Advocates of medical marijuana are seeking a clinic on Walnut Street in Ramona, but are meeting with polite but firm local resistance.
Despite expressing admiration for “what you’re trying to do,” Ramona Community Planning Group Chair Jim Piva told proponents that their operation is like “a square peg in a round hole” here.
“I don’t think Ramona’s the right place for it,” he said at Thursday’s meeting at the Community Center.
Piva addressed representatives of Mother Earth Alternative Healing Co-operative, which is trying to find a new location for its clinic.
Mother Earth was the only licensed medical marijuana clinic in San Diego County until it was evicted from leased space in an El Cajon building in September. According to KPBS, U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy ordered the clinic to close and threatened to take possession of the building and everything in it if the sale of marijuana didn’t stop.
Medical marijuana is legal in California, but federal law does not permit it.
Lance Rogers, Mother Earth’s attorney, spoke to the local planning group Thursday night, emphasizing the co-op’s unique position of being the only county licensed facility, despite being “homeless.”
“This is a heavily regulated facility by the Sheriff’s Department,” Rogers said, noting that their license was renewed by the Sheriff’s Department in July 2012.
Inspections by the Sheriff’s Department were held every five weeks at Mother Earth’s El Cajon location, with an “open door” policy and good inspection reports.
Janet Matula, a member of the co-op, told Patch that the Ramona site being sought—at 1339 Walnut St.—is the only other location in the county, aside from their previous El Cajon location, that meets zoning requirements.
- Facility may not be within 1,000 feet of a residential parcel
- Facility may not be within 1,000 feet of a school, playground, park, church, recreation center or youth center
- Facility may not be within 1,000 feet of another medical marijuana facility
See attached PDF for a full list of county ordinances regarding medical marijuana facilities.
But planning group member Matt Deskovick said zoning shouldn’t matter.
“Just because it’s zoned doesn’t make it available to you,” Deskovick said. “The sheriff’s [officials] I’ve talked to have told me they’re not happy about the marijuana in California.”
Ramona’s sheriff’s Lt. James Bovet was at the meeting to give his two cents on the proposed facility, saying that there was no crime increase around Mother Earth’s El Cajon location, but that the one homicide Ramona saw last year took place across the street from the proposed Walnut Street location.
Bovet also said that marijuana was involved with the homicide situation.
Alex Sedach, who lives near the proposed Ramona location, publicly spoke against the medical marijuana facility.
“This is my neighborhood,” he said. “Just because something’s zoned for it, doesn’t make it right. …
We’ve got enough crime already here in Ramona.”
But Matula and Paul Nager, both members of the co-op, said Mother Earth isn’t about crime or recreational use. The called it a service to 70,000 patients suffering from various ailments, including cancer.
“The average age of our customers [is] 45 and older,” Matula said. “Your recreational user doesn’t feel comfortable in a place with police. They just don’t.”
Nager emphasized that Mother Earth’s intentions are to comply with the state law to provide patients with much-needed comfort.
“It made us comfortable we were complying with all state laws,” Nager said, mentioning support from county Supervisor Dianne Jacob and Rep. Duncan Hunter.
Customer Judy Bailey Savage told the board that the medical marijuana facility is essential for people like her.
“This is for people who are really sick,” Bailey Savage said. “It’s clean... It’s not a pot shot.”
But cancer survivor Sedach said he never needed a “Class I narcotic” to help ease his pain.
“I’m a cancer survivor and never needed pot to feel good,” Sedach said.
Planning group member Torry Brean said he’s not completely opposed to the idea of medical marijuana facilities.
“I’m in favor of anything that takes drugs off the street,” Brean said.
But other members, like Jim Cooper and Carl Hickman, questioned marijuana’s ability to be of medical assistance.
“Let’s face it, it’s a money-making service,” Hickman said. “I don’t think it’s a good thing. I don’t think it’s a positive thing.”
Member Paul Stykel agreed.
“If it’s classified as medicine, why don’t hospitals have it?” Stykel asked.
Rogers told the board that doctors cannot prescribe cannabis to patients, just recommend it.
Board members and public speakers said that the proposed Walnut Street location is within 1,000 feet of residential homes, implying that Mother Earth may not even legally be able to use the proposed building.
“The county has done all the planning for us,” Roger said. “The point is this is to be an access point for those who need it.”
Piva asked Rogers what any of the downsides would be to having such a facility in Ramona, specifically that area.
Rogers said traffic may rise, security may become a problem and the clinic would change the character on the building.
“I don’t think it will change the character of the community,” Rogers said. “It will be an asset—a beacon of hope for those that need it.”
No action was required on the item, but the board suggested Mother Earth confirm with the county that the 1339 Walnut St. location meets all county ordinances for medical marijuana facilities and possibly come back to the planning group with a new location.