San Mateo County supes aim to clarify pot laws

Prompted by medical marijuana patients who say the recent raids of three pot clubs have left them suffering and in limbo, San Mateo County supervisors are exploring ways to clarify cannabis laws.

On Aug. 29, federal agents, with assistance from the San Mateo Police Department, raided and shut down three cannabis clubs in San Mateo. On Tuesday, the clubs’ patients and proprietors pleaded with supervisors for help.

Supervisor Jerry Hill said he wasn’t closing the door on the idea of pot clubs in the county. He said he’s advised the county’s legal staff to research medical marijuana ordinances around the state.

“Then we’re going to sit down with the district attorney, the city attorney and the sheriff and see what we can do to create a legal opportunity for someone to obtain medical marijuana in San Mateo County,” he said.

Hill said he’s looking for ways to both protect people who legitimately benefit from medical marijuana, and discourage recreational pot smokers from taking advantage of the law.

The ordinance will also provide a model that cities can follow in order to promote consistency across the county.

Michael Resendez,a San Mateo resident and disabled veteran, said marijuana relieves his chronic pain and staves off the need for prescription pills.

“I was a soldier and I served my country compassionately. Be my county government and serve me compassionately,” he said.

Brenda Carr-Nshimba was the resource developer for Patients Choice Resource Cooperative, one of the clubs shut down by the Aug. 29 raid. She told supervisors that prior to the search, she had worked to establish communication with local police and District Attorney James Fox, even inviting them to tour the cooperative, which provided referral and employment services for those with chronic illnesses.

“The stumbling blocks came when a cloud of resistance hovered over these discussions, as there was no ordinance in place within the city or county, leaving us only state laws to work with,” Carr-Nshimba said.

Carr-Nshimba asked supervisors to set a policy for safe access that would protect patients and set guidelines for local law enforcement.

Medical marijuana, which was legalized by state voters in 1996, is still illegal under federal law. Fox believes the cannabis clubs fall outside the definition of a primary caregiver or collective, which California law says may provide patients with marijuana for medicinal purposes.

tbarak@examiner.com

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