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Thursday, June 3, 2010

Marijuana Farmer's Markets Proposed In California


Photo: RAWBLOG
By Steve Elliott
From: http://www.tokeofthetown.com/

A California medical marijuana dispensary operator has presented his idea to start "patient-to-patient cannabis farmer's markets" in Sacramento and surrounding counties.

Joseph Funes, president of North Country Comfort Club in North Highlands, said the farmer's market model will help to keep money in the community by employing only local growers, reports Erin Tracy of the Woodland Daily Democrat.

An alliance with the county could result in hundreds of thousands of dollars in sales tax revenue, Funes told the Yolo County Board of Supervisors in the public comment portion of last Tuesday's board meeting.

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Photo: North Country Comfort Club

The sale and distribution of medical marijuana in unincorporated areas of Yolo County is an issue that has never been formally addressed by the Board of Supervisors, but the idea is gaining popularity, according to Yolo County Council Robyn Drivon.

"We are rural; the trendy stuff that hits San Francisco and L.A. will eventually trickle to Yolo County; it's just a matter of time," Drivon said.

Yolo County still has not taken an official stance on the issue.

Public interest spurs policy-making, according to Drivon, and if the issue persists in Yolo County, the board will likely vote on whether or not to move forward with drafting a medical marijuana ordinance.

Just a year ago, talk of medical marijuana for the rural county was virtually nonexistent, according to County Public Information Officer Bath Gabor, who said she now fields a few phone calls on the subject every month.

All four city councils for the incorporated areas of Yolo County have either voted for a complete ban on marijuana dispensaries, or instituted a moratorium.

Davis was the first city in Yolo County to ban dispensaries, back in 2005. After a moratorium of more than a year in Woodland, the city council decided to ban the retail sale of medical marijuana.

Winters and West Sacramento have "temporary" moratoriums in place. Winters will probably institute a ban when its moratorium expires in September, according to the Daily Democrat, but West Sacramento "came very close" to allowing the county's first dispensary.

City staff at West Sacramento prepared a draft ordinance with "stringent regulations" which were opposed by medical marijuana advocates and lawyers. The proposed ordinance capped the number of dispensaries at two, and limited clientele to city and county residents.

The ordinance would also have required medical marijuana patients to obtain state I.D. cards, the first such mandate in the state, according to West Sacramento City Planner Steve Rikala.

The cards, established under Senate Bill 420 in 2003, are administered by county health departments, and are intended to assist law enforcement in identifying legal medical marijuana patients and caregivers.

Advocates argued that making the voluntary cards mandatory would be unconstitutional.

While the Health Department gets about 15 calls a week for marijuana I.D. card applications, there are only 12 active cards in the entire county, according to Deputy Director of Public Health Cheryl Boney.

The council ended up voting down the medical marijuana ordinance and extended the dispensary moratorium to February 2011, avoiding threatened litigation.

Funes's current dispensary serves about 500 patients. He said his goal is to expand operations to bordering counties like Yolo and accommodate at least 5,000 patients.

Funes said he gives away free marijuana to patients who can't afford it, and he worries that he will not be able to operate at this pace in the future without some sort of agreement with the counties.

"We are growing a lot of new members and they want the club here... Just give me the OK and I will do the rest," Funes said.

The California Board of Equalization estimates that medical marijuana dispensaries already generate between $58 million and $105 million in sales tax each year.

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