use Act, which 
allowed limited cultivation, distribution and use of marijuana for 
medical purposes, and some local governments have been battling over 
regulations or bans ever since.

"It's important that if we're going to start implementing the will of 
the voters in 1996, we have to just go town by town and Riverside is 
a good place to start," Thompson said.

Priamos has said the dispensaries are often targets of criminal 
activity and that city residents don't want them in their 
neighborhoods. Reached Wednesday, Priamos said he received a copy of 
Thompson's petition shortly after it was filed with the Riverside 
City Clerk's office.

Priamos said he has until Oct. 31 to review the petition to see if it 
complies with city election code and to prepare the official ballot 
language, regardless of whether he finds the petition legally valid.


Thompson said the proposed measure, which would be called the 
"Riverside medical marijuana restriction and limitation act," would 
create a process to allow about 10 or fewer dispensaries in 
commercial and industrial zones and not near parks, schools, housing 
or other dispensaries.

The dispensaries, described as nonprofit provider associations, would 
have to follow detailed rules about checking clients' IDs and doctor 
recommendations, what products could be provided and how they would 
be packaged, and when and how the facilities could operate.

Preference would be given to dispensaries that were operating in the 
first half of 2013, before the Riverside City Council passed a ban on 
medical marijuana delivery services.

Thompson said he expects the lengthy regulations and limited 
locations where dispensaries could operate to keep the number small.

John Tasker, a Riverside resident who supports the proposed measure, 
said it would get rid of the "Wild West" situation in which 
dispensaries lacked oversight and clear guidelines and too many of them opened.

"It's 'How do we go about doing this, how do we make this locally 
taxed, highly controlled, well regulated so that it's not a problem 
to the community,'" he said.


Since Riverside banned dispensaries in 2007, Priamos' enforcement 
efforts have closed at 75 of them, city officials have said.

One of those that closed was operated by Doree Rizzo, a 30-year 
Riverside resident with spinal problems that were worsened two car 
accidents. Rizzo said after the prescription medication she tried 
left her unable to function, her doctor recommended medical marijuana.

She had worked in the medical field and wasn't happy with the 
dispensaries she visited, so she opened the Wellness and Pain 
Management Center. It was successful until the city forced her to 
close in May, Rizzo said.

"It's wrong that the citizens and patients of Riverside are denied 
access to medication," she said. "They have to go into L.A. or go 
back to the streets."

If Priamos determines the petition meets election requirements, he 
said, he can evaluate its substance. If grounds for a legal challenge 
are found, the city could pursue in court either before or after the election.

Meanwhile, proponents would have 180 days to gather signatures to get 
the issue on the ballot. They would need signatures from 10 percent 
of Riverside voters  roughly 12,000 people  to get the issue on the 
next regular municipal election, which City Clerk Colleen Nicol said 
is June 2015. Or they would need 15 percent of city voters  about 
18,000 people  to sign in order to call a special election.

Riverside has 120,199 registered voters. Thompson said if 15 percent 
is what's required, "I think that there is enough support behind this 
to make it happen."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom