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Templeton dispensary decision faces more delays 

San Luis Obispo County medical marijuana patients will once again have to wait to find out if they can fill their prescriptions locally.

For the second straight meeting, county planning commissioners were unable to reach a verdict concerning a cannabis co-op, which would be located in an industrial park at 3850 Ramada Drive in Templeton.

Because only four planning commissioners attended the Oct. 29 meeting, applicant Austen Connella requested that the decision be delayed until all five commissioners were available.

Previously, at a July 26 meeting, the planning commission stalemated 2-2, when members disagreed about the exact distance between the potential dispensary and a nearby park.

A county staff report highlighted an ordinance that requires a minimum of 1,000 feet between a medical marijuana dispensary and any "playground." Supporters and opponents of the dispensary have argued about the precise measurement between both sites since the project was first proposed.

Whether the dispensary is 1 or 1,000 feet removed from a playground, however, many locals don't want it in the county.

Paso Robles Police Chief Lisa Solomon spoke out against the proposed marijuana dispensary at the late-October meeting, claiming that it would be "problematic" for the entire Central Coast community.

"There are secondary problems that go along with dispensaries in communities--things like criminal activity, burglaries, other drugs being sold, complaints of overpricing, selling to healthy people, money laundering, and tax evasion," she said. "I don't want to see those issues bleed over into my community."

Connella's attorney, Lou Koory, said in an interview that those who spoke out against the proposed dispensary were using shock strategies in an effort to persuade voters to side with their beliefs.

"The objections by law enforcement are scare tactics," he said. "Certain politicians try to score political points, but they ignore the fact the dispensary model is the preferred method of distribution under state law."

At the meeting, Solomon pointed out that cannabis clinics are illegal on a national scale.

"First and foremost it violates federal law," she said. "I'm in the business of enforcing the law, so I don't think it should be there for that reason."

"The philosophical debate about access to cannabis as medicine is over," Koory said later. "People have voted for it, and the Legislature has provided for it. Equal protection requires equal access."

Though California voters approved the use of medicinal marijuana in the state in 1996 when they passed Proposition 215, cannabis clinics have been operating on legal eggshells ever since. Locally, those eggshells cracked when federal agents raided Central Coast Compassionate Caregivers in Morro Bay on March 29.

Currently, the closest marijuana dispensary to San Luis Obispo County is located in Buellton.

Despite the opposition, county senior planner Bill Roberson said he wants the dispensary in SLO County.

"Since we have an ordinance in place, I would like to see the business be located there," he said. "It's going to be monitored, so I hope it's run correctly and can become an example to other dispensaries in the county and in the state on how they're supposed to work and help people."

The planning commission is scheduled to discuss the issue yet again on Jan. 10.


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