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 Supervisor Proposes County-Run Pot Clinic


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Source: San Francisco Chronicle (CA)
Author: Erin Hallissy, Chronicle Staff Writer
Published: Tuesday, May 10, 2005 - Page B - 1
Copyright: 2005 San Francisco Chronicle 
Contact: [email protected]

California -- Alameda County could become the first public entity in the nation to run a medical marijuana clinic at a government hospital if a majority of county supervisors agrees to a proposal that Sheriff Charles Plummer -- an opponent of medicinal pot -- called a brilliant idea.

Supervisor Nate Miley proposed at a committee hearing Monday that the county open a medical marijuana dispensary at Fairmont Hospital in San Leandro as an alternative to private or nonprofit clubs that sometimes run afoul of residents or businesses concerned about loitering and other nuisances.

"It is the right thing to do,'' Miley said after he and Supervisor Scott Haggerty directed the county's counsel to draft either an ordinance to permit the public-run clinic or new regulations on the number and operating practices of private clinics. "If it's medical, let's put it in a hospital setting. Let the county go about doing it. It just makes sense to me.''

Haggerty agreed the full board should be allowed to consider the idea, which will come before it May 24. But he expressed skepticism over medical marijuana and said he believes there is rampant abuse of regulations at pot clubs.

"We call it medical, yet we don't distribute it through pharmacies,'' Haggerty said.

Even if the county's Board of Supervisors approves the idea, the federal government could swiftly move to quash the clinic.

"Marijuana is illegal to cultivate, to possess and to distribute,'' said Drug Enforcement Administration agent Richard Meyer. "The Controlled Substances Act doesn't make any exceptions'' for medical marijuana.

The U.S. Supreme Court has rejected medical uses of marijuana and is expected to rule soon on whether federal bans on the drug override laws in California and nine other states that allow marijuana use with a doctor's recommendation. The case got a frosty reception from some justices during oral arguments in November.

Haggerty said he will not endorse a county-run marijuana clinic, unless the federal government sanctions it.

"I would never, ever put county employees in a situation where they're incarcerated while doing county work,'' he said.

But Miley said if other supervisors agree with his proposal, he will be willing to take on the federal government, even if it does create criminal or civil liabilities for the county.

"It could advance this whole issue significantly, which I think would be good,'' Miley said.

This is not the first time Miley has sought proposals to endorse official government distribution of medical marijuana. When he was on the Oakland City Council in 1998, he proposed that the city set up a dispensary after the federal government shut the Oakland Cannabis Buyers' Cooperative. The council instead declared a public health emergency.

Miley said Monday that the proposed clinic at Fairmont Hospital, which now has rehabilitation and HIV services, could be a pilot program to show that marijuana could be distributed safely and under proper medical supervision without causing problems to surrounding communities.

Several people who spoke at the hearing complained about private clinics operating in unincorporated areas of the county, and some residents endorsed the idea of one county-run clinic.

Plummer, who said he does not believe in medical marijuana, called the idea brilliant.

"The county should be doing it so it's done right,'' the sheriff said.

While the federal government does not condone medical marijuana, raids at clinics are rare.

"Our No. 1 priority in California is methamphetamine,'' the DEA's Meyer said. "That's not to say we give marijuana dealers a break. Those persons, they should know that cultivation, possession and distribution of marijuana is a criminal violation of federal statutes.''

Note: Fairmont Hospital would dispense medical marijuana.

Related Articles & Web Site:

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