Marijuana 101, a class on chaos and conflicting messages

The marijuana issue has so many tentacles. There’s AB 390, a
state bill sponsored by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco)
that would legalize and tax marijuana at
$50-per-ounce. There’s New Jersey’s passage of a carefully
crafted medical marijuana bill. There’s the Obama
administration’s

don’t look, don’t prosecute

policy on dispensaries. There’s the coming California ballot
measure to legalize the drug. It’s information overload.
1. What Gilroy should not forget is the issue of opening without a license

The marijuana issue has so many tentacles. There’s AB 390, a state bill sponsored by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) that would legalize and tax marijuana at

$50-per-ounce. There’s New Jersey’s passage of a carefully crafted medical marijuana bill. There’s the Obama administration’s “don’t look, don’t prosecute” policy on dispensaries. There’s the coming California ballot measure to legalize the drug. It’s information overload.

For Gilroy, the crux of the matter locally is this fact: a marijuana dispensary opened a retail location without obtaining a business license. Let’s not forget that. The city simply should not give up that fight. If it does, what’s preventing any other business from thumbing its nose at the city’s laws and opening without a license. Unenforced laws breed disrespect and chaos, which is exactly what many California cities are experiencing right now with the proliferation of cannabis clubs. Marijuana advocates, sensing an opportunity, have ramped up the legalization campaign and are playing both the taxation and compassionate use card with righteous fervor.

Gilroy’s City Council, having lost the initial court proceedings regarding requirement for a business license, has initially approved an ordinance banning medical marijuana dispensaries.

2. And then there’s a ballot initiative that would legalize the drug

Given that the MediLeaf dispensary on First Street appears now to be one of many operating within the city – delivery service is the standard operating procedure – the ban may be pointless.

All this is against the backdrop of a state ballot initiative that could legalize the drug.

What’s a city to do?

Perhaps the best course would be to take a step back, reconsider the current path and go forward with the passage of a two-year moratorium law. That limits the flow of money into the attorney pockets, calls a timeout on the energy being spent by city officials on the issue, and allows for the dust to settle with regard to state and federal laws.

Right now, it’s hard to know which way is up.

President Obama’s administration and the Justice Department underneath it will not pursue prosecution of dispensaries even though marijuana is federally listed as a Schedule I drug. That designation means it has a high potential for abuse, that there is no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States and that there is a lack of accepted safety for its use under medical supervision.

3. Potential for abuse and associated costs should be fully evaluated

Reasonable people might agree that there is a legitimate medical use for marijuana, and that it should be prescribed and administered the way other prescription medications are – through a licensed pharmacy.

But what’s happening now is beyond reason, and seemingly beyond local control. Marijuana advocates are no doubt pleased with that situation, but the lack of consistency, enforcement and regulation has left the city, the state and the country in an unfortunate state of affairs.

Hopefully, Californians won’t vote to legalize the drug because it’s “harmless.” Consider, for example, what’s been discovered about tobacco and smoking.

There needs to be a realistic approach to the issue that considers the potential and costs for abuse. That debate should separate the calls for compassionate medical use from those calling for legalization for recreational purposes.

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