The San Luis Obispo Tribune published an editorial today, Sunday, 01/24/10 chiding Nipomo residents to keep an open mind about having a medical marijuana dispensary in our community. The irony of the Tribune, a newspaper that only grudgingly covers any news events here in Nipomo having the chutzpah to lecture Nipomo residents on what is actually best for the Nipomo community: well, the thought, frankly makes reason stare.
The editorial follows in its entirety with my response interspersed:
Opines the Tribune:
Medical marijuana dispensaries have a checkered history in California, and we can understand why local communities would be reluctant to allow them. Yet a blanket “just say no” attitude does a disservice to sick and disabled residents of our area who are denied local access to the drug. In San Luis Obispo County, all seven cities have banned dispensaries, either through permanent or temporary moratoriums. While the businesses are theoretically allowed in the unincorporated areas, well, good luck with that happening.
The very first sentence, in the Tribune editorial admits what is a matter of historical fact in California–that marijuana dispensaries have a checkered history in California. Yet the editorial title urges us to keep an open mind about injecting into our community next to our homes, schools and places of business, a proposed land use that at best has a questionable and checkered past. It’s not like the historical record reflects that the vast majority of marijuana dispensaries bring positive influences to the community. Quite the opposite. Yet, we, opines the Tribune, should keep an open mind.
The Tribune further assumes without any factual basis or supporting data that a blanket “no” somehow does a disservice to sick and disabled residents who are denied access to the drug. What disservice is that? What evidence is there anyone’s health or welfare will be seriously impacted by not allowing a marijuana dispensary where none has ever existed, in Nipomo? What evidence or data has the Tribune produced that there are not alternate, legitimate, safe, and FDA approved medications for these sick and disabled residents? How do we know that these sick and disabled residents are not already benefiting from alternate medically approved and prescribed drugs, such as Marinol, (more on Marinol here and here) or others, depending on the condition.
Continues the Tribune:
Latest case in point: Nipomo.
An application for a dispensary is in the very early stage — it goes to the local advisory council Monday night — and already, a group of Nipomo residents is actively opposing it.
And this is somehow inappropriate–local residents deciding what is best in a local community? There is absolutely nothing wrong with citizens banding together for the betterment of their community, particularly when those residents, i.e., those of us here in Nipomo live in an unincorporated area of San Luis Obispo County and have no direct say over land use in our own community. In fact, early banding together and taking a stand about land use issues is something we in Nipomo have learned from bitter experience is necessary, with county planning. It is not only prudent and appropriate but, required.
Continues the Tribune:
Among other objections, they worry a dispensary will bring in an unsavory element from surrounding communities as far north as San Simeon and as far south as Lompoc.
This is a fact. There are no legally operating dispensaries in all of San Luis Obispo County and none in northern Santa Barbara County. That means a Nipomo marijuana dispensary would by definition attract potential customers from the surrounding communities as far north as San Simeon and as far south as Lompoc–perhaps even further.
It is a fact that these dispensaries do draw unsavory elements in the form of recreational drug users. It is also a fact that marijuana remains a schedule one drug and is illegal under federal law, notwithstanding the California statutory provisions for limited medial usages. I have posted a rather lengthy article making the case against a marijuana dispensary in Nipomo, which sets forth a host of reasons why Nipomo doesn’t need to inject the negative influences a marijuana dispensary brings to the community.
Continues the Tribune:
We aren’t going to weigh in on whether this particular application in Nipomo should be approved or rejected. At this early stage, we don’t know enough about the proposal — or the applicant — to make an informed decision one way or the other.
We would, however, like to see decision-makers keep an open mind and judge every application based on whether it meets conditions already set forth in a county ordinance.
Well, one reason the Tribune editorial writers don’t know enough is that they didn’t bother to send a reporter to the first land use sub committee meeting held last Monday, 01/18/10. The Santa Maria Times sent a reporter--yet somehow for all their pontificating on this issue, the Tribune News Desk was just too busy with other more important stories countywide to be bothered to send a reporter down to unimportant Nipomo to cover our land use meetings. Yet, despite their admitted ignorance they are still educated enough on the issue to lecture us simple Nipomo bumpkins to keep an open mind about letting a pot dispensary come to town.
