Medical marijuana collective proposed for Oceano

If an Oceano property owner’s plan to open a medical marijuana collective in the South County community is approved, it would be the first such business operating in San Luis Obispo County.

The proposal could also become a litmus test for the new administration of the county Sheriff’s Department, which under its predecessor opposed medical marijuana facilities. And it could perhaps show whether county supervisors, who voted four years ago to allow medical marijuana facilities, will ever approve one.

Tammy Murray, owner of Compassionate Cannabis Information Center in Goshen, southeast of Fresno, wants to open a similarly named collective at 1409 S. Fourth St.

Like at her Goshen business, which opened in 2008, the medical marijuana would be provided on a consignment basis by farmers, who would also be members of the collective.

Murray said Wednesday she wants to provide safe access to medical marijuana to those with a legitimate need and a physician’s recommendation, with an emphasis on disabled veterans and those who experience complications from standard medications.

If history is any judge, Murray faces an uphill battle. Since the county board of supervisors approved rules allowing medical marijuana facilities in 2007, only three people have submitted plans, including Murray — and the two previous applicants received little support.

Last year, county supervisors rejected a medical marijuana dispensary in Nipomo, in part because it would have been close to a gymnastics studio. In 2008, they shot down a dispensary planned for Templeton.

Former county Sheriff Pat Hedges opposed both of the plans. Murray’s application is the first to come under Sheriff Ian Parkinson’s tenure, who said earlier this year he’s researching the legal arguments surrounding medical marijuana and wants to help people comply with the law.

“If they’re going to make an ordinance and make it a legal thing here, they need to allow those of us who comply,” Murray said.

Medical marijuana facilities have not fared well in the county’s seven cities either; most have rules in place banning them.

A dispensary in Morro Bay that opened in 2006 was closed about a year later after sheriff’s and federal Drug Enforcement Agency officials raided it and said they found federal and state violations. However, voters in that city narrowly defeated a proposal to ban dispensaries in November.

Oceano proposal

Murray, a Grover Beach resident, submitted an application to the county planning department in May, and it is still being reviewed. The Oceano Advisory Council, which advises planners and supervisors on projects and developments, has received an update on the proposal but has not yet made a recommendation.

However, Advisory Council Chairwoman Barbara Mann said she opposes it because she’s concerned it will attract those looking to rob the business.

“I don’t object to people smoking marijuana for medical reasons,” she said. “I just don’t think it’s a good location. This is a disadvantaged community, and I think it needs to be someplace else.”

Murray’s application will be heard in several months, either at a planning department hearing — at which a staff member would consider approval — or before the Planning Commission.

County senior planner Bill Robeson said Murray’s application appears to meet the county’s land-use rules for medical marijuana facilities, which have to be located at least 1,000 feet from any school, library, playground, recreation or youth center. They also have to have a security plan that includes lighting, video cameras and an alarm system.

Murray’s business would be located more than 2,200 feet from Oceano Elementary School in an area zoned for light industrial uses. Her 931-square-foot residence is surrounded by a sprinkling of homes and mini-storage facilities. About half would be converted into the business; the rest would remain a residential area for an on-site caretaker.

“I don’t agree with young people smoking marijuana while their brains are developing or using it recreationally,” Murray said. “I’m doing this in the right way for the right reasons.”