Mountain View Voice

Opinion - June 11, 2010

Time to set rules on pot dispensaries

Back in February, the idea that a medical marijuana dispensary providing medicine to sick people could fit into Mountain View appeared to be accepted by the City Council. But that sentiment is shifting and unless there is a willingness to compromise among some council members, what once appeared to be a green light for dispensaries is now looking more like a stop sign.

Mayor Ronit Bryant is having second thoughts about welcoming dispensaries to the city at all, given that neighboring Palo Alto and Los Altos already have closed the door, and Sunnyvale may do so as well.

"I have no interest in being the center for dispensaries in our area," she said at last week's council meeting.

Now it appears that Bryant and Margaret Abe-Koga, who had been open to the idea of closely-regulated dispensaries in February, are much more concerned, and possibly ready to join colleagues Jac Siegel and Laura Macias in voting against permitting any dispensaries to open here.

The new positions of Bryant and Abe-Koga became apparent during last week's discussion of regulations the city could impose on dispensaries, including several that could severely restrict their operation.

On the other side, members Tom Means and John Inks, are just as intent on applying their Libertarian philosophy to the issue, and seem unwilling to accept meaningful compromise on restrictions that might win the support of Bryant and others. Council member Mike Kasperzak generally sides with Means and Inks, but probably would be more willing to compromise.

Here are some of the restrictions being considered by the council that were proposed by City Attorney Jannie Quinn:

• Require dispensaries to be 500 or 1,000 feet from "sensitive" locations, including parks, trails, schools, residences and other areas deemed sensitive by the city's zoning administrator. Such a regulation would limit dispensaries to only a few small zones in the city, mostly in industrial areas along Highway 101 and the 237 Freeway.

• Require marijuana to be lab-tested for safety before it is sold in storefront dispensaries. Bryant and others said the Federal Drug Administration requires such tests for any medication. Tough testing requirements of dispensaries also are found in Los Angeles' ordinance, which requires that an independent and certified lab test samples of dried medical marijuana and edible marijuana for pesticides and any other regulated contaminants.

• Require dispensary operators to apply for a conditional use permit that would need to be renewed every year, and require prospective operators to pass a criminal background check.

• Require dispensaries to have security cameras, buzz-in entrances and security guards.

• Require that marijuana be cultivated at the dispensary, which Quinn says would prevent problematic "grow houses" from springing up.

Perhaps the biggest sticking point is the question of where to put a dispensary. There is no majority opinion on this, with Abe-Koga supporting an option to keep dispensaries 1,000 feet from sensitive uses while Inks, Means and Kasperzak support the 500-foot option. Bryant has an entirely different take, preferring a dispensary not be hidden from view in an industrial area as proposed by the city attorney.

Despite their differences, the council should be able to find a way to draft dispensary regulations that can bring this discussion to a conclusion.

We can understand the hesitancy of some council members, who want assurance that dispensaries are safe and distribute uncontaminated medicinal products. By crafting reasonable, achievable regulations, the city council can make sure that dispensaries meet local health needs and not be a burden on the general population.

Comments

Posted by PeaceLove, a resident of Shoreline West
on Jun 15, 2010 at 5:27 pm

The City Council is behaving with extreme disregard for sick and suffering patients in Mountain View and the surrounding cities for whom cannabis is the safest and most effective medicine available. Mayor Bryant, a cancer survivor herself, was prescribed Marinol (synthetic THC) for her condition and has said publicly that she would probably use cannabis if she got cancer again and found that it helped. Nevertheless, she is pointedly standing in the way of providing access to others. Rather than shying away from "being the center for dispensaries in our area," Mountain View should welcome the chance to shame the surrounding cities and help our own constituents and theirs. That's what LEADERSHIP is all about.

Many of the restrictions being proposed unfairly single out dispensary operators and make it difficult or impossible to operate in the city. The police chiefs of both Los Angeles and San Francisco have both stated flatly that the existence of cannabis dispensaries is NOT correlated with any increase in crime. So why are so many on the City Council letting their fear and ignorance trample the civil rights of their constituents?

It didn't take 14 years after Emancipation for City Councils to decide how best to draft regulations to free slaves. It didn't take 14 years after women got the vote for City Councils to try to figure out how to make that happen. The people of California voted 14 years ago -- 14 years! -- to allow patients to use cannabis. Support nationally for medical cannabis is over 70%; in Mountain View, it is almost certainly in the 80-90%+ range. The City Council needs to take a courageous stand and fight for the rights of patients to safe access to their medicine.

Jonathan Steigman
Mountain View


Posted by Ron, a resident of Monta Loma
on Jun 15, 2010 at 9:19 pm

This whole medical pot issue is a ploy for recreational users to break the law. In LA over 100 dispensaries have been closed for various violations including the providing of "prescriptions" onsite by "doctors" who don't examine the patient but collect $500 for the document.

If pot is a valid drug why isn't it provided in a standard dose and strength? Why is it sold in a dispensary rather than a drugstore? We have an entire infrastructure in place called pharmacists that are trained and certified about how to dispense medicine. Why do we need another amateur-hour setup with untrained individuals?

I vote for no pot clubs in Mountain View and I applaud Palo Alto and Los Altos for banning them.


Posted by le dude, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jun 15, 2010 at 9:49 pm

"cannabis is the safest and most effective medicine available"??

PeaceLove, where did you get your medical degree? Or law degree? Or history degree for that matter.

For God's Sake stop smoking that stuff. You are losing your mind!


Posted by PeaceLove, a resident of Shoreline West
on Jun 15, 2010 at 11:42 pm

Ron: Cannabis is a plant. It no more belongs in a pharmacy than eucalyptus or ginseng. Nevertheless, the reason it is not widely available as medicine is that the federal government has for decades deliberately and consistently put up roadblocks to medical researchers who want to study its efficacy in formal trials. The government controls the only legal source of medical cannabis and they make it difficult, if not impossible to get it for research.

The government still supplies a small number of medical cannabis patients with 300 cannabis cigarettes every 25 days, over 6 pounds per year. However they have refused to extend the program out to any new patients.

le dude: Insults aren't arguments.

Years of blatantly dishonest propaganda from our government has convinced many people that cannabis is some sort of highly dangerous substance, like alcohol or tobacco. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. Humans have natural cannabinoids in their bodies, and the use of cannabis in medicine is a hot topic of research among many medical professionals.

Judge Francis Young of the DEA ruled in 1988 that cannabis is "one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man" and that it is "safer than many foods we commonly consume." He further went on to say that denying that some physicians consider cannabis medically efficacious would be "unreasonable, arbitrary and capricious" and that science and evidence dictated that it should be moved off its Schedule 1 status immediately. Our government ignored the ruling of its own DEA.

"Estimates suggest that from twenty million to fifty million Americans routinely, albeit illegally, smoke marijuana without the benefit of direct medical supervision. Yet, despite this long history of use and the extraordinarily high numbers of social smokers, there are simply no credible medical reports to suggest that consuming marijuana has caused a
single death."

Full text of the DEA ruling here: Web Link

The relative safety of cannabis has been noted more recently by the World Health Organization and the Institute of Medicine.


Posted by Thanks, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jun 16, 2010 at 5:56 pm

Thank you judge for closing buddies down. They are not our buddies and most move on.


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