DEL REY OAKS >> The city of Del Rey Oaks took a definitive step Tuesday toward allowing a medical marijuana dispensary that would also be the first in Monterey County.
In a 4-1 vote following a study session, the city council agreed to pass the proposed project on to its planning commission.
The lone dissenter was vice mayor Kristin Clark.
“There’s a strong argument in favor of us taking a leadership role in Monterey County,” Del Rey Oaks Mayor Jerry Edelen said. “It could happen very quickly.”
The dispensary is proposed by Capitola hotelier Robert Blodgett for 800 Portola Dr., at Fremont Boulevard, across the street from a sign welcoming drivers to the city of Seaside.
Supporters have said the dispensary would be a godsend for patients who now have to drive or bus to Santa Cruz County to buy the drug.
“There has been a legitimate need for (medical marijuana) for certain ailments, like multiple sclerosis,” said Edelen. “I think we can control the negative so that it won’t be a negative.”
Asked what “the negative” might be, he said, “We all know that medical marijuana can be abused, with licensing by doctors who give it to everybody, to counterculture elements hanging around all day.”
But he said the planning commission’s public hearing scheduled for Oct. 8 will be “about the nuts and bolts,” to help the city iron out potential problems and weigh issues such as whether clients should be at least 18 or 21 years old.
A special ordinance must be passed to allow the dispensary to operate, and would include numerous provisions, Edelen said, including “not to walk around smoking marijuana on the streets.”
He said the city is interested in setting up a police substation inside the same building so “undesirable elements” will think twice about bringing trouble to the town of 1,662 residents. Blodgett has offered to buy the building and give police use of the substation for free.
Del Rey Oaks officials are studying a medical marijuana ordinance from Santa Rosa, a city Edelen says has had a good experience with its dispensary.
Robert Jacob, mayor of Sebastopol, spoke by telephone to the packed house at Tuesday’s study session, which was followed by the city council’s vote. Jacob is the founder of two medical marijuana dispensaries in Sebastopol and Santa Rosa, and may be the nation’s first mayor involved in the industry.
Edelen said most residents he’s heard from are in favor of the dispensary.
“Last night was the first time we had a full house spillover and it wasn’t about the dog park,” he said, referring to the most popular topic at City Council meetings.
Meanwhile, permission for another dispensary is being explored for Monterey by Pebble Beach businesswoman Valentia Piccinini, a patient who has multiple sclerosis, and her attorney Gavin Kogan of the Salinas firm L+G LLP.
Piccinini’s polished image helps offset the notion that dispensary clients are “undesirables in tattoos and dreads all up and down the street,” Kogan said. “Most people have never seen a dispensary. You’d be surprised, it’s everyday people.”
Kogan said no site has been selected for Monterey, but added the matter may come before that city’s council as soon as next month.
Kogan and Piccinini attended the Del Rey Oaks meeting “to support that city in its effort. This is going on communities all over the country now.”
Kogan said peoples’ fear about “the dregs of society” hanging out at dispensaries are unfounded.
“This industry is really clamoring for legitimacy,” he said. “When you want to be legitimate, you don’t flaunt the laws.”
He said it’s difficult to gauge how much local cities might make from sales tax garnered from the dispensaries, because the county likely has fewer than 6,000 residents with medical marijuana ID cards. Those cards are issued by the county health department under a state program.
But he said there are likely many more potential users who would sign up once the county gets its first dispensary.
The closest one now is in Aptos, he said.
But he said sales tax revenue is only part of the picture.
“All dispensaries make it part of their business plan to contribute to local charities, because they want to support them and be seen as part of the community,” he said.
He said the city’s decision will make life easier for the county’s current medical marijuana patients.
“What’s happening right now is there are deliveries within county limits, but they’re outside of city limits,” he said. “That’s what’s so exciting about Del Rey Oaks.
Julia Reynolds can be reached at 726-4365.
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