Medical marijuana backers ask Sacramento supervisors to reconsider ban on outlets

12/12/2012 12:00 AM

12/12/2012 8:03 AM

Medical marijuana advocates, failing in a petition drive to force a ballot measure to overturn a Sacramento County dispensary ban, appealed Tuesday to supervisors to reconsider their refusal to permit cannabis outlets.

Twenty-five people, including former dispensary operators and others who use medical marijuana, lined up in the county boardroom to present more than 30,000 signatures calling on the Board of Supervisors to license at least 22 cannabis stores – or one for every 25,000 county residents.

The advocates got a thank you from the board for being respectful. And they politely threatened a lawsuit.

The understated political theater in the boardroom revealed a renewed push by marijuana activists to persuade a county that shuttered nearly 100 marijuana stores – every one in the incorporated region – to consider allowing some to open again.

"The ban is unnecessary and cruel to legitimate patents who use this natural medicine," Kimberly Cargile, spokeswoman for the Committee for Safe Patient Access to Regulated Cannabis, told supervisors Tuesday.

Board Chairman Don Nottoli was noncommittal as he acknowledged the petitions piled before them.

"Obviously, you put a lot of work into collecting those signatures," he said, before adding, "We're not prepared today to take those actions."

The advocates had hoped to qualify a ballot measure to overturn the county ban – and perhaps pressure supervisors to negotiate. But they fell well short of the 42,231 signatures of registered voters that needed to be gathered by July 23 to put a dispensary measure before county voters.

On Tuesday, they tried a softer sell.

John Zonneveld, a disabled veteran who operated the Sunnyfields dispensary in Carmichael before it closed last summer, appealed to the board to "end this war on this medicine" by permitting dispensaries, including those serving veterans with post-traumatic stress.

And Jeff Patterson, a medical marijuana user and advocate, pointed out that Washington and Colorado recently voted to legalize marijuana for purely recreational use.

"We're just asking for medicinal rights," he argued.

Last December, in the midst of a federal crackdown on California cannabis businesses, Sacramento supervisors declared they wanted to make an unambiguous statement against medical marijuana dispensaries.

They passed a county zoning amendment that failed to include the words "medical" or "marijuana or "dispensaries." But the ordinance effectively banned dispensaries by saying the county wouldn't allow any business use contrary to federal law, which prohibits marijuana possession or distribution, medicinal or otherwise.

"We're hoping to open up the conversation once again with the supervisors," said Cargile, who declared that advocates will go to court to challenge the county ban if they are not successful in changing the board's mind. "We would rather work with them than against them."

Supervisor Phil Serna, who cast the only "no" vote last year against the dispensary ban, didn't offer any assurance he would take up the advocates' cause.

"Thank you for being organized and very respectful," he said simply.

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