Thursday, August 28, 2008

Locals march for marijuana


With occasional puffs of smoke trailing off behind them, a group of more than 100 people marched up State Street yesterday from Stearns Wharf to the County Courthouse to show their support for local medical marijuana dispensaries.
The dispensaries, of which eight remain in the city of a pool that once numbered nearly 20, have come under attack from the federal Drug Enforcement Administration in recent months for violating federal drug laws.

However, as far as the State of California and City of Santa Barbara is concerned, the dispensaries are legal.
But with the DEA threatening to seize property of those who rent to dispensaries, many who marched yesterday worry their legal access to the drug could dry up and those who use it could be prosecuted.
Mark Russell, a co-founder of the local medical marijuana dispensary Hortipharm, who organized the march, said he did so to drum up support for the dispensaries and show locals that those who use medical marijuana are not criminals.
He said he would like to see local governmental organizations, like the District Attorney’s Office and Santa Barbara City Council, stand up for local dispensaries when and if the DEA conducts raids, as they have done in other California cities.
“We want to know that our city wants us here,” Russell said. “We want to know: Are we going to be prosecuted for what the state says is legal?”
Since the DEA sent letters to landowners last year urging them to stop renting to dispensaries, the agency hadn’t began flexing its muscles until recently.
According to Russell, DEA officials came to Santa Barbara earlier this month. He said they held a meeting at the District Attorney’s Office, at which the DEA threatened people who rent their properties to cannabis dispensaries with hefty fines, property seizure and criminal charges.
Fearing the DEA may act on its rhetoric, Russell was busy gathering phone numbers from people yesterday so he can text message them if the DEA does raid local dispensaries.
California voters gave a green light to selling medical marijuana legally in 1996 with the passage of Proposition 215.
In Santa Barbara, officials have been supportive of the dispensaries, but recently approved a zoning ordinance which primarily targets where and when such a business can operate. The city also passed an ordinance making marijuana the lowest priority for law enforcement officials.
But in the event the DEA rolls into town and aggressively begins shutting down businesses, the city could do little, said Councilwoman Iya Falcone.
“There’s only so much we can do,” she said. “I don’t know that we have the jurisdiction to do anything that interferes with the federal agencies enforcing their federal laws.”
Falcone called the contradicting state and federal marijuana laws a “vexing problem,” and one she wishes the city wasn’t in the middle of.
While Falcone said she personally believes medical marijuana should be made available to those who need it, she wishes the state and federal governments could get on the same page to avoid conflict.
While there’s little doubt conflict exists, there seems to be a wrinkle in the federal government’s opinions on the matter.
Among the protesters yesterday was Eugene, Ore. resident Elvy Musikka, who has received federally sponsored and grown medical marijuana to treat glaucoma for the past two decades.
Musikka, 69, said she is one of four people who travel to Florida a couple of times each year to refill her medicine cabinet. She said the government, through the National Institute on Drug Abuse, issues her three pounds of the drug every five months.
She said the marijuana even comes rolled in cigarette papers, which she re-rolls to her satisfaction.
Prior to becoming a regular marijuana user, Musikka said her eyes required regular surgery. The surgeries were so frequent, Musikka said she couldn’t recall how many times she went under the knife.
What she does know is since she began getting marijuana from the government, she’s had only one surgery. And as far as other ailments are concerned, Musikka’s so healthy she claims to not even own a bottle of aspirin.
“The only medicine I ever take is cannabis,” she said, adding that when she begins to feel sick, she just doubles her dose. “I thank God every day.”
Those who participated in the rally wore T-shirts that said, “I am not a criminal,” on the front, and “No access is not a solution,” on the back.
As participants lined both sides of State Street, they yelled “There is no war on drugs, there is a war on us.”
Aside from being told by a Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s deputy they couldn’t smoke on the grass at the Sunken Gardens, the participants steered clear of any brushes with the law.
Russell said he simply wants to be allowed to legally walk into a legitimate dispensary and buy what he needs. He said thousands of people in the city and county want the same, and at this point, there’s no practical reason why the federal government shouldn’t allow it, especially since it’s considered legal on California soil.
“We understand there needs to be regulation,” he said. “But no access is not the solution.”


Anonymous said...

I had always heard that medical marijuana helped various medical ailments, but had never had personal experience.

That all changed when my 88 year old mother couldn't get pain relief (other than the zombie-inducing drug vicadin, which her doctor was pushing) for her leg.

After just one "puff" (as she called it), she couldn't feel any pain! It was a miracle. She smoked one "puff" in the morning and one "puff" in the evening for only one month.

Now whenever she has any pain, which is infrequent, all she does is take one puff and the pain is gone.

It's truly a miracle; I can't say enough about it.

Bob Marley said...

