Public speaks out against pot shop ban |

Public speaks out against pot shop ban

Annie Flanzraich

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif – The majority of the 45-minute public comment period at Tuesday’s City Council meeting was carried by people speaking against a proposed ban on medical marijuana dispensaries.

“This is the beginning of a group that will be here for every meeting for eternity if this ban goes through,” said Shelly Arnold, a Tahoe Wellness Collective employee. “This movement is here to stay and we are not going away. You are dreaming if you think this is just going to blow off the map and we are not going to be here to address this.”

At a special meeting July 27, the South Lake Tahoe City Council voted to pursue a ban on medical marijuana dispensaries. Mayor Kathay Lovell, Councilman Jerry Birdwell and Councilman Bruce Grego voted in favor of pursuing a ban. Councilmembers Bill Crawford and Hal Cole voted against.

Because the comments made at Tuesday’s meeting were during the public comment period, the city council did not have an item agendized to address those comments.

City staff are expected to develop the wording of the ban prior to a subsequent South Lake Tahoe Planning Commission meeting. The planning commission must review the ban and the city council will need to make first and second readings of the ordinance prior to its possible enactment.

The planning commission’s next scheduled meeting is for Aug. 12. An agenda for the meeting has not been released yet.

Patients, owners of the local collectives and other individuals stood up Tuesday to address what they said was an unjust ban.

“The fact that these illnesses and ailments are not observable does not make them illegitimate,” said Jennifer Goerirg, who works at Tahoe Wellness Collective.

“Contrary to your beliefs, these collectives are doing everything they can to a responsible alternative to pharmaceuticals.”

Others argued emotionally for their own medical needs.

“I have a heart condition I was born with, congenital heart disease,” said Mike Arnold, a medical marijuana patient. “I am about to have a heart transplant. Medical cannabis helps me keep my weight on. If it isn’t for cannabis I probably won’t make it through the transplant.”

Another plea came from Carmen Crowley, an 18-year-old medical marijuana patient.

“Stand in our shoes – you have a condition and someone is trying to take your medicine away,” she said. “I just come to you oday to (ask you to) please not ban the medicine that is the only way to make life bearable, and to walk and to drive and be normal. You’re trying to take away our sanity.”

Three medical marijuana dispensaries – Patient to Patient Collective (also known as MJ Consultants), Tahoe Wellness Collective and City of Angels 2 – have opened during the past two years.

In November, the City Council enacted a moratorium on new medical marijuana dispensaries to allow staff to develop options regarding possible regulation. The City Council extended the moratorium to November 2010 in January and could extend the moratorium until November 2011.

Some attendees said that the dispensaries provide patients with a safe place to buy medical marijuana.

“You need collectives to help you decide what you need for your illness,” said Stuart Katz, another patient.

In response to some questions about the connection of marijuana dispensaries to local crimes, City of Angels 2 owner Gino DiMatteo asked what good banning the shops would do.

“I understand that we want to worry about the crime in our city, but how is making what we do illegal going to prevent crime from spreading?” Dimatteo asked.

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