The South County Advisory Council met Monday evening, 01/25/10 in full session to consider the application of two Los Angeles County businessmen to place a marijuana dispensary in Nipomo. After a three hour meeting, attended by over 100 local residents, and the media, the council unanimoulsy voted to deny the application. Their recommendation will go to the San Luis Obispo County Planning Department which must now decide how to proceed in the face of Nipomo’s overwhelming opposition. The Santa Maria Times did its usual exceptional job in covering the meeting:
A medical-marijuana dispensary proposed for Nipomo has received a unanimous thumbs down from the South County Advisory Council, which advises the Board of Supervisors on land use issues.
After a more than three-hour hearing interrupted by audience applause and loud comments, the council Monday night recommended that the supervisors deny a minor use permit for the facility proposed on Lindon Lane by Robert Brody of Los Angeles and Tom Meredith of Long Beach.
The council then went a step further, and unanimously recommended that the supervisors revise the county’s medical-marijuana ordinance to bring it in line with a 2008 state attorney general’s opinion that dispensaries are illegal.
That would ban medical-marijuana dispensaries operated as store-front businesses, but would allow cooperatives or collectives that only buy from and distribute to members.
The SCAC considered recommending that the supervisors ban dispensaries outright, but members couldn’t agree on whether to support a countywide ban or one affecting only the South County.
In a joint effort, SCAC members Stephanie Franks, Rick Dean, Mike Winn and Richard Wright crafted the motion recommending denial of the dispensary for a number of reasons.
Those included the impact on law enforcement resources, the safety of the community and surrounding businesses, a potential for greatly increased traffic, the violation of federal law, the state attorney general’s opinion and the potential violation of the county ordinance requiring dispensaries to be more than 1,000 feet from a school, recreational facility or youth center.
Alicia Pasko, who operates Paradise Gymnastics across Lindon Lane from the proposed site, said the dispensary would be too close to a facility that serves children from
6 months to 17 years old.
“It’s scary enough when I’m there by myself at night and the lights go out,” she said, adding that the dispensary would kill her business, which relies on word-of-mouth advertising.
Franks was vehemently opposed to the dispensary from the outset, citing reports that allege the “average age” of dispensary users is “18 to 35.”
“That’s not medical marijuana,” she said, echoing many other speakers’ sentiments that most people who obtain medical marijuana cards “do not have cancer, do not have insomnia (and) do not have back pain” but are using the drug recreationally.
Rebecca Prewett said she found it would be easy to obtain a medical marijuana card by simply spending $65 to $100.
“You can get one for PMS — I’m not kidding,” she told the council. “That’s how easy it is.”
Guy Murray agreed: “There’s a reason no city in San Luis Obispo County has a medical-marijuana dispensary. … The reason is they are rife with the potential for abuse.”
More than 100 residents packed the Nipomo Community Services District board room and stood outside the doors for the SCAC meeting.
A total of 33 people addressed council members; only five of those were in favor of the dispensary.
“I do not use medical marijuana … but I am here for those people who do but cannot come forward,” said Deborah Sykes. “Count me for 25 people who would be here if they could.”
She said many citizens couldn’t speak in favor of the dispensary because it would affect their jobs or standing in the community, or because they were too ill to attend the meeting.
“I’m here to talk about health choices, personal freedom and keeping the government out of our lives,” said supporter Amber Rogers, noting that forcing sick people to buy marijuana on the street is “demeaning.”
Warren J. Sarbis III said he has to travel all the way to Santa Barbara to buy medical marijuana for his ill
“We need a medical marijuana dispensary in our community,” he said.
While most opponents said they support the use of medical marijuana by people who really need it, they objected to the crime they believe a dispensary would bring to the community.
They said it would lead to increased burglaries, robberies and drug abuse as dispensaries have in other areas.
“My concern here is, anytime you mix drugs and money, you have a problem,” said Morgan Holland.
Many said the increased crime would strain the Sheriff’s Department’s limited resources in the South County.
“In my opinion, an operation of this type would not only be detrimental to the community, but it would also be a drain on resources,” agreed Cmdr. Brian Hascall of the sheriff’s South County Station in Oceano.
In addition to the Santa Maria Times, KSBY and KCOY sent their news divisions to cover the event live. They also ran good segments on the local news. As time permits I have other information from one of the South County Advisory Board members who has shared additional thoughts on why he voted now, which I will post separately.