It no mystery that pot has proven medical uses. Unfortunately a few bad eggs may ruin those dreams of making it legal. I know for a fact that young people come up with any reason to get a card. Every dispensary has college age students hangin' and making pick ups all day. (and driving) Not to mention all the people I know that get "legal" pot, share and/or sell with those who do not (pot is a social drug) This medical crap has to stop.. lobby purely for the enjoyment of pot (like alcohol) and tap into the huge tax opportunity!!! at least then it will become Legit'! Otherwise keep wrangling these idiot untrustworthy potheads and keep it illegal.

Anonymous said...

The key issue in this discussion is the conflict between State and Federal law.
One has to ask, how does this Federal marijuana law that intrudes into a totally in-state commercial activity get reconciled with the US Constitution. From what I read, the Federal government may only regulate inter-state commerce NOT intra-state commerce. If that discrepancy was cleared up perhaps the State and the City could get on with running themselves without big-brother's help the way the Constitution envisioned.

Anonymous said...

Bob Marley said: "Every dispensary has college age students hangin' and making pick ups all day. (and driving)"

1) Marijuana has a variety of recognized uses, and as far as I know those diseases don't discriminate based on age. Someone who appears college-aged isn't required to broadcast their private medical history.

2) All of the reputable dispensaries in town here do not allow patients to medicate on the premises. Driving to pick up medicine is not an issue. Driving while medicated is. If a SBPD pulls over someone who's medicated and swerving, they're going to get a DWI just the same as if they had alcohol, or prescription painkillers in their system.

3) Many patients in town have caregivers to pick up their medication for them, as they cannot or choose not to do so themselves. These caregivers may appear younger and/or healthier than your preconception of a "sick" person.

Bottom line is, people's medical histories are personal and private. I don't know of a single doctor that can look at someone from a distance and determine whether or not a person has any one of the numerous ailments for which medical marijuana can be recommended. The last thing we need is armchair physicians driving down the street telling us who should and shouldn't have access to medicine that their doctor has recommended.

Anonymous said...

Much of the medical pot ends up in the hands of high schoolers and college students who aren't dying of cancer or suffering from anything other than laziness and boredom. (read spoiled brats). I'd like to see these clinics stopped. Who's kidding whom here? This is a new end run to make money off of illegal drugs. Shame on the doctors who are enablers in this conspiracy. Why don't they lose their licenses, or go to jail? Like other dope dealers?

Howard Taggart said...

On that commerce clause question, the Supreme Court did clear that up a couple of years ago. The Feds can ban it. Given the supremacy clause, they can enforce the ban.

Anonymous said...

What's the difference between making money off of pot or making money of of alcohol, tobacco, vicodin, viagra, physical therapy, etc...? I bet u wouldn't be complaining if you weren't so uptight and actually tried something new for once. And the youth isn't suffering from laziness or boredom; they're suffering from a much more shameful conspiracy, and what else?(read self-righteous people who make parenthetical asides). I'd like to see a change in the way this country is ran. Why aren't people fed up with the way we live by now. Why aren't our politcians in jail, like other mureders and thieves?

Brendan said...

As a medical cannabis user who probably fits the stereotype of a healthy looking, college age student, I'd like to say that not all of us carry our scars on the outside. I medicate to alleviate the daily pain, nausea, cramping, diarrhea, insomnia, and acid reflux that come with Crohn's Disease, an autoimmune disease that causes chronic ulceration and inflammation of the intestinal tract.

Anonymous said...

What a sad state of the news items and see where are the most comments..NO not the piece on Off Shore Drilling approved by SB Sups..Hmmm...The most pressing issue in all the world is about use of pot...What a truely sad commentary...Come on people there are MUCH MORE IMPORTANT ISSSUES>>> If you only used your energy on a bigger social good...Pathetic...

Bob Marley said...

Look I am not bashing the medical uses of cannibis. I am saying that until you separate out the bad eggs that use pot as substitute instead of using better diet, regular exercise, and or an occasional advil when they get minor aches and pains. Life has pains, get over it. Less than 9% of the population of North America has Cron's Disease, yet we have a handful of dispensaries in this town with young healthy kids frequenting! I know for a fact that those who enjoy smoking pot, try somehow to get a legal medical card to protect their enjoyment. And yes, when your back is sore from surfing Rincon all morning, a bong rip is about the best thing ever! i think that the pot supporters should go the route of making it legal not on a medical platform, otherwise the regular potheads will ruin all the hard work that went into lobbying for this state law. And yes, I said "driving" with pot in their system (doesnt make you swerve all over the road, but it is illegal) most potheads i know burn while they drive; and i think they drive pretty well...but it is wrong I know.

Bob Marley said...

in addition.. to the comments by Brendan: if your last name begins with Mc...... i know who you are. and you know who I am. Peace and shred on.