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An Analysis of Crime and Marijuana in and Near Imperial Beach

The City Council may vote to ban medical marijuana dispensaries in IB in part due to a belief it will attract crime, but a review of police reports show little-to-no crime related to marijuana at dispensaries near Imperial Beach.

An analysis of crime statistics by Imperial Beach Patch has shown no correlation between crime and medical marijuana dispensaries near Imperial Beach.

The Imperial Beach City Council will take public comments and read proposed ordinances Wednesday before a vote on whether or not to adopt a ban on the dispensaries July 6.

A temporary moratorium first approved in 2009 will expire in August.

When City Manager Gary Brown recommended adopting a ban in December 2010, it was due in part to concerns about a possible increase in crime, based on claims of an increase of criminal activity near dispensaries in San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Neither the San Diego County Sheriff's Department or the San Diego Police Department have produced official reports on medical marijuana facilities and their correlation with crime.

However, a review of crimes reported to the San Diego Police Department of incidents at dispensaries nearby found no evidence of an increase in criminal activity.

“Since our opening in mid-February [2011], we have had no incidents or problems with our community, patients, law enforcement, neighbors or local businesses," said Pat with the American Treatment Advancement Cooperative Inc., or ATA, who declined to state his last name.

His statement is supported by evidence provided by the San Diego Police Department’s Narcotics Division. Between May 1, 2009, and April 30, 2011, a period in which medicinal marijuana co-ops were rapidly growing, no marijuana crime related activity was reported at the ATA.

The few times police were called out over the last two years were on nonrelated incidents that involved mentally disturbed individuals.

During the last two years, at each of the five marijuana dispensaries bordering Imperial Beach, there have been no reports of crime related to the cultivation, selling or possession of medicinal marijuana.

SDPD dispatchers reported one non-emergency 911 call from The Tailored Health Care Collective, and three burglary alarm responses at the Tree House Club, for which only one police report was filed and no arrests were made.

Police were dispatched six times to the Planet of Kind, once for a hazardous condition violation, a suspected petty theft, a domestic dispute and three times for incidents that required no action.

At the GSC Wellness dispensary at the corner of 16th Street and Palm Avenue, five incidents were documented by police involving traffic violations and security checks that had nothing to do with the co-op.

Sheriff's spokesman Mark Walters provided data specifically on marijuana related offenses from May of 2009 through April 2011.

No marijuana dispensaries currently operate in Imperial Beach, but between May 2009 and April 2011, there were 1,316 drug-related charges in the city of Imperial Beach.

Of those, 545 were for possession of marijuana, seven for selling marijuana and nine for cultivating the substance.

These charges led to 458 arrests on marijuana related offenses, which includes 55 juvenile offenders. The District Attorney’s office was not able to provide information on post-arrest adjudication prior to publication, but its website proudly boasts a 94 percent conviction rate.

Crime statistics kept by the San Diego Police Department show that overall crime in San Diego is