Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Council hears concerns on pot shop ordinance


Although largely a procedural item, the adoption of permanent regulations for medical marijuana dispensaries became a topic of contention at today's Santa Barbara City Council meeting.
Leaders with Fighting Back, an alcohol and drug abuse prevention initiative, spoke out against the proposed regulations, asking the council to reconsider the issue. Mayor Marty Blum, absent for the ordinance’s introduction last week, also expressed concerns.

“The problem is these medical marijuana dispensaries are magnets for criminal activity,” she said. “…I don’t think the controls the Ordinance Committee decided on are adequate enough.”
Fighting Back representatives focused largely on the impact of dispensaries on the youth population. Penny Jenkins, president of the organization, said doctor recommendations are often sketchy and teens frequently get marijuana from older friends who have a medical marijuana card.
“We see kids in both Teen Court and at the Daniel Bryant Youth and Family Treatment Center who are addicted to marijuana,” she said.
Paul Cordero, superintendent of Carpinteria schools and a leader with Fighting Back, echoed Jenkins’ remarks, saying marijuana dispensaries will be abused regardless of any level of regulation.
“This is just the wrong thing and it’s been that way since it started,” he said. “I’d like to see all medical marijuana dispensaries in our county eliminated.
“I don’t care where you put them. Nothing’s going to change.”
In contrast, Dr. Tharon Weighill, who operates the Sacred Mountain dispensary at 27 Parker Way, said the “demonization” of medical marijuana needs to stop, calling suggestions of an outright ban inappropriate.
“We have to make some space for justifiable use,” he said. “…Whether we like it or not, cannabis is in all of our communities, including Carpinteria and Goleta. We either fill up our jails with this issue or we take positive steps to resolve it in a way that preserves our integrity.”
Ultimately, the council voted 5-1 in favor of approving the ordinance, which places operational and locational restrictions on local pot shops, in addition to requiring a permit process that includes background checks. Mayor Blum voted against the adoption and Councilmember Das Williams was absent.
“I just think we’re heading down the wrong path,” Mayor Blum said.
However, her colleagues indicated that while the regulations may not be perfect, they would be a large improvement over unregulated dispensaries.
“If we don’t pass this ordinance now, we’ll be worse off,” Councilmember Dale Francisco said. “It’ll be a free-for-all.”
An emergency moratorium, established in August 2007 after Westside residents raised concerns about a troublesome dispensary in their neighborhood, is set to expire next month. City Attorney Steve Wiley said although the council could place a new moratorium in place, there would be a gap of several weeks when new dispensaries would be free to open.
“At the 11th hour, it’s a little uncomfortable to be just now hearing about this side,” Councilmember Iya Falcone said of concerns raised by Jenkins and Cordero.
Falcone said although she recognizes the dubiousness of some doctor recommendations for medical marijuana, she is concerned about maintaining safe access for patients who truly need the medicine.
“There are legitimate uses for this herb, for this drug, if you will,” she said. “…I don’t think this ordinance is the evil player.”
Councilmember Helene Schneider noted that the regulations adopted today have been scrutinized and discussed at numerous meetings since the emergency moratorium went into effect.
“At the very last hearing, after so many other hearings, to just say stop is a disservice,” she said, also noting that the city can bring the ordinance back up for discussion and tinkering in the future.


Anonymous said...

"We see kids.... who are addicted to marijuana."

That is an out and out lie. Marijuana has never been proven to be an addictive drug. There are no legitimate studies that have proven that marijuana is a physically addictive substance. Alcohol and cigarettes are much more prone to enticing addicts to overuse. They should have tossed this lady out on her head after such an absurd comment.

Anonymous said...

I wish the Santa Barbara press (all media) would stop quoting "Dr Weighill" - he is not a medical doctor and to use that title to further a good cause is misleading. His degree, as I have been told and have verified, is in dance theory and anthropology. Nevertheless, I am glad that the City Council is taking a stand and doing something to protect those who need cannibis for legit reasons. Good job!

Anonymous said...

“We see kids in both Teen Court and at the Daniel Bryant Youth and Family Treatment Center who are addicted to marijuana,” she said.

She fails to address that this medical marijuana is ONLY available to California residents 18 and older with a SIGNIFICANT medical problem. Additionally, as "Anonymous" stated, there has been no medical claim that marijuana is a physically addictive substance.