Medical marijuana proponents today are expressing extreme disappointment with the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors’ decision Tuesday to ban dispensaries in unincorporated parts of the county.
The supervisors voted Tuesday to both ban the establishment of dispensaries in unincorporated parts of the county and to extend a temporary moratorium on dispensaries until the ban becomes effective on Sept. 25.
Supervisors cited regulations passed on June 10 by the city of San Jose, placing restrictions on operation of dispensaries in the city, as part of the reason for the ban in unincorporated areas.
Supervisor Dave Cortese said, “We need to protect unincorporated Santa Clara County from a potential migration of medical marijuana dispensaries from San Jose.”
Dale Gieringer, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML)’s California chapter, said the supervisors’ decision is both irresponsible toward patients who will have to travel longer distances to access their medication and an example of dysfunctional government.
“It’s disappointing that the supervisors don’t feel competent to regulate dispensaries the way other Bay Area counties have done,” rather than ban them, Gieringer said.
“In the wake of San Jose’s restrictions, it could mean more hardship for South Bay patients. The [Santa Clara] county was already toward the bottom in terms of access to medical cannabis in the Bay Area and is pretty backwards on medical marijuana in general,” Gieringer said.
“Transportation isn’t very good in the county either. A lot of patients will end up having to go to Oakland or San Francisco,” he said.
Supervisor Cortese said that he has instructed his staff to monitor the impact of Tuesday’s ban on access for compassionate use “with the understanding that we can revisit this down the road if access becomes an issue.”
Currently, there are 78 dispensaries in San Jose, according to county officials. Under the new city regulations, only 13 of those can remain in their current locations.
A county staff report said there are 623 parcels in the city available for relocation to appropriately zoned areas. However, dispensaries have been having a hard time relocating.
LeAnna Gomez, chief operating manager of Papadon’s 420 Collective, said she has had to shut down five of her six marijuana operations in the city and has not been able to relocate despite much effort.
“I’m scrambling day and night looking for a location. There is no way there are 623 parcels available within city limits, as presented by the city manager’s office,” Gomez said.
Gomez said she’s been researching locations for 45 days, with multiple staff members helping her look “for magical parcels out there. No such luck.”
In a statement, county supervisors said that, “A major concern is that if recreational marijuana use is legalized in California, medical marijuana dispensaries would be the first point of distribution. Restricting the location of dispensaries will help limit youth access to marijuana.”
The county is planning a public education campaign about marijuana use, both on the adverse effects it can have on young people, and on the benefits of compassionate use for patients.