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Medical Pot Plan May Go Up in Smoke

Some council members are reconsidering approving a medical marijuana dispensary in South San Francisco after high school drug incidents.

City Council members expressed reservations about approving a medical marijuana dispensary ordinance in light of recent incidents at where students allegedly smoked and sold pot bought at Bay Area dispensaries.   

The council will have two options at its Wednesday meeting: adopt an ordinance that would set up a competitive process for choosing one medical marijuana dispensary operator or ban dispensaries outright.

Judging from comments at the Jan. 12 meeting, the council seemed to be leaning toward allowing one dispensary to set up shop with strict guidelines.

But Mayor Kevin Mullin said he is having a change of heart after learning about medical marijuana cards being implicated in offenses at El Camino from a May 10 memo issued by Police Chief Michael Massoni.

“This was a game changer for me, sort of realizing that we as a local government don’t have the ability to control this process well enough,” Mullin said.

Mullin said his intention in supporting a medical marijuana dispensary in an industrial part of the city was to provide access to people with serious illnesses.

“I sort have been viewing drug issues and issues involving our high school campuses as a separate manner,” he said. “With this incident it points to that these two issues, unfortunately, can be linked.”

According to Massoni’s memo, on April 15 high school security caught five El Camino students smoking a joint on Centennial Way behind 1215 Mission Road. One student, who the other students said provided the marijuana, produced a medical marijuana card that he purchased the day before on his 18th birthday.

A medical marijuana card was also tied to the sale of cannabis and edible marijuana at El Camino by a juvenile student, who allegedly got the pot from his 20-year-old brother.

The chief’s report said more than 70 marijuana-related suspensions have occurred on campuses this school year through April.

Council members Richard Garbarino and Karyl Matsumoto both said they were concerned about the report and are on the fence over which way they will vote.

“I am going to wait and listen to the testimony on Wednesday,” Matsumoto said. “I am going to the meeting with an open mind and see where I stand.”

In the past, Council member Mark Addiego has been supportive of licensing a dispensary, while Council member Pedro Gonzalez has been opposed.

The council is likely to hear an earful of opposition from school district employees.

“We are going to be there in full force,” said Jolene Malfatti, president of California School Employees Association’s South San Francisco chapter. “We will try to convince the city leaders that this is not a good thing for our youth in the city.”

The city now has a moratorium in place that doesn’t allow the issuance of medical marijuana permits. With the moratorium set to expire in October, the council directed staff on Jan. 12 to for a medical marijuana collective.

According to the draft ordinance, applicants would have to be screened by the police department and Selection Review Committee before the city manager recommends a preferred applicant.

The applicant could then submit a medical marijuana collective use permit and go before the Planning Commission and City Council for approval. The permit would be good for one year.

The dispensary would be limited to 150 members and the applicant would have to submit an operations plan, including how it would focus on serving South San Francisco residents.

The dispensary would have to be 1,000 feet away from a residential district, public or private school, youth center, public library, park facility or smoke shop. No marijuana could be grown or smoked on site and security measures, including video surveillance, would be required.

Oakland-based dispensary Island of Health has expressed interest in opening a South San Francisco location.

Garbarino said he met with proponents of Island of Health’s proposal before the last council meeting but has recently heard concerns from parents.

“People that I talk to, they do not want this,” he said. “They are adamantly opposed to this.”

Mullin said he has also been hearing a lot feedback from residents against having a dispensary in the city.

“We have been receiving lot of public input from all segments of the community expressing lots of community concerns,” he said. “We need to respond to that.”

Elizabeth May 11, 2011 at 04:23 PM
Marijuana is still an Illegal Drug. By allowing a Pot Club to open in SSF - it is saying to our youth Pot is good for you. The problem is - anyone can get a medical marijuana card regardless of their "illness." Let's be real - most people with cards are NOT sickened with Cancer or HIV. Most are already Pot Smokers and now they have a card that says it's o.k. for them to carry the pot with them. The laws around this medical marijuana need to be tighted up. By the way, If pick up any Advertiser news paper - it is litter with Medical Marijuana dispensaries - some of which will deliver the product right to your home! Those who can not travel do have a way to get it. I still say we should follow our neighboring cities and say NO = we do not want a pot club in SSF!
Gail May 11, 2011 at 08:00 PM
There are many resources out there to get those that are sick to a place they can get their drug. If you feel that way why don't you offer your services.
Gail May 11, 2011 at 08:05 PM
I am with you Elizabeth. What about the recent problem with the student at ElCamino with medical marijuana card selling on campus??? Will be worse if we allow them right in our city
Mickey Martin May 12, 2011 at 02:54 AM
What is this, the 1950"s? That is ludicrous. I could say that most people who use Vicodin are not sick either. I can also say that they are readily sold in local high schools. It is also clear that they are more deadly. Why are you not outraged that they allow for drug stores in town? It is a much larger problem. Cannabis use amongst teens has actually gone down. http://washingtonexaminer.com/local/2011/05/prescription-drug-abuse-surging-among-youths
Bill May 13, 2011 at 04:18 PM
Leave it be. Look around you and crunch the numbers on how many prescription pills get sold on a minute-by-minute basis in this country. There exists more opiate addicts and pill parties today than ever before. Why? Because holding pills doesn't carry as harsh a sentence - that is, even *if* someone is held accountable for doing so. Since they are not illicit, but rather regulated medicines, pharmaceuticals go unchecked: "I don't know how that pill got in my pocked! They're my Mom's." Probably right on that count, too, with how many pillheads are driving around, working, raising families, et cetera, daily in this country. Let's focus on the BIG picture, shall we???

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