Cannabis clubs, foes try to stir up the pot

Cannabis clubs, foes try to stir up the pot

Karen Holzmeister, STAFF WRITER

Just in time for the new year, the fragrance of holiday pine needles has given way to the scent of medical marijuana wafting over unincorporated communities.

Not really.

But the 2005 effort to determine which cannabis clubs will continue to operate in unincorporated Alameda County communities, and where they will be located, goes on in 2006.

– On Wednesday, the Natural Source dispensary on Foothill Boulevard in Ashland appealed its Dec. 22 denial for tentative approval of a permit.

Alameda County Sheriff’s Capt. Dale Amaral said Thursday that the first hearing in a two-step appeals process will be scheduled within 30 days.

– Next week, The Health Center and Alameda County Resource Center — other Ashland sales outlets that struck out Dec. 1 with an administrative appeals panel — will ask county supervisors to approve their permit applications.

The hearing is scheduled for no earlier than 11 a.m. Tuesday at the County Administration Building, 1221 Oak St., fifth floor, in Oakland.

Quick sequence of events

In the past five years, seven medical marijuana clinics opened in Ashland and Cherryland. Neighbors of some outlets complained about loitering and crime, while clients praised the clubs’ locations on heavily traveled thoroughfares. Armed robberies and the murder of a robbery suspect occurred in or near dispensaries in 2005.

Supervisors decided last year that only three clinics could operate in unincorporated areas. One clinic closed its doors before the Sheriff’s Department had distributed an application form last summer.

Three clubs submitted applications by the due date.

The Compassionate Collective of Alameda County on Mission Boulevard in Cherryland received a letter of tentative approval. The Health Center and Alameda County Resource Center on East 14th Street in Ashland didn’t, with the Sheriff’s Department noting theywere too close to schools and other community facilities.

Three others didn’t submit the original applications, citing confusion or invasion of privacy in the questions asked.

Last fall, supervisors revised the application form, giving the three other clubs extra time to return their new forms. We Are Hemp on Lewelling Boulevard in Cherryland and the Garden of Eden on Foothill Boulevard in Cherryland also received letters of tentative approval Dec. 22, while A Natural Source didn’t.

Location plays a major role in dispensary operations. Supervisors created three geographical zones, one for each permit. Jack Norton, The Health Center’s operator, is asking for his permit to be issued if he relocates, perhaps to Castro Valley. Supervisors would have to decide which business gets the permit if two dispensaries are in the same zone and both have letters of tentative approval.

Karen Holzmeister covers Castro Valley, the Hayward Area Recreation and Park District, and county government for unincorporated areas. She can be reached at (510) 293-2478 or kholzmeister@dailyreviewonline.com.

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