Jul 262011

Fresno County leaders are facing a last-ditch effort to block their new medical marijuana restrictions – but not just from advocates of the drug.

The cities of Selma and Fowler are asking the county to reconsider its ordinance out of fear it will push the marijuana trade into their backyards, Kurtis Alexander reports in the Fresno Bee.

The county regulation – approved by supervisors July 12 but requiring a second vote next month – bans storefront marijuana sales in unincorporated communities, but it allows indoor cultivation in select industrial areas, including the outskirts of cities along the Highway 99 corridor.

“I’m strictly opposed to having medical marijuana in our vicinity,” said George Rodriguez, Selma’s mayor pro tem.

A letter written by Selma officials to the Board of Supervisors last week claims that nearby pot grows would undermine city efforts to revitalize stretches of Highway 99 and prompt more crime in and around the city.

The letter asks that other areas be designated for growing marijuana instead.

Fowler officials have registered similar concerns.

Officials there, however, stopped short of asking that cultivation along Highway 99 be disallowed, requesting only a say in who is allowed to grow.

“We don’t believe this is in the best interest of the community. [But] if you’re going to force this upon us, this is what we’d like to see,” Fowler City Manager David Elias said.

Today, county planners are expected to meet with representatives from Selma and Fowler as well as Kingsburg to try to resolve concerns.

All three cities bar marijuana sales and commercial grows.

County leaders are expressing mixed reaction to the latest protest.

Planners maintain that cities have little to worry about in terms of causing blight or crime since the ordinance sets strict rules on where and how marijuana is harvested, even inside the designated industrial zones.

The ordinance calls for setbacks from schools and parks, caps on how much is grown and on-site security.

“What we try to stress is the standards. And we believe they address things like visibility and intensity and things of that nature, so hopefully that will address some of the recent concerns,” said Bernard Jimenez, a division manager in the county’s Department of Public Works and Planning.

County Supervisor Debbie Poochigian said Monday that she had not heard about the objections raised by the cities but said they may be warranted. She said she is willing to consider changes to the ordinance before the board’s scheduled approval of the rules Aug. 9.

The protest from the cities comes alongside opposition from many medical marijuana dispensaries, which would be forced to shut down under the new county ordinance.

Attorneys representing the dispensaries have said that the rules violate state law, which permits the distribution of medical marijuana.

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