Clinic ban advances

The San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday unanimously approved an ordinance banning medical-marijuana dispensaries in unincorporated areas and restricting the cultivation of the drug by legitimate patients to indoors only.

The board’s decision is the latest in a legal saga that has spanned five years and has pitted medical-marijuana patients and advocates against the county in the battle over access to the drug. Advocates say marijuana has significant medical value, but opponents say it is a detriment to personal health and communities.

The proposed ordinance, which will go before the Board of Supervisors on April 5 for adoption, bans storefront dispensaries where marijuana andmarijuana-laced products are cultivated and sold but makes an exception for certain medical facilities such as acute- care hospitals, psychiatric hospitals and other state-regulated facilities identified in the state medical-marijuana program.

And while the Compassionate Use Act of 1996, also known as Proposition 215, allows medical-marijuana patients to grow and maintain a certain number of plants at their homes, the county’s ordinance restricts cultivation at private residences to indoors only. Plants can be grown outdoors only if they are confined to a greenhouse, according to the ordinance.

“Plants can grow to be very tall,” county spokesman David Wert said Tuesday as to why the county banned outdoor cultivation. “If they’re growing in a backyard, they can be visible from the street or from neighboring properties.”

He said overgrown plants can become a target for children and passers-by, and they raise concerns about the lengths people might go to steal or protect the plants. He also said the county doesn’t have the resources to police plant growth.

Opponents of the ordinance waved small American flags in the air during Tuesday’s public hearing, which got unruly at times when they felt some supporters of the ordinance were not staying on the topic of land use during the public-comment period.

Board Chairwoman Josie Gonzales found herself telling some opponents the same thing when it was their time to speak, saying she would simply turn off their microphone if they did not remain on topic.

After testimony from both sides, the board voted unanimously for approval.

Yucca Valley resident Lori Green, a member of the Inland Valley Drug Free Coalition, said the ordinance is more than fair, while still allowing for patient protections under Proposition 215.

“It is within the county’s rights to restrict and regulate marijuana within their boundaries,” Green said.

Opponents and advocates saw it differently.

“I would say that the ordinance is entirely illegal, and it does impair safe access (to medical marijuana),” said Letitia Pepper, a Riverside attorney and the director of legal and legislative analysis for Crusaders for Patients’ Rights, a Sacramento-based nonprofit that advocates for the rights of medical-marijuana patients. “It purports to criminalize cultivation of marijuana, which was decriminalized for people who are qualified medical-marijuana patients.”

She said Crusaders for Patients’ Rights will likely be filing a lawsuit against the county because all other avenues have been exhausted. Other plaintiffs may be joining in the lawsuit, she said.

The county implemented its medical marijuana identification card program in June 2009 after losing a joint lawsuit with San Diego County, filed in 2006, arguing that the state’s Compassionate Use Act and medical- marijuana program conflicted with the federal Controlled Substances Act of 1970, which classifies marijuana as a highly addictive drug. But the complexity surrounding dispensaries and their compliance with the county development code wasn’t so easy to address, and the county placed a moratorium on them, which remains in effect after nearly two years.

via : Redlands Daily Facts

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