Alameda County supervisors are considering a proposal to open a medial marijuana clinic at a county hospital as an alternative to private pot clubs that have generated complaints from neighbors.
If a majority of the Board of Supervisors approve, Alameda County could become the nation's first public entity to run a medical marijuana dispensary.
The idea of opening a clinic at San Leandro's Fairmont Hospital, which now has rehabilitation and HIV services, was proposed by Supervisor Nate Miley at a committee hearing Monday and will come before the full board on May 24.
Miley said the proposed clinic could be a pilot program to demonstrate that marijuana can be distributed safely and under proper medical supervision without causing problems to surrounding communities.
"It is the right thing to do," Miley said. "If it's medical, let's put it in a hospital setting. Let the county go about doing it. It just makes sense to me."
Supervisor Scott Haggerty agreed the full board should be allowed to consider the idea, but expressed skepticism over medical marijuana, pointing to what he sees as rampant abuse of regulations at pot clubs.
"We call it medical, yet we don't distribute it through pharmacies," Haggerty said.
Even if county supervisors approve the proposal, the federal government could quickly step in and close the clinic.
"Marijuana is illegal to cultivate, to possess and to distribute," said Drug Enforcement Administration agent Richard Meyer. "The Controlled Substances Act doesn't make any exceptions" for medical marijuana.
The U.S. Supreme Court, which has rejected medical uses of marijuana, is expected to rule soon on whether federal bans on the drug override laws in California and nine other states that allow marijuana use with a doctor's recommendation.
Alameda County Sheriff Charles Plummer, an opponent of medical marijuana, called Miley's idea brilliant.
"The county should be doing it so it's done right," the sheriff said.