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Palo Alto residents to vote on pot clubs
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PALO ALTO  (AP) — The tony San Francisco Bay area city of Palo Alto, known for its trendy boutiques, high-end restaurants and proximity to Stanford University, will soon decide whether to allow a seemingly incongruous set of new businesses — medical marijuana dispensaries.

An initiative on the Nov. 6 ballot would allow a total of three dispensaries in the city.

Under the measure, the shops could be located in any commercial or industrial area.

If it passes, Palo Alto would be bucking a trend by other California cities and counties to impose greater restrictions on medical marijuana dispensaries, and in some cases ban the shops.

The Los Angeles City Council recently voted to shutter hundreds of medical marijuana shops. To the south of Palo Alto, San Jose officials have approved zoning regulations designed to limit how and where pot dispensaries can operate. The regulations initially capped the number of dispensaries at 10.

Meanwhile, federal officials are cracking down on medical marijuana shops in the state.

"This does stand out," Allen St. Pierre, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, said about Palo Alto's proposal.

The organization, known as NORML, is a Washington, D.C.-based group that promotes the legalization of marijuana.

Supporters of Palo Alto's pot proposal say it would provide terminally ill patients with access to medicine.

The dispensaries, which would be subject to a 4 percent tax, would not be allowed near residential areas, schools, parks, libraries or substance abuse treatment centers. Owners would be able to grow marijuana on-site.

Critics counter that pot clubs don't belong in the residential, family-friendly city.

"Personally, I wouldn't want to see a dispensary here," said Russ Cohen, executive director of the downtown business association. "We have a good mix right now: high-end restaurants, boutiques, bars. It doesn't seem like something medicinal would fit."