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Med pot puffers banned from local parks

No ‘intoxicants’ rule stubs out marijuana use, places it in same restricted category as alcohol
By: Gus Thomson, Reporter/Media Life columnist
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Auburn-area parks are now off-limits to medicinal marijuana users puffing pot.

The Auburn Recreation District board has approved an amendment to its park rules that prohibits anyone from providing or consuming “intoxicants” in any park without first obtaining a special use permit.
 
Kahl Muscott, district administrator, said that the district issues permits regularly for events to allow alcohol consumption but it would be doubtful the same would go for medicinal marijuana. 
 
The amended ordinance was adopted on a 4-1 vote of the district board on Dec. 20 with no discussion at the meeting from board members or the public. Scott Holbrook was the dissenting vote but said he respects the board's decision. 
 
“We’re not saying people can’t smoke medicinal marijuana,” Muscott said. “They can choose to smoke it at home.”
 
The decision to prohibit medicinal pot use in parks drew mixed reaction from people who use the park.
 
Richard Stejskal said that he doesn’t smoke marijuana but he’s against a ban that could have an impact on people who use pot to deal with chronic pain.
 
“I think they should look deeper into the medical issue,” Stejskal said. “If there weren’t any kids around, it would probably be all right.”
 
The idea of a dedicated smoking area for medicinal users has merit, he added. The area could be out of the way and posted so parents could choose to steer their children clear of the spot, he said.
 
“Parks are beautiful places and you have to do something for the pain,” Stejskal said.
 
Anna Southard, a Grass Valley resident who works in Auburn, was playing with her dog in Regional Park. She said that pot smoking in the park hadn’t been noticeable to her but she supported the district’s new regulation.
 
“It (the pot prohibition) is a good thing,” Southard said. “I have a 10-year-old and I don’t want to take him to a park and have people sitting around smoking pot, even if it’s medicinal.”
 
Smoking tobacco cigarettes doesn’t fall under the new, blanket, “intoxicants” prohibition. Muscott said that the district has no prohibition of its own against tobacco use, except at Ashford Park on Auburn Ravine Road.  State law, however, prohibits tobacco use in and around public park playgrounds.
 
Muscott said the parks district has received the occasional complaint from people visiting an Auburn Recreation District park. The request to amend the district alcohol ordinance to take in the more broad-ranging term “intoxicants” came from Laurie Bettencourt, a deputy with the Placer County Sheriff’s Office and a school resource officer.
 
A report to the board noted that Bettencourt and investigators from the Department of Alcohol Beverage Control frequently encounter people using marijuana at Regional Park. Some of the marijuana users claim they have recommendations for use, the report said.
 
Placer County Sheriff’s Detective Joshua Barnhart added that while there is nothing in the law prohibiting medical marijuana recommendation holders from using marijuana in public, the recreation district can prohibit use in a park.
 
And because it is a recommended substance and not a prescription medication, it is not needed for a patient to survive, he added.
 
The parks district includes Recreation, Regional, Meadow Vista, Railhead and Ashford parks.