By Stan Oklobdzija
The board of supervisors voted Tuesday to unanimously continue with the county´s medical marijuana ordinance which, amongst other things, prohibits the sale or distribution of medical marijuana within 1,000 feet of any residence, at their meeting on Tuesday.
The vote dealt a serious blow to those hopeful to build a medical marijuana depository within Amador County.
The action comes nearly a year after the June 2004 interim urgency ordinance which placed severe restrictions on medical marijuana distribution and cultivation in Amador County. An interim urgency ordinance allows the county to restrict or prohibit a certain use for a specified amount of time without conducting the normal public review and hearing process. In this case, the restrictions were designed to prevent any possible violations of the Federal Controlled Substances Act, according to the text of the ordinance.
“It is still illegal to buy, sell or transport marijuana,” said Amador County Counsel John Hahn at Tuesday´s meeting. “A dispensary would create a site for an activity which is illegal.”
Hahn´s comments coalesce with a letter drafted by Amador County District Attorney Todd Riebe in December of last year.
“I have been asked by the county administration to prepare a legal opinion on whether the proposed marijuana dispensaries in Amador County would comply with federal and state law,” wrote Riebe. “The short answer is no.”
The letter went on to state that California´s Compassionate Use Act of 1996, legislation designed to allow those with proven medical conditions to use marijuana, does not exempt users from federal prosecution under the Controlled Substances Act. However, Riebe did note that in Raich v. Ashcroft, a 2003 case heard by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeal, the court found that intrastate cultivation, possession and use for personal medical needs were different from drug trafficking and thus application of the Controlled Substances Act was unconstitutional.
A report prepared for Tuesday´s meeting by the planning commission recommended the board adopt the interim ordinance as its permanent ordinance. Aside from the restriction against locating within 1,000 feet of any residence, several other restrictions remained in place. Amongst these include the prohibition of marijuana use on the depository premises, an 8-ounce limit per patient on the amount of marijuana able to be stored at once and access by the county to the depositories´ written records within 24 hours of such a request. The report is also quick to distinguish between “depositories” and “dispensaries,” the latter which would not be allowed within Amador County. A depository allows users to safely store marijuana purchased elsewhere, whereas a dispensary actively sells marijuana.
Speaking at the meeting were several proponents of medical marijuana both from Amador County and beyond. Adele Morgan, owner of a cannabis club in San Leandro, said her club “helps people in need.
“I was a nurse for 30 years. There were times I wished I could give someone just a little so they could be at peace or eat,” she said.
Ryan Landers, political affairs director of the American Alliance for Medical Cannabis, spoke to the board of supervisors.
“If you don´t have a dispensary, you´re pushing street sales,” he said, imploring the board to overturn the ordinance.
Landers also spoke from personal experience.
“I´ve been a full-blown AIDS patient for ten years,” he said. “Marijuana helps me control my nausea and helps me eat. Without it, food hurts so bad it´s unreal. Protect the citizens of your county by allowing people do it in the open,” he said.
Angeline JoVan, an Amador County resident, also spoke out.
“After five years on morphine, I´ve been able to get off,” she said. “I urge you to have compassion for people.” JoVan said she regularly makes the long drive to Oakland to buy her marijuana.
Not all citizens at the meeting were in favor of the depository.
“I spent 29 years in law enforcement,” said Ken Mazzanti. “I´ve seen these depositories become a magnet for illegal activities. I don´t want to see that influence in our community.”
Though the board recognized the need for some people to use marijuana as part of their treatment, some expressed concerns about running afoul of federal law.
“I´m not sure I want to be a forward thinker about this until the laws are clearer,” said District II Supervisor Richard Forster. “We need to wait for the Supreme Court.”
District I Supervisor Rich Escamilla stated that “we´re not stopping them from using, just getting it. All the people that called from my area were not opposed to the marijuana, but to the location,” he added.
District III Supervisor Richard Vinson strongly regretted having to oppose the measure.
“Without a new ordinance, they will go to the streets,” he said. “If it´s only a state business, I don´t think the Supreme Court should tell us what to do if the people of California approved it. I think if it´s under controlled conditions, I don´t have any problem with approving it.”
Article reprinted with permission from Amador Ledger Dispatch