Pipe down, Atascadero



With Atascadero now jumping in line, there will be no more medical marijuana dispensaries allowed in SLO County cities for at least 45 days—and possibly up to a year.

Atascadero City Council members voted unanimously to temporarily ban dispensaries in Atascadero. Before the 45-day ban expires, council members will consider extending it another 10 months and 15 days, for a total of one year. As the members discussed the issue, many were clearly worried that Atascadero would remain the only incorporated city to not have either a temporary or permanent ban on dispensaries.

Only a few residents spoke up at the meeting, but all who did protested the ban. Many questioned whether the public was adequately notified about the urgency ordinance. City Attorney Brian Pierik defended that the city had followed the law in proposing such an ordinance.

One woman approached the podium, standing next to her son Mathew, who sat in a motorized wheelchair. Mathew convulsed and writhed in the chair, his shoulders clenched tightly and pressed forward. She said she had to leave a barbecue when she heard what the city was considering that night. She opposed the ban—and noted that she’s pressed for time, so much so that she looks at dispensaries as a matter of convenience for Mathew’s medical needs.

“I don’t have time to grow pot,” she said.

Some council members worried about potential crime associated with marijuana—even in relation to the medicinal stuff, which is decriminalized under state, but not federal law.

Another resident argued that medical-marijuana-related crimes are typically at their worst in L.A.-style dispensaries and other densely urban areas—sort of like the Wild West of medical marijuana, he said. If all of SLO County’s cities ban dispensaries, he added, the move would relegate potential dispensaries to the unincorporated areas of the county, and the sheriff’s department has made a clear policy against such facilities.

“Today, from where I stand, there is no safe place to obtain medical marijuana within a 100-mile radius,” he said.

Some council members seemed nervous about the conflict between state and federal laws on the subject. Jerry Clay worried whether allowing a clinic would give the appearance that Atascadero was “aiding and abetting a federal crime.”

Ultimately, the vote went through quickly and unanimously, with only Mayor Ellen Beraud expressing some outward reluctance.

“I do believe that the citizens of California have a right to medical marijuana,” she said, but she voted in favor of the temporary ban anyway to help keep the city “out of trouble.”

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