In 2003, Senate Bill (SB) 420 (Chapter 875, Statutes of 2003) was passed as an extension and clarification of Proposition 215, the Compassionate Use Act of 1996. California's law, upheld by multiple appellate decisions, reads; "It is the intent of the Legislature, therefore, to do all of the following: [...] (3) Enhance the access of patients and caregivers to medical marijuana through collective, cooperative cultivation projects."
Nevertheless, last Wednesday Imperial Beach City Council members voted 4-1 to begin a largely unpopular process of banning collective/cooperative cultivation projects of 4 or more people not only from commercial locations, but from private homes too!
Patients and activists in the city and across the state have been voicing their issue to the media, contending that city official are acting illegally by banning the voter approved, legislature affirmed, and Grand Jury recommended state law.
Several media outlets have reported on the city's action following their vote to ban collective cultivation citywide, an activity explicitly authorized and protected under Senate Bill 420.
Our local this comment made by Councilman Ed Spriggs prior to the vote; “For every legitimate patient there seems to a dozen or so who are getting (marijuana) that don’t need it." Spriggs, however, failed to provide a reference, any proof or evidence of abuse supporting his claim, nor does the councilmember have the prerequisite title of Dr. before his name to allow him to offer medical opinions of Prop. 215 patients whom he has never seen.
San Diego's Union Tribune reported that, "Lt. Marco Garmo with the San Diego Sheriff's department said he could not provide an answer when Councilwoman Lorie Bragg asked him if the stores are catalysts for crime." To support his claim of increased crime, the expert provided by the county to answer questions said; "Anytime you have a business that operates primarily as a 'cash' business, you are going to see a spike in crime", setting an alarming precedence that would allow the city council to ban any cash business for the same, lone, unsubstantiated reason.
According to Mayor Jim Janny, Lt. Garmo's comments were to be made as part of the 2-minute public comments portion of the meeting, however, the lieutenant was permitted far more than 2-minutes. Sometime during the 6 to 8 minute uneducated rant by the so-called medical marijuana expert, councilmember's were provided clear misinformation when the lieutenant told them that 'holistic healers', not doctors, were issuing medical marijuana recommendations.
KPBS San Diego published this audio news story and interview on their website and they aired this video news report titled "Group Says Imperial Beach's Ban On Marijuana Dispensaries Is Illegal" on COX channel 11 last Friday, June 24th. In the audio interview, Joe Elford, chief counsel with the advocacy group Americans for Safe Access, says Imperial Beach's outright ban wouldn't stand up in court.
"There are a number of cases that are pending and we're involved in some of those cases," Elford said, "and eventually the court will resolve the issue. But the short answer is we do not believe those types of bans are legal."
Relying on speculative and antidotal information provided by the county, the city staff report sited 'crime associated with dispensaries' as the primary reason for banning collective cultivation from the city, however, after a June 13th , city officials avoided voicing crime as the primary reason for banning cultivation projects before the vote.
Instead, 4 of 5 councilmember's voiced concern for 'clear abuses' of the system, without providing a single shred of evidence to support their newly voiced reasoning.
As with every other myth and falsehood that have plagued the 'land-use' process of approving dispensaries in the city, the 'crime argument' also fell victim to real evidence, solid facts and the simple truth.
Without compassion for some of the city's most vulnerable residents, and, despite overwhelming public support for collectives in the city, never mind the 2010 San Diego Civil Grand Jury recommendations to provide safe access or the July 2010 commitment by councilmember's to allow for dispensaries, next Wednesday, July 6th at 6pm the council will affirm, by casting a required 2nd vote, their decision to steer the city towards an up-hill-litigation-battle and expose the city to limitless expenses in order to circumvent the will of the voters and state law, by casting a required second vote to ban state legal cultivation of medical marijuana by IB's Prop. 215 patients.
According to the Grand Jury, if elected officials fail to comply with any of the Jury's recommendations, the public's only recourse is to place the issue on the ballot for the voters to decide.
Jacqueline Hald, the City Clerk of Imperial Beach reports approx. 1,000 signatures would force the city to; (1) enact an ordinance, or, (2) pay for a ballot measure - at a cost of $10,000 to $12,000 to taxpayers.
Over 15 years ago, (3,278 voters) voted in favor of the Compassionate Use Act.
Since the passing of Prop. 215, UCSD has found 100% positive medical effects while only searching for "adverse effects of marijuana as a pharmacological agent".
Based on the public's response to the Stop the Ban IB campaign, it appears more than likely that informed voters would approve a local ballot measure that would fully implement Prop. 215 in the city for those with no space to cultivate, those without the requisite gardening skills to grow their own, and most critically those who face the sudden onset of serious injury or illness.
A ballot measure just may be an endeavor worth considering for the 2012 general election, when voter turn out is expected to be high, no pun intended.
Would you vote for it or against a dispensary in Imperial Beach? Let us know in your comment below.
by Marcus Boyd, Vice Chairperson - San Diego Chapter of Americans for Safe Access