Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Santa Barbara Medical Marijuana News

City pushes for nonprofit medical marijuana cooperatives

By ERIC LINDBERG — Nov. 18, 2009

Santa Barbara city leaders took a big step toward outlawing for-profit
medical marijuana shops yesterday evening by expressing support for new
regulations that would only allow nonprofit patient collectives that
conform to state guidelines.

After three and a half hours of impassioned discussion, the city council
voted unanimously to have a committee tackle the difficult task of
crafting laws that jibe with recently released guidelines from the
attorney general's office outlining exactly what should be
considered a legal medical marijuana operation.

City officials had a bit more difficulty when discussing a proposed
moratorium on new and pending applications for dispensaries, but
ultimately agreed on a 4-1 vote to consider the concept at a future

"We've sort of let the cart go before the horse," City
Councilmember Iya Falcone said in expressing her strong support for such
a moratorium. "We've been playing catch-up ever since. It's
time to stop. It's just time to stop right now and take a

A shift toward the nonprofit collective model appears to be largely in
step with state guidelines, a fact that nobody on the council disputed.
How to reach that model is a more difficult task, particularly given the
constantly changing legal landscape surrounding medical marijuana and
the difficulty of spelling out the precise definition of a collective.

JoAnna LaForce, a local resident and clinical pharmacist who operates a
collective in Los Angeles, said the collective model could include a
storefront operation. In fact, she argued that most patients want that
open, pharmacy-like atmosphere.

"They don't want to meet and grow their own cannabis, they
don't want to make their own brownies," she said.

Other speakers, such as Santa Barbara School Districts Superintendent
Brian Sarvis, said storefront dispensaries are too much of a risk,
particularly when they are located near schools or areas where children

"It sends the wrong message to our kids," he said. "Too many
of our kids show up high or with marijuana to sell. And yes, they tell
us they get it at the dispensary."

Local leaders have been struggling with how to ensure legitimate
patients receive medical marijuana while still protecting neighborhoods
from negative impacts for several years. A set of regulations went into
effect last year, but city officials continued to receive complaints
about the proliferation of new dispensaries.

Currently, the city is aware of one permitted dispensary that is open,
eight that are in the approval pipeline, four that opened before the
city established regulations and are considered nonconforming, and three
illegal shops that are facing enforcement.

After a round of painstaking ordinance committee hearings in recent
months, city officials devised a set of 10 recommendations to tighten up
current regulations, including a citywide cap of seven on the number of
pot shops.

And even as the council discussed a fundamental change in how pot shops
are viewed under the law yesterday evening, city leaders also agreed
that those stricter regulations should move forward as quickly as
possible in the interim.

"We might as well finish the improvements we've made to regulate
the existing approved [dispensaries] ," Councilmember Dale Francisco
said. "I don't see a problem with that."

Those proposed regulations will come before the ordinance committee next
Tuesday for a final look before proceeding to the planning commission
and on to the full council for approval.

Councilmember Das Williams said those stricter regulations should
address a significant number of community concerns about medical
marijuana operations — through enhanced security requirements, a
limit of one shop in each of seven designated geographical areas, and a
shortened timeframe for nonconforming dispensaries to come into
compliance or shut down.

"I would submit to you that the one dispensary permitted under our
ordinance is probably not the lion's share of the problems that
we've heard about tonight," he said.

After dealing with the proposed changes to the current regulations,
ordinance committee would then take on the job of creating regulations
that would result in a nonprofit collective being the only accepted form
of medical marijuana distribution in the city.

http://www.thedaily News/111809medic almarijuana

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