Continues the Tribune:
Among those requirements:
• Dispensaries cannot be located in a downtown business area or within 1,000 feet of a school, library, playground, park or youth recreation facility.
• Applicants must apply for a special business license.
• All employees of the dispensary must be at least 21.
• No cultivation of marijuana is allowed on site.
Actually, the ordinance, which you can read in its entirety here: requires the dispensary to be a minimum of 1000 feet away from a school. That’s a bit different than being within 1000 feet. The language clearly suggests that the 1000 foot requirement is only a minimum requirement, and arguably the planners could require it to be a greater distance. Depending on whether the property line is for Nipomo High School, this proposed dispensary may be less than 1000 feet, or just at 1000 feet away. The county ordinance language allows for discretion in the proximity of the pot clinic to a local high school, such as the case here.
Continues the Tribune:
If an application doesn’t meet the criteria, then it should be denied.
But don’t base a decision on the experiences of other jurisdictions — such as Los Angeles — that have little in common with our communities.
While it is true that urban communities have seen a troubling proliferation of dispensaries, we don’t believe that would be the case here; there simply isn’t the population base to support a dispensary on every block.
Why not base a decision base on the experiences of other jurisdictions? And, I’m not specifically talking about Los Angeles; however, even Los Angeles can teach us something. After all, Los Angeles knows a little something about pot dispensaries. They have more pot dispensaries than they do public schools.
According to this Los Angeles Times article, the L.A. District Attorney is quoted:
“About 100 percent of dispensaries in Los Angeles County and the city are operating illegally,” said Steve Cooley, the Los Angeles County district attorney, who is up for re-election in 2012. “The time is right to deal with this problem.”
100 percent of dispensaries in Los Angeles County are operating illegally. That isn’t a fact we ought to consider before injecting a pot dispensary into our community? I think absolutely it is. What makes us think this proposed pot dispensary will be any different from any of the hundreds of them operating illegally in Los Angeles County? San Luis Obispo County is somehow immune from illegal pot dispensaries?
What about other local jurisdictions both within and without our county boundaries? Well, we know that no city or unincorporated area in all of San Luis Obispo County has an operating pot dispensary. If you read my post above about making the case against a dispensary in Nipomo, there are several articles outlining the local communities which have rejected these pot dispensaries. In short, every city in San Luis Obispo County. Nor are there any pot dispensaries anywhere in the unincorporated areas of San Luis Obispo County. In 2008 the Board of Supervisors rejected a proposed pot dispensary in Templeton:
County supervisors Tuesday barred a medical marijuana dispensary planned for Templeton, saying it was too close to a playground and did not fit with the character of the community. The Board of Supervisors’ 5-0 vote upheld two appeals that were filed after the county Planning Commission voted in January to allow the North County Resource Center to open. “The biggest part of this whole thing is that the community is not accepting it,” said Supervisor Harry Ovitt, whose district includes Templeton. He added that the lack of oversight of marijuana dispensaries contributed to his vote against the one proposed for Templeton.
Significantly the Board overruled the County Planning department which was divided 3-2, while the Board was unanimous in rejecting the dispensary 5 to 0. The primary rationale? The community’s refusal to accept the dispensary. It is very clear that Nipomo as a community is quite united against any such pot dispensary here in Nipomo. Are we in Nipomo less deserving of the same criteria upon which to base our decision, than was Templeton? I think not.
What about the experience of the only locally run pot dispensary, Morro Bay? Regardless of how one feels about the outcome, that social experience was a disaster with the owner being convicted on several federal felonies, including selling marijuana to minors, which under federal law is older than California law; but, the question remains, why on earth are minors needing medical marijuana? The short answer is that they don’t. The abuse of the system is rampant. And, with federal and state law at loggerheads, why are we in Nipomo any less deserving a NO vote from the Board of Supervisors than was Templeton. We don’t want to be the next test community for future legal raids and wars between the federal and state governments.
What about the experience of Los Olivos, an unincorporated area of Santa Barbara County? (see my post referenced above for the source material). Los Olivos’ residents were also united in opposition to a pot dispensary. Their watchdog group, POLO compiled some startling research:
“The purpose of meeting is to get community input about medical marijuana dispensaries and present the research we have found. What we have come up with is there are 22 dispensaries in Santa Barbara, which is twice the number of Starbucks within their city limits,” Shoen said.
