Dec 072010

After a long and sometimes contentious public comment period, Fresno County supervisors voted Tuesday to draft an ordinance that will ban medical cannabis dispensaries permanently.

No formal action was taken in Tuesday’s morning session, which had stretched well past noon before the last speaker was heard, but staff were directed to prepare a ban for later public hearing. Local patients and dispensary operators pleaded to keep the clinics open, while other speakers lashed out in anger over the board’s perceived “ignorance” about medical cannabis. Homeowners in the upscale Fig Garden District added their own objections to dispensaries on nearby Shaw Avenue.

After all was said and done, which took quite a while, the four supervisors present heeded the call of Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims, who had called for a dispensary ban instead of the draft regulatory ordinance prepared by county planning staff. Henry Perea, perhaps the most vocal dispensary critic on the board, was in Sacramento watching his son being sworn into office for the state Assembly, but his vote wasn’t necessary to move the ban forward.

Susan Anderson was the sole supervisor to suggest a ban was not the right approach, sounding a conciliatory note for those in the audience who were visibly upset. “This is not going to be the law forever,” Anderson said. “It’s not.” But she also suggested that medical cannabis advocates have a lot of work to do to justify a system where legitimate patients and recreational users co-mingle freely.

“I think someday we’ll have safe access for those who truly need it,” Anderson said. “But not for everybody.”

This story will be updated later. The following videos and more can be found on the Fresno playlist of the CalPotNews channel on YouTube. Unfortunately, no video was captured of the supervisors’ later comments due to battery failure, but I’ll try to track down a link later.

KFSN coverage
KSEE coverage
Fresno Bee coverage


Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims addresses the Board of Supervisors to request an ordinance banning medical cannabis dispensaries.


Tommy Lanier directs the National Marijuana Initiative, which is funded by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. He spoke before the Fresno County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday before the board directed staff to draft an ordinance banning dispensaries.


Fresno County Supervisor Susan Anderson
quizzes Tommy Lanier, director of the National Marijuana Initiative, about whether dispensaries are illegal under state law as he claims they are. More than a matter of semantics, Lanier finally concedes that legally organized nonprofit collectives may operate a storefront dispensary. But they’re all illegal “profiteers” is what he says first.


Judith Case, chair of the Fresno County Board of Supervisors, asks Sheriff Margaret Mims to explain the influx of dispensaries and problems associated with them. Speaking after Mims is sheriff’s Lt. Richard Ko.


Dennis Nebeker of Central Valley Collective addresses the Fresno County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday. He begins by seeking to clarify the term “dispensary” as it’s used to describe collective-owned storefronts. Many other collective operators shun the “dispensary” label, but the term is commonly used in media reports and public policy discussions.


Sean Dwyer, who operates California Herbal Relief Center, addresses the Fresno County Board of Supervisors on Dec. 7, 2010. One of his employees, placed with CalWorks assistance, now faces losing her job along with dozens of other workers after supervisors moved ahead with a planned dispensary ban.


Fresno attorney Brenda Linder, who represents four local collectives, addresses the Fresno County Board of Supervisors. She counters some of the conclusions of the so-called “white paper” on dispensaries issued by the California Police Chiefs Association. Outdated in its legal conclusions and based on largely anecdotal information, the report has been cited widely in legal findings used by cities and counties to justify banning dispensaries.


Clifford Schaffer, who lives in Madera County north of Fresno, gives Fresno County supervisors a brief history lesson on cannabis laws. Schaffer maintains a large library of historical and research documents at


Shannon Luce, co-founder of Mind, Body and Soul Collective in south Fresno, asks Fresno County supervisors not to ban dispensaries. She also addresses some specific elements of the county’s draft medical cannabis ordinance, which supervisors decided not to pursue in favor of a dispensary ban.


Dustin Frazier Lowery of Mind, Body and Soul Collective slams the Fresno County Board of Supervisors for their “ignorance” of medical cannabis laws. After a contentious public comment period, supervisors directed staff to prepare a permanent ban on storefront dispensaries.


Treven Jones, an Iraq war veteran and a member of the Buds 4 Life collective-dispensary, addresses the Fresno County Board of Supervisors.


Diane Valdovinos, a medical cannabis patient, implores the Fresno County supervisors to reject a proposed ban on dispensaries.


Jody Watkins, co-founder of Mind, Body and Soul Collective in south Fresno, encourages Fresno County supervisors to read up on recent case law before banning medical cannabis dispensaries.


Diana Kirby, a longtime medical cannabis patient and activist, asks Fresno County supervisors to consider the impacts of a dispensary ban on people like herself for whom travel is difficult. Sitting beside her is Roy Jimenez, Jr., who heads the planning department that prepared a draft regulatory ordinance for the board’s consideration. The board instead instructed county counsel to prepare an ordinance banning dispensaries.


Matt Potter, a government relations associate for Oakland-based CannBe, addresses specific provisions of Fresno County’s draft regulatory ordinance governing medical cannabis dispensaries. Those concerns — which included a ban on cannabis edibles — became moot after supervisors instructed staff to prepare a dispensary ban instead.


Paul Dwyer suggests supervisors would be “pleasantly surprised” if they would visit some of the medical cannabis dispensaries operating in Fresno County. A former law enforcement officer, Dwyer’s son Sean operates California Herbal Relief Center on West Shaw Avenue, one of three dispensaries to draw complaints from homeowners in the upscale Fig Garden neighborhood.

Dana Bobbitt expresses frustration with the Fresno County Board of Supervisors for dragging its heels on cannabis regulations for several years, despite numerous outreach efforts by local dispensaries and patient-growers. A county task force and the planning department prepared a comprehensive regulatory ordinance for supervisors’ review, but they opted to ban dispensaries outright instead.

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