Source: Fresno Bee (CA)
Author: Marc Benjamin, The Fresno Bee
Published: Sunday, February 27, 2005
Copyright: 2005 The Fresno Bee
Contact: [email protected]
Clovis is considering a break with other Fresno County communities that
would make it easier for medical marijuana patients to receive their
Planning commissioners are examining several alternatives to temporary
ordinances approved by Fresno County and the cities of Fresno and Clovis
that would make it easier to supply and acquire marijuana for prescribed
The ordinance now limits marijuana sales to no more than two patients,
permits cultivation only in locked structures and limits possession to
six mature or 12 immature plants per person.
Under the existing ordinance, a cultivation cooperative must be confined
to an industrial zone with a limit of 100 plants. Under state law, a
patient can possess up to 8 ounces.
The more-lenient approach is being pitched by an attorney who represents
medical marijuana users. The alternate Clovis proposal would allow
marijuana dispensaries in industrially zoned areas if the more stringent
ordinance is deemed too restrictive by a court.
State law allows medical marijuana, but the U.S. Supreme Court is
expected to rule this year whether state law can supersede federal law,
which considers marijuana an unlawful substance.
Shaver Lake lawyer Bill McPike appealed through the Clovis planning
commission for a system that allows identification cards for medical
marijuana users. He also seeks dispensaries with fees that will pay for
police department inspection and patrol of sales sites.
He also wants a more definitive description of backyard "structures" or
in-home grow areas. Those wanting to make medical marijuana purchases
could be any person with a medical marijuana prescription, not just
A medical marijuana prescription card, McPike envisions, is one that
police will be able to check on a computer in their vehicles, similar to
a drivers license.
Under the ordinance now in force, a caregiver can sell to two medical
marijuana patients, but McPike said that people growing marijuana from
their homes and selling it to two people at a time will be more
difficult to control than at a central location.
"You are better off to put this into a larger scale," McPike said. "It
will be easier for police to monitor."
He said police can audit all receipts and take a 10% cut as an
"Why should police worry about chasing patients and why should patients
be mad at police?" McPike asked, describing Clovis' interest as
Revenue, McPike forecasts, could be substantial with hundreds, possibly
thousands, of patients paying $300 per ounce for marijuana. He said
there might be as many as 5,000 medical marijuana users living in the
Police don't view the ordinance as a money-making proposition but also
as a safety issue.
"From their perspective, they paint a picture that it would bring
lucrative revenue generation, but it doesn't address the problems
communities have experienced from large-scale dispensaries," Clovis
police Capt. Russ Greathouse said. "The most important thing is to
address the needs of people under the care of a doctor and address their
needs to cultivate [or acquire] marijuana while preserving the health,
welfare and safety of the city."
But McPike contends local cities should consider Kern County as a model
Under rules set out by the Kern County District Attorney's Office, a
prescription must be forged or a county health department-issued
identification card must be fake or used by a different person before a
violator is jailed. Kern County also permits up to 50 plants per
Joe Fortt, who operates a Bakersfield-area dispensary and has 300
patients, addressed Clovis planning commissioners, saying his business
has been open for two years and serves patients from 10 counties.
Serving as a caregiver with 300 patients means he can have 1,800 mature
plants in his possession for his patients, under state law.
"We don't want to be a nuisance," Fortt said. "We have had no associated
Fresno County law enforcement agencies have voiced concerns about
reports of groups of patients smoking marijuana near dispensaries in
other communities and congregating and smoking in nearby parks. Other
cities have reported increased numbers of people arriving in their
communities to get a doctor's recommendation and drugs.
There have even been more localized problems.
Last year, a Clovis couple with medical marijuana authorization were
victims of trespassing after high school students saw their plants and
climbed into their yard to steal marijuana, police said. The couple took
to sleeping outdoors with weapons, police said.
Gary and Paula Ainsworth said a local dispensary would save them the
trouble of having to grow their own plants and allow them to buy the
drug locally. Now they go to Oakland.
"That's the idea, is to have dispensaries open so patients can get safe
access," said Gary Ainsworth, who needs the medicine for chronic pain.
He said the couple still have a problem with thieves and have installed
"It's not fair to me, my family or my neighbors," he said. "It's just
like somebody ripping off a pharmacy."
But Kern County Sheriff's Cmdr. Dave Fesler said deputies have had no
serious issues with medical marijuana dispensaries.
"We have had a few situations where we had search warrants, but
[patients] were well within the guidelines of the law," Fesler said.
McPike said he made overtures to Fresno city officials about changing
their nearly identical ordinance to Clovis, but he received no response.
Fresno police Chief Jerry Dyer disagrees with McPike's assessment of a
centralized dispensary causing fewer problems.
The threat of burglary and robbery, he said, looms larger because of
sizable amounts of money changing hands and the nature of the product
While he agrees that prescribed marijuana should be available to those
who need it, Dyer said the idea of law enforcement's receiving an
administrative fee, or cut of the profits, from the growing and sales of
marijuana seems unethical.
Planning commissioners will discuss the issue and possibly recommend a
policy on March 24 to the Clovis City Council.
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