Fullerton is certainly full of something these days. Last month the Fullerton Planning Commission approved a resolution to ban medical marijuana dispensaries in their city. In fact, all the resolution woul accomplish is a violation of California law; that and a major buzz-kill to Jay's Paradise, the dispensary whose business license application inspired the last-minute “urgency ordinance”.
In 1996 California passed Proposition 215, the Compassionate Use Act, which orders cities to set up a “plan to provide for the safe and affordable distribution of marijuana” to patients with a proven need (Health N Safety Code § 11362.5). It's called safe access, and every citizen of California is entitled to it.
Fullerton's prohibition is designed to protect the “health, safety, morals and general welfare” of Fullerton's residents and businesses, while at the same time depriving Californians of their state-guaranteed rights (though that part's in the fine print). It passed on a 5-2 margin, the dissenting votes coming from the only two Commission members with police experience. But a Sept. 7 report published by Americans for Safe Access claims that marijuana dispensaries actually provide benefits to their communities.
Can this be true? Let's compare the claims of the medi-pot mavens to the Fullerton resolution's goals.
Even before marijuana could be legally prescribed anywhere, a Harvard study found that over 40 percent of oncologists were prescribing marijuana to chemotherapy patients. In the film Stepmom, Susan Sarandon's character smokes some ganja to ease the pain of chemotherapy as well as the agony of her husband abandoning her for a younger Julia Roberts-type. At the end of the day, California state law recognizes the medicinal benefits of marijuana, as do doctors worldwide.
Crime tends to drop as dispensaries usually employ security cameras both inside and out, driving away criminals (or at least camera-shy criminals). Dispensaries are painfully aware of government scrutiny, as medical marijuana remains illegal in federal eyes. On August 30 a DEA agent tried to gain access to the Trichome Healing Center's dispensary on Van Nuys in LA without a medical marijuana prescription. When employees noticed his gun, they assumed he was attempting a robbery and detained him. As Oakland Councilmember Barbara Killey notes in the ASA report, “Dispensaries themselves have become very good at self-policing.” With their man's cover blown, DEA comrades rushed in to extract him—they feared for his safety.
If smoking marijuana is wrong, California doesn't want to be right. A 2004 Field Poll showed that 74% of Californians supported the implementation of Prop. 215; three in four of our fellow state-mates have no problem with medical marijuana. 50 percent of respondents also felt that marijuana was no more harmful than alcohol—up from 16 percent in 1969. The 2004 poll also found only 56 percent of Californians believe marijuana to be a gateway drug, with the more educated respondents even less likely to believe such an outdated theory. Yes, many people who go on to harder drugs start with marijuana, just like many acrobats start out walking. Marijuana is a gateway drug like Harry Potter is a gateway book.
In the ASA report, Berkeley councilmember Kriss Worthington called a local dispensary a “responsible neighbor and vital organization” to the community, noting that the city had received no complaints from the dispensary's neighbors; “In Berkeley, even average restaurants and stores have complaints from neighbors.” Oakland councilmember Desley Brooks noted that in his community, dispensaries “have helped to stimulate economic development” wherever they crop up. Nearby businesses benefit from the added traffic of dispensary patrons who otherwise might not visit that neighborhood. And let's not forget that nobody impulse-buys like a stoner.
It seems Fullerton's latest potential resolution (PC-06-28), a knee-jerk reaction to a proposed dispensary on the 800 block of Chapman, would be entirely counter-productive to its stated goals, along with violating a California law designed to ensure that patients have safe, convenient access to the medication they need.