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Few Complaints About Medical Pot

Roseville police have arrested
a few drivers for smoking behind the wheel.


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Source: Sacramento Bee (CA)
Author: Gabriel Baird -- Bee Staff Writer
Published: Sunday, April 18, 2004 
Copyright: 2004 The Sacramento Bee
Contact: [email protected]

Following Elk Grove's recent passage of restrictions on medicinal marijuana dispensaries, Roseville police say so far the area's first such shop hasn't caused their city to go to pot.

That's not to say that all smokers of legal dope have behaved like model citizens since Richard Marino opened Capitol Compassionate Care there in January.

While marijuana may ease, for instance, cancer patients' pain or increase their appetite, it doesn't help anyone's nerves to spot drivers smoking while behind the wheel.

"We have had at least two complaints of motorists driving down streets smoking bongs or pipes," said Dee Dee Gunther, who analyzes crime statistics for the Roseville Police Department.

Police have arrested for driving under the influence a few stoned motorists who said they got their marijuana from Marino's dispensary.

"People might like to know that even if you have a prescription for medical marijuana, you can't use it while driving," Gunther said.

Other than these relatively few offenders, however, Roseville police say they have had no trouble from Compassionate Care.

But since the shop has been open only a few months, it is too soon to give any hard statistics on its impact on the community, Gunther said.

Other businesses on Lincoln Street in historic Roseville also seem to have no complaints with Marino or his dispensary.

Dan Foster is a loan expert for Great American Mortgage across the street from Compassionate Care.

"It's not like he looks like some hippie derelict roaming the streets," Foster said. "I haven't seen any trouble there."

Shannon's Interiors has been in historic Roseville for about eight years, co-owner Teresa Shannon said.

"If he was selling it on the street to get high, I would be trying to get him out," Shannon said.

But that's not the case.

"We have no trouble whatsoever from people who are shopping there," she said.

Still, Elk Grove officials say that with the city's traffic troubles, the last thing it needs is a few people enjoying high times between stoplights on Laguna Boulevard.

"The No. 1 killer of teens is alcohol-related accidents," said Councilman Jim Cooper, a captain in the Sacramento County Sheriff's Department.

Cooper spent eight years as an undercover narcotics agent. He said having a dispensary in Elk Grove would make marijuana more readily available, allowing it to trickle down into the hands of more kids.

"Among teens, the gateway drug is marijuana, hands down," he said.

Cooper cast the council's only vote against adopting restrictions on shops, but he said city officials had to take the action they did.

Without it, he said someone might have opened a cannabis club near residents' homes.

"Our back was in the corner," Cooper said.

Council members say they are complying with state law requiring them to permit the dispensaries. California voters passed Proposition 215 in 1996, making it OK to have and grow marijuana for medical treatment recommended by a doctor.

Still, the Elk Grove City Council isn't exactly welcoming dispensaries with open arms. The council voted April 7 to place a number of restrictions on such businesses, partially in hopes of discouraging such shops from opening in Elk Grove.

The ordinance includes restricting dispensaries to areas zoned commercial that are at least 1,000 feet from any school. The council also forbade use and cultivation of marijuana on the premises. Plus, shops here would have to drug-test employees.

The Citrus Heights City Council approved a similar ordinance last week. A dispenser has leased property there and has a request for a business license pending.

In the discussion before approving their ordinance, Citrus Heights officials made sure to require "adequate security" measures.

Medicinal marijuana proponents praised Citrus Heights as "compassionate," partly because they said council members saw a medical marijuana dispensary as a medical establishment rather than an adult establishment like a tavern.

But Elk Grove Mayor Sophia Scherman fears that such shops could invite more serious crimes, such as robbery.

In Roseville, Marino said he has taken precautions to prevent trouble at his shop.

"We've put in bank teller windows, with a pass-through box underneath it," he said. "I've installed more cameras so I can see up and down the street."

He said he hasn't spotted any serious trouble with them yet, although twice he has called the police to complain about peddlers standing outside trying to steal his business. No arrests were made.

Roseville's Gunther said police also have responded to a few false alarms from Marino's security system, but he said that was typical of new businesses, regardless of what they're selling.

Rather than reassuring Scherman, Marino's security precautions only makes her more leery.

"If they have to go through that type of security, then we don't want them in Elk Grove," she said at the April 7 meeting.

Bee Staff Writer David Richie contributed to this report. 

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