Medical marijuana proposal gets cool reception

Janet Matula with Mother Earth Alternative Healing Cooperative explains how the proposed medical marijuana facility would be heavily regulated at the Ramona  Community Planning Group. Mother Earth would like to open a co-op at 1339 Walnut St.  Sentinel photo/Karen Brainard
Janet Matula with Mother Earth Alternative Healing Cooperative explains how the proposed medical marijuana facility would be heavily regulated at the Ramona Community Planning Group. Mother Earth would like to open a co-op at 1339 Walnut St. Sentinel photo/Karen Brainard

By Karen Brainard

A proposed medical marijuana facility elicited the most discussion and public comments at the Ramona Community Planning Group’s Jan. 10 meeting, which had a full agenda that also included a skatepark proposal, modifications to an AT&T Mobility mono-tree, and  State Route 67 and Highland Valley/Dye Road intersection funding.

Lance Rogers, a San Diego attorney representing Mother Earth Alternative Healing Cooperative, presented a preliminary proposal for a medical marijuana co-op at 1339 Walnut St. — a location that had many questioning whether it fit within the county guidelines.

Rogers said the building, in an industrial M-54 zone, meets the county’s zoning qualifications and has been approved by the county’s Planning and Development Services Department. He said he was seeking approval from the planning group. RCPG Chair Jim Piva said the group could not take action because it had not received any information from the county.

Piva, as well as other RCPG members, said he understood that medical marijuana benefits those who are suffering, but said  it needs to fit in the community.

“I think maybe the location might not be right,” Piva said.

According to the county’s ordinance on “medical marijuana collective facilities,” such an establishment is not allowed within  1,000 feet of a residential use parcel, or from a school, playground, park, church, recreation center, or youth center.

One resident said he lives about 200 feet away from the proposed spot,  and CrossFit Kids is less than 1,000 feet away. Noting he has children, the resident pointed out others in the audience who live nearby and have children.

“We’ve got enough crime in Ramona,” he said. “I don’t know why we’d want to bring in a store that sells a class 1 narcotic.”

Holly Michaels, president of Ramona Rebels Elite, said the cheer organization at 405 Maple St. is .3 miles (1,584 feet) from the proposed location, and over 100 children practice daily.

“So just to protect our children, I am opposed to it,” Michaels said.

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Lt. James Bovet with the sheriff’s Ramona substation tells Ramona Community Planning Group members that the only homicide in Ramona last year was at a house across from the proposed site for a medical marijuana cooperative. Sentinel photo/Karen Brainard

When asked about crime in that area, Lt. James Bovet with the sheriff’s Ramona substation said the only homicide last year was in a house directly across from the proposed site and it involved marijuana. Shane Tatro, 34, was shot after getting into an argument with the homeowner, according to reports.

Other concerns raised by planning group members and residents were increased traffic, potential for increased crime, and driving impairment if any clients used the medical marijuana right after purchase. Rogers said Mother Earth does not allow use on site.

Mother Earth Alternative Healing Cooperative formerly operated out of a warehouse in El Cajon, and was the only licensed facility in Southern California, Rogers said. All directors had to go through FBI background checks, there was extensive security, and distribution was heavily regulated, he said. It operated for 14 months under state law and county ordinance but was forced to shut down by the federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), said Rogers. Although purchase of medical marijuana is legal in the state of California, it is still illegal at the federal level, he noted.

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