Friday, July 6, 2012

(San Luis Obispo) Grand jury calls for regulation of medical marijuana

By Adobe Staff -

San Luis Obispo County should convene a committee to develop a “fair and viable” ordinance governing so-called brick-and-mortar medical marijuana dispensaries, a recent grand jury report said.

The report, issued June 28, also recommends that the county and its cities develop ordinances governing medical marijuana mobile delivery services, which presently operate virtually without regulation.

Grand jurors also said the County Health Department should consider developing standards for edible medical marijuana sold within the county.

The report specifically states that it should not be construed as advocating the use of medical marijuana. Instead, the findings are designed to inform the public and government officials.

Grand jurors admitted that the federal, state and local laws are conflicting, confusing and ineffective, which makes it frustrating and difficult to enforce the laws.

But they also said “local governments have the ability to create order amid the current chaos through regulation and oversight.”

“Safe access for authorized medical marijuana patients, and regulation is the key,” the report said. “Codes and ordinances could place specific, reviewable, measurable and enforceable conditions on dispensaries, as well as delivery services.”

Specific codes and regulations would also prevent medical marijuana from being diverted to those who abuse it, according to the report.

Other recommendations call for the county and cities to require that medical marijuana delivery services obtain business licenses and sellers permits as well as keep accurate records.

The report said the county and cities should use the licenses and permits to develop lists of marijuana delivery services operating within their jurisdictions.

The county and its cities have until Sept. 24 to respond to the findings and recommendations in the report. Health Department officials have until Aug. 27 to respond.

Grand jurors concluded that the county must develop more specific ordinances because medical marijuana regulation is currently “subjective and inconsistent.”

Although three applications have been processed for dispensaries in the unincorporated areas of the county, all three have been denied, grand jurors noted.

A minor-use permit for one dispensary proposed for Nipomo was denied by the Planning Commission in 2010.

Commissioners approved a permit for another dispensary proposed for Oceano in 2011, but that decision was reversed on appeal this year by the Board of Supervisors.

But what’s worse, the grand jury report said, an unknown number of marijuana delivery services — possibly as many as 40 — are operating within the county and its cities.

Because the delivery services are unregulated, they “have created a ‘gray’ market that local government is ignoring.”

“As a result, safe access for those legally authorized for medical marijuana use is not ensured, thereby placing the safety of the community at risk,” the report said.

Grand jurors said more regulation will likely be costly but noted that the costs could be recovered.

They noted that Oakland taxes medical marijuana and collected $1.4 million in business taxes from dispensaries in 2011.

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