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An Alameda County proposal to eventually allow up to six medical marijuana dispensaries to operate in unincorporated communities isn’t sitting well with some residents who are wary of potential impacts.

The proposal is among a set of changes being reviewed by county leaders in response to the state Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act, a comprehensive package of laws designed to regulate the cannabis industry that take effect on Jan. 1, 2018.

Up to three dispensaries are allowed to operate in unincorporated Alameda County under existing laws. Proposed changes could allow up to six, with four in the urban western county and two in the rural eastern part, said county Planning Director Albert Lopez.

Some residents and law enforcement leaders, however, balked at the proposed changes during a Sept. 7 Alameda County Transportation and Planning Committee meeting.

San Lorenzo resident Randy Waage said he believes allowing up to six dispensaries is excessive.

“I am not against medical marijuana, but I just don’t think that dispensaries should be put in suburban areas,” Waage wrote in an email after the meeting.

Sheriff’s Office Commander Kelly Miles said the department is strongly opposed to the changes and believes the current cap of three dispensaries for unincorporated areas is sufficient.

“I’ve been to community meetings and haven’t seen overwhelming support for more (dispensaries). I’ve kind of seen it split down the middle,” Miles said at the meeting.

“In our neighboring jurisdictions, there’s only one dispensary, so I don’t see why the unincorporated area has to carry the burden of supplying medical cannabis to all of these other cities, if everybody puts in their fair share,” he said.

The Garden of Eden Cooperative in Cherryland and We Are Hemp in Ashland were granted dispensary licenses in 2005. A third dispensary license, set aside for the San Lorenzo area, was never issued.

County leaders are primarily looking at placing potential dispensaries in Castro Valley, Ashland, Cherryland and San Lorenzo.

There are no commercially zoned areas in Fairview that meet the rules for dispensaries, with buffer zones between schools, recreation centers and other sensitive areas, said Liz McElligott, assistant planning director.

County Supervisor Nate Miley said he has not done much outreach but would prefer additional west county dispensaries be distributed equally, with one each in Ashland, San Lorenzo, Castro Valley and Cherryland.

Under that scenario, dispensaries only would be allowed to open in Castro Valley and San Lorenzo, since they already operate in Ashland and Cherryland.

The current dispensary distribution map, created more than a decade ago, outlines three zones for west county communities, with one dispensary set aside for each zone.

“I know there are concerns associated with retail operations, but I do know our two retail dispensary outlets have operated in good standing and have complied with the regulatory requirements that the sheriff’s department, community development agency and public health have imposed on them over the last decade or so,” Miley said at the Sept. 7 meeting.

“At this point, we’ve been trying to see if we can get our act together in unincorporated Alameda County before we venture into the rest of the county,” Miley said at the meeting.

“It has been a major effort to get us to this point, just looking at unincorporated Alameda County, but I’m eager for us to get to the bigger picture as well. I think, once we get through this phase, this will help provide a framework for us to deal with the entire county,” he said.

The proposed changes also would allow two dispensaries to open in east county, including Sunol and south Livermore, where they are now prohibited. Since many east county areas are reserved for agricultural and open space uses, any law changes would allow medical marijuana dispensaries to open only as secondary uses to cannabis cultivation operations, Littlejohn said.

Public meetings are being held to gather feedback. A final proposal will then be heard twice by county supervisors in November, and if it is adopted at that time, new laws will become effective Dec. 23.

News Moderator: Katelyn Baker 420 MAGAZINE ®
Full Article: County Considers Adding Marijuana Dispensaries
Author: Darin Moriki
Contact: 925-935-2525
Photo Credit: Darin Moriki
Website: East Bay Times