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Dispense With The Clones

Metro Santa Cruz, Editorial, 7th August 2005

Noz can't help but get a little excited over the news that our friends who need more convenient access to medical marijuana will soon be able to purchase their pot at a dispensary right over in yonder Harvey West Business Park.

On July 26, Lisa Molyneaux secured the council's unanimous blessing to open up a 3,000-square-foot medical marijuana dispensary at 140 Dubois St., which consists of two separate buildings with five offices in each. The Planning Commission had already approved the project with a 5-0 vote, but in order to nip any potential problems in the bud, the council decided to hear the matter prior to their vacation to add their own set of provisions onto the conditions of approval.

After hearing from Chief of Police Howard Skerry and Parks and Recreation director Dannetee Shoemaker, who both recommended denying approval, Councilmember Emily Reilly made a motion to limit the dispensary's activities to its primary goal of procuring and doling out medical marijuana for at least the first six months of operation. Molyneaux hopes to eventually provide massage and chiropractic services and space for classes and support groups, but for now she's just happy she's gotten to where she has in the permit process, which has been complicated by zoning variance issues and its proximity to the fun-for-the-whole-family mecca that is Harvey West Park.

One of the council's provisions forbids Molyneaux from cultivating or cloning marijuana onsite. Similarly, Councilmembers Cynthia Mathews and Tim Fitzmaurice expressed their faith that Molyneux will not be cultivating or cloning problem clients.

"People that are patients are responsible citizens," said Molyneaux, who is a patient herself. "I think any business is going to have a problem, until we prove that it can work."

Reilly echoed Molyneux's sentiment, insisting that if the city doesn't go out on a limb and approve a dispensary now, "we never will."

Councilmember Ed Porter asked for a provision to hold the dispensary responsible for patients smoking marijuana in the nearby parks, but was satisfied with a promise that patients would be educated to take their medicine at home, even though Molyneaux said that state law allows medical marijuana smoking anywhere cigarette smoking is allowed, provided that it's done discreetly.

Both Reilly and Rotkin used the prescription drug analogy, saying, for instance, that nobody is worried about living or working near Longs, which dispenses Vicodin and other narcotics.

To all the people who have complained about how burdensome the approval process is, Councilmember Ryan Coonerty said, "Although this has been a long and arduous process ... I think we've approached this in a very thoughtful way, in a very structured way. ... I think this is the right way--absent a sensible national policy--to do this."

Porter, a teacher at Santa Cruz High School, was considerably more conflicted:

"Frankly, I was prepared to vote no," said Porter. "Teaching at Santa Cruz High School, the last time we touched on this subject my students said, 'Oh, Mr. Porter, you voted in favor of medical marijuana, let's go burn one!' That's not a tolerable situation for me as a teacher there, and I have to now be prepared to recite this whole discussion to explain why there is a difference."

Porter's comments were met with giggles from the audience, but nobody upstaged Mike Tomasi, the self-described "king of marijuana," who told the council that they "ought to let them smoke the blunt right inside the building."

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