Santa Barbara’s oldest medical marijuana dispensary may close its doors after the Santa Barbara City Planning Committee denied its appeal to continue operations earlier this month.
The Compassion Center at 2915 De La Vina St. has operated as a “legal nonconforming” establishment since before the city imposed two ordinances to constrict the number of dispensaries operating within city limits. City Attorney Steve Wiley filed suit against the operation, claiming the shop lost its legal right — per an ordinance issued by the city two years ago — to stay in business because it allegedly shut down for more than 30 days between November 2009 and January 2010. The planning committee voted 4-2 against the dispensary during the Feb. 3 hearing between store owner Patrick Fourmy and Wiley.
The dispensary must appeal the City Planning Committee’s decision to the Santa Barbara City Council in order to continue operating. According to Dr. David Bearman, a medical professional with more than 40 years of work in substance abuse treatment and prevention programs, the council will likely side against the dispensary.
“You do not have five people on the city council who take the concept that cannabis is a medicine seriously,” Bearman said. “The State of California should be regulating medicine, not the city council. They have completely ignored that cannabis is a medicine.”
Bearman said he supports the continued operation of the Compassion Center because it hires licensed nurses trained in administration of medical marijuana.
“When I have a 62-year-old woman receiving chemotherapy for breast cancer, I want to feel comfortable that I can send her to a nurse who can inform her of the use of the drug,” Bearman said.
The prosecution and defense argued their sides during the committee hearing two weeks ago. Although the committee voted against the store, board members cited a lack of clear evidence in the case. Jamie Merrick, a board member of Pacific Coast Collective, one of the four dispensaries still operating in Santa Barbara, said the Compassion Center remained in business during the 30-day period that Wiley bases his case on.
“They were definitely operating as a delivery during that period, because they were trying to comply with the Feds without disbanding their membership,” Merrick said.
Merrick said the council’s decision to revise the ordinance was unfair for the storeowners. “All that being said, it is just interesting as to how the city attorney gets the city council to get any ordinances moved forward so they can be so obviously unfair to the business.”
Bearman said the council should listen to input from medical experts before making further decisions on the city’s dispensaries.
“Why does the city council not call together a committee of healthcare professionals and ask for their advice?” Bearman asked. Santa Barbara City Councilmember Randy Rowse declined to comment about the aforementioned cases on behalf of the city council.