By Ryan Hagen Staff Writer
Created: 02/17/2011 06:35:35 PM PST

A ban on medical marijuana dispensaries and outdoor cultivation of marijuana moved a step closer to reality Thursday when the San Bernardino County Planning Commission unanimously approved a proposed ordinance.

The ban – which commissioners said was not a prohibition of medical marijuana use but which dozens of residents said amounted to one – now moves to the county Board of Supervisors for a final decision.

Commissioners, who two weeks ago delayed a decision and formed a subcommittee to explore what they said felt like an incomplete presentation of data, said little Thursday except they were satisfied by arguments that the ordinance protected residents’ safety and preserved medical marijuana users’ rights.

“I have received the information. I have processed it,” said Commissioner Audrey Matthews. “What our regulation is about is not your use of marijuana. Our regulation is to clarify what the development code says about land use.”

The proposed ordinance, which would affect unincorporated county lands, would ban distribution of medical marijuana to more than two people by one party except by limited professionals such as hospitals. It also limits marijuana cultivation to buildings and greenhouses.

The ordinance aims to limit crime, which some evidence suggests increases around marijuana groves and collectives, said Senior Planner Judy Tatman.

That’s based on cherry-picked anecdotes, argued Lanny Swerdlow of the Inland Empire Anti-Prohibition Project.

“If you want statistics, look at Denver,” he said. “Although between 2009 and 2010 the city had a decrease in crime of 1percent, within 1,000 feet of dispensaries the city had a decline of 3.7percent.”

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