Sunday, October 30, 2011

(Mendocino) County responds to grand jury's medical marijuana dispensary report

By TIFFANY REVELLE The Daily Journal
Updated: 10/30/2011 12:00:01 AM PDT

Mendocino County departments responded in August and September to a report from the county's civil grand jury recommending that the county regulate medical marijuana dispensaries.

The report, titled "A Pot Paradox or Bud Bingo?: A Report on Medical Marijuana Dispensaries in Mendocino County," says all that's required to open a dispensary is a business license, which doesn't provide for "the needs of neighbors and communities to be protected from public safety impacts" of dispensaries.

"The public safety impacts are currently being met, regardless of the existence of dispensaries," Mendocino County Counsel Jeanine Nadel wrote in her response.

The grand jury report also notes two dispensaries were opened earlier this year in the coastal town of Mendocino, both within 1,000 feet of schools.

Nadel responded that she has "no specific knowledge" of that and two other of the grand jury's findings.

The county Treasurer-Tax Collector's Office, which the grand jury criticizes for being "unable to accurately state how many (dispensaries) or collective business licenses have been issued," stated in its response that it knows about at least one of the dispensaries in the town of Mendocino.

"The (office) has issued one business license for medical marijuana distribution in Mendocino Township and has no specific information regarding a second establishment," Treasurer-Tax Collector Shari Schapmire writes in her response.

Schapmire also notes that, contrary to an earlier estimate of 10 dispensaries in all of Mendocino County, her office has issued four business licenses for medical marijuana dispensaries or collectives.

Nash Gonzalez, director of the county Planning and Building Services Department, gives the exact addresses of both Mendocino dispensaries and their relative distances from the local high school.

"The two dispensaries that staff is aware of are located at 10470 Lansing Street ... located approximately 897 feet from the high school and 675 feet from the community center, which has after-school programs. The second is located at 10483 Lansing Street, approximately 500 feet from the community center and 890 feet from the high school," Gonzalez writes.

His office reviews the business licenses "for use and occupancy only," he writes, adding that determining whether the license is for a dispensary "would be difficult ... until such time as a specific use type is defined for marijuana dispensaries."

Gonzalez responds to the grand jury's claim that "an undetermined number of (dispensaries) have been established" in the county, saying county code doesn't provide for marijuana sales as a permitted use.

"Many of these so-called dispensaries have or are applying as some form of retail sales (i.e. herbal sales, etc.)," Gonzalez writes. "Therefore it is difficult to fully evaluate such uses unless it is specifically noted on an application that such uses are medical marijuana dispensaries."

The grand jury notes in its report that "There are no grounds for denial by the county (of the establishment of a dispensary) except the limitations imposed by the business license process."

Nadel agrees with the finding. Gonzalez also agrees, but notes that "sale of marijuana is not a permitted use contained within the county's zoning ordinance and is thus not permitted and a business license could be denied.

"However, (Planning and Building) staff cannot regulate a marijuana dispensary' when an applicant for a business license does not represent such use on an application, and calls it something else that could be permitted within the confines of retail sales."

Responding to a recommendation that the county adopt regulations regarding the production and sale of food-based medical marijuana items, Gonzalez says his staff is "more than willing" to meet with Nadel and Mendocino County Sheriff Tom Allman to craft the language of an ordinance regulating dispensaries "as it relates to zoning/land use/building and safety issue (sic)."

He goes on in his response to recommend that the county Health and Human Services Agency's Division of Environmental Health have input about that recommendation.

Environmental Health Director John Morley disagrees with the recommendation, citing a California Department of Public Health determination that "edible products containing marijuana may not legally be sold as food pursuant to the Sherman Food, Drug and Cosmetic Law ... or the California Retail Food Code."

Morley continues, "Edibles that contain marijuana meet the statutory definition of drugs' under the Sherman Law because they are being used in the cure, mitigation and treatment of disease. The edible merely becomes the drug delivery system."

The grand jury also recommends the county establish fees to cover its regulation and enforcement costs.

Gonzalez recommends in his response that "a permit or entitlement be utilized as a mechanism for regulation and enforcement," noting the recommendation needs further analysis.

The grand jury also recommends that the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors adopt an ordinance that would address neighborhood safety concerns, mobile dispensaries, patient/caregiver relationships, medical marijuana transportation within the county, a definition of a mature, female plant and a minimum age requirement for anyone allowed inside a dispensary.

Nadel notes in her response that the Board of Supervisors formed an ad-hoc committee to write an ordinance regulating dispensaries.

Tiffany Revelle can be reached at, or at 468-3523.

No comments: