By Ryan Hagen Staff Writer
Posted: 02/03/2011 06:17:05 PM PST

San Bernardino County planning commissioners, expressing concern they weren’t getting an objective staff report on a proposal to ban medical marijuana dispensaries, decided Thursday to delay voting on the issue.

Over the next two weeks, two members of the Planning Commission will work with county staff to develop what they say would be a more balanced presentation of the proposal, which would affect unincorporated county land.

Commissioners also said they needed time to digest nearly five hours of comments from the public.

“Looking at this objectively, based on the fact that we have law enforcement’s side, I want to look at it statistically, analytically from the other side – not anecdotes like we’ve mostly heard today,” said Commissioner Audrey Mathews.

Most of those commenting were medical marijuana patients who said using it has dramatically increased their quality of life without the side effects of other drugs they had been prescribed.

Other speakers supported the staff conclusion that the county’s moratorium on new marijuana dispensaries should be increased to a ban, based on what they said was the immorality of using marijuana and on statistics suggesting crime increased around dispensaries in other counties.

Dozens of opponents of the ban – which would prohibit growing marijuana outside or distribution by anyone except narrowly defined health-care providers – protested outside the County Government Center in downtown San Bernardino before the meeting.

“They’re thwarting the will of the people of California,” said Kathie Zamanjoromi, who owns a house in San Bernardino but says she began renting in Riverside because of its more permissive marijuana laws. “We’re not criminals. I’m a grandparent, but before (receiving a marijuana prescription) I was on too many (prescribed) pills to function.”

Because California allows marijuana use with a prescription, despite federal laws against it – and because of mental and physical relief she said no other medicine provides – Zamanjoromi said she and others will continue to use marijuana even if the San Bernardino County restrictions go into effect.

“I’m going to obtain my medicine no matter what,” she said. “Either from Mexican drug cartels or from a responsible, regulated dispensary.”

Several members of the Planning Commission suggested they might want to amend the proposal before they consider it Feb. 17.

They will then make a recommendation to county supervisors, who also must act quickly if they want to have a new policy in place before June, when the moratorium expires. State law does not allow the moratorium to be extended again.

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