Through POLO’s research, more than 50 percent of people who frequent the dispensaries reportedly are under 30 years old, and he said it seemed it was for more recreational use than pain management.
Santa Barbara has more pot dispensaries than Starbucks coffee shops, and more than 50 percent of the “patients” are under 30 years old? The experience of other communities points to rampant abuse, mostly by wanna be recreational drug abusers coming to town to get their daily fix. Currently Santa Barbara County is considering a moratorium and possibly an outright ban. Why? Because everywhere these pot clinics spring up there are invariably violations of the law, many times ending with arrests for blatantly illegal activity. Yet, implores the Tribune—we in Nipomo should keep an open mind.
Continues the Tribune:
And yes, some doctors are too ready to write prescriptions based on cursory examinations of patients, leading to abuse of the system.
However, that ignores the fact that there are legitimately ill people in our own county whose symptoms are alleviated by the drug. Denying them access because some people abuse the system is grossly unfair.
We believe they deserve access to a local dispensary, operating under strictly controlled conditions. We want to try to avoid a repeat of what occurred in Morro Bay, where a dispensary was raided and the owner prosecuted.
Yes, there are indeed doctors here in our county who abuse the system. Read about Doctor Rees, and her Friday marijuana days. She wrote these recommendations to kids as young as 15, and mostly young males 20 to 22. Can all of them be qualified candidates for medicinal marijuana? Hard to believe.
If the Tribune feels so strongly that there should be a local pot dispensary, perhaps they could house one onsite with the editorial staff.
Continues the Tribune:
We urge applicants who are looking to open a dispensary here to do their homework; make sure you meet the criteria of our county ordinance before you apply. Also, be prepared to undergo intense scrutiny of your personal character; if you don’t think you’ll pass muster, don’t count on one iota of local support.
Well, again, if the Tribune had bothered to send a reporter to the first land use meeting they would have seen first hand that these applicants did not do their homework. The landowner, and the applicants are all out of town, Carmel and Los Angeles respectively. They have absolutely no business plan, no studies, no idea what they are doing. Neither of them have ever had any prior experience in running any of these dispensaries.
Why come to Nipomo? Because there are no other pot dispensaries for at least 80 miles. And, they thought Nipomo would be just enough under the radar that they could just slip in and no one would notice. Wrong! We noticed; we heard their presentation; we’ve researched the issues. And, we don’t want their pot dispensary in our community.
Continues the Tribune:
Again, we aren’t sure if Nipomo is the right spot for a dispensary. We’d like to see a county staff analysis, which is not yet available, before we draw any conclusions.
In the meantime, we urge residents of Nipomo — along with county officials — to consider that a majority of Californians made it clear that they want medical marijuana available to those who are suffering debilitating illnesses. Keep them in mind as you weigh the pros and cons of the application.
Well, we who live, work, and breathe here in Nipomo are sure that Nipomo is not the right spot for pot. We don’t need or even want a county staff analysis. We already know this is not the type of establishment we want in our community. We don’t need or want to consider what the majority of Californians think about pot dispensaries–better yet, what they thought over 10 years ago. The majority of Californians do not make land use decisions for Nipomo, nor do they know what is best for our community.
This project is ill conceived, poorly planned, poorly presented, and not the right fit for our community, just as it was not the right fit for Templeton, San Luis Obispo, Atascadero, Arroyo Grande, Pismo Beach, Grover Beach, Santa Maria, and every other city in Santa Barbara County, excepting Santa Barbara itself. We are no less deserving the right to determine whether to welcome or reject such a pot dispensary. That does not make us uncaring or unfeeling about those individuals who may benefit medically from the drug.
But, unless and until the state and the federal government come to some consensus over this issue, it will remain rife with abuse, as we have seen from the myriad of news sources available and referenced in this and other posts. To suggest that we inject these problems willingly into our community makes no sense whatsoever. Neither does the Tribune’s editorial stance. Thanks, but no Thanks–Tribune . . .
Show up Monday 01/25/10 6:30 p.m. at the NCSD Building 148 W. Wilson, Nipomo, CA to make your voices heard.