BARSTOW • The medical marijuana issue came before the Barstow City Council on Monday in the form of a 45-day moratorium on the establishment of dispensaries within city limits.

Councilmembers voted unanimously in favor of the moratorium, which would be used as a fact-finding mission to analyze the impacts a dispensary would have on the adjacent community. This information would be used to help the Council decide whether or not they support dispensaries operating within the city. According to the item, the moratorium would not infringe on the rights of qualified patients to use or grow marijuana.

City Planner Michael Massimini said he proposed the moratorium after the city received two phone calls, the most recent in July, asking whether or not Barstow allows dispensaries. City staff will conduct the study, which will include input from at least six other communities including Hesperia and Oakland. The study may also include input from doctors who prescribe marijuana and existing dispensaries.

Even though speakers said they were in favor of regulating medical marijuana dispensaries, during public comment no one spoke in favor of the moratorium. Newberry Springs resident Buckley Acosta, a medical marijuana patient who uses it to treat anxiety and insomnia, told the Council that dispensaries are legitimate businesses. He said if San Bernardino County allows dispensaries Barstow should follow whatever guidelines the county sets up. Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego Counties already have guidelines in place, he said.

"You won't be allowed to enter the building," Acosta told Councilmembers. "When you get to the building they'll ask you for identification. This is legitimate. There are no windows where this is displayed for kids to see."

Nathan Holden, a Barstow resident whose doctor recommended he use marijuana to treat social anxiety, insomnia and chronic pain, said dispensaries try to operate under the radar as much as possible. After working for a dispensary in Northridge for a year when he lived in the Los Angeles area, Holden said most have strict rules for their members on how they conduct their business.

"These places get checked out," he said after the meeting. "If they're not running completely by the book, it's easy to shut them down."

Even though he voted in favor of the moratorium, Councilmember Willie Hailey Sr. said the city can't overturn the vote of the people. He asked Massimini to come back with state laws and regulations that apply to dispensaries.
Proposition 215 applied to individuals, said Councilmember Julie Hackbarth-McIntyre, the city moratorium applies to dispensaries, which are businesses. Even though she said the impact of dispensaries on the community should be looked into, Hackbarth-McIntyre stated that she wasn't inclined to be in favor of them.

"I don't have a problem with that," she said. "Once this goes out you're going to have the other side of the table coming at us. (Whether) they're in this community or not still is a legal debate."

Mayor Joe Gomez said the decision the Council made doesn't mean it supports or opposes medical marijuana dispensaries. After the meeting, Gomez said he agreed to meet with the people who spoke in support of dispensaries, but also said he'd be willing to listen to those who oppose it. Gomez said he'll be talking with cities that have dispensaries in their neighborhoods as well as businesses that are adjacent to them.

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