Viewpoint: An insurmountable ordinance

March 12, 2012 

During the past year, I have worked very hard to bring the good people in the county a safe place where they could procure medicinal marijuana.

It is legal under state law and I have a successful organization in Tulare County with a history of five years.

This is my experience here:

I bought the home in Oceano for the sole purpose of locating a cannabis club here. I hired realtors to ensure it met the requirements of the county ordinance. I met with each supervisor prior to purchasing this property and felt that they were supportive.

I wrote Sheriff Parkinson a letter explaining my intentions and opened the door for discussion, but he never returned my phone calls.

I attended meetings in Oceano and tried to convince community leaders that opening a cannabis club was a far better alternative for creating revenue in this small town than selling their water.

During an Oceano Advisory Council meeting, it was very apparent to me that I would get nowhere with this organization. The attitude was clearly pronounced, “We don’t want those kind of people here.”

Then I turned my letter-writing skills toward the media. Fortunately, this is a more educated group of people. I found the local media to be objective yet supportive.

The Oceano Park became a concern even after obtaining distance measurements that indicated it was over the 1,000-feet separation requirement. After being reassured by both the Planning Department and Realtors that the distance from the park was adequate, I proceeded with the purchase and moved forward with the project.

Several months after I applied, however, the Planning Department decided to use a different methodology for measuring the distance. The Google straight-line distance is 1,028, the Realtor came up with 1,058 using SLO County’s own cartography program. Senior county planners told me that my property met the requirements of the ordinance prior to the usage of their new system.

However, I later received a call from the Planning Department to let me know that, under its new method to measure distance, the figure fell a little short of the 1,000-feet requirement.

I do not believe the 922 feet, satellite-driven figure is completely accurate because it may not take into account the circumference of the planet. Unless humans start burrowing underground like gophers, this is an inaccurate way to measure. To walk from the club to the park, it is more than 3,000 feet.

I applaud the Planning Department for giving me a waiver to the distance requirement based on four barriers between the club and the park: a 40-foot berm, railroad tracks, Highway 1 and 4th Street. Although the Planning Department made this finding, it was still a point of contention to the appellant.

When I reached out to my neighbors, I found that most of them supported the project. Only a few neighbors cried over unfounded fears. Nonetheless, I hoped that the Board of Supervisors would stand behind the ordinance that it created, which allows my business to be located in a commercial business district. If my neighbors do not like that zoning, they should have fought with the supervisors at the time they wrote their ordinance that allows for this use, not when property is purchased and applications submitted.

The Board of Supervisors should have been clearer in its ordinance about not allowing clubs near homes. There simply is no verbiage as such.

The ordinance was very difficult to comply with and it certainly was intended to be that way. A cannabis club in this county cannot be in a central business district and it has to be in an unincorporated area. Unfortunately, and conveniently, no such place really exists here. The only thing in an unincorporated area is a central business district. This is why this ordinance is a defacto moratorium and this is why it is broken. No one can comply with the ordinance.

I feel we, as medicinal cannabis users, have been discriminated against.

My next project is uncertain. Perhaps I will open a homeless shelter here.

Tammy Murray is chief executive officer and director of the Compassionate Cannabis Information Center.

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