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City Approves Medical Marijuana Dispensary.

By admin | December 3, 2004

Mountain Democrat
By Jonathan Schwarzberg
Nov. 25, 2004.

The Placerville City Council approved a permit for the city’s first medical marijuana dispensary Tuesday night, but only if the federal government agrees to allow the use of this drug.

Steven Williams applied for a permit to dispense medical marijuana at 549 Main St. after the City Council passed an ordinance regulating these kinds of facilities. The chief of police turned down his application because the facility would violate the ordinance due to its proximity to a school and a church.

However, Williams appealed the decision and city staff said a commercial section and a hillside would prohibit direct access to either of these facilities from the dispensary. The only access would realistically put the dispensary much farther from the school and church.

“The intent of the ordinance is met and also exceeded,” said Steve Calfee, the city’s community development director.

Following Calfee’s report, Placerville’s Police Chief George Nielsen said he did agree with staff’s reasoning – with some hesitation.

“Overall, I’m not in favor of medical marijuana in the first place,” Nielsen said. “(But) it seems this will be relatively low impact.”

Though the council approved the facility, the approval is based on the possibility of a major policy change at the federal level. Currently, the federal government does not permit the sale or use of marijuana, but California state law allows the use of medical marijuana.

Because of this discrepancy, the approval of a medical marijuana facility is contingent upon the Supreme Court permitting medical marijuana in California or federal legislation that would legalize this use. The dispensary would also be permitted if marijuana’s status is changed to a legal, controlled substance.

“I think this applicant is being very prudent,” said City Manager John Driscoll.

The council did not approve the dispensary without asking a lot of questions, including how the business would receive marijuana.

Applicant Williams said marijuana production appears to be a cottage industry where people who grow a little more than they can use bring it to the dispensary. He said the Placerville store would only use locally grown marijuana.

Driscoll said there is really no way to keep track of who is selling the marijuana to the facility. However, the city would manage how much marijuana is available.

“We can regulate how much is there, but we can’t regulate how it gets there,” Driscoll said.

Prospective buyers would need to have a recommendation from a licensed physician, not a chiropractor or other medical professional.

“This isn’t freely distributed just on faith,” Williams said.

Ed Capitanich would be the general manager of the facility, which would also include an art gallery and luxury units separate from the dispensary. He said the businesses are trying to cater to a high-end clientele, which would be bothered by a bunch of “druggies” hanging out.

They would install a cage to hold the marijuana, have cameras on that are linked to his house and an alarm system.

“We’ve put a lot of money into security,” Capitanich said.

He said they already have about 100 people interested in using the dispensary, and most of these are older people with medical conditions.

“You’re dealing with people who are really in the late stages of life,” Williams said.

He said that having a regulated facility could even help the Police Department.

“I would suggest that it frees up the law enforcement community to take care of other needs,” Williams said.

The council passed the dispensary with a 3-1 vote with Marian Washburn providing the dissenting vote. She said she could not vote for a dispensary until she had more information about the logistics of this kind of facility. Other council members present were Mark Acuna, Robby Colvin and Pierre Rivas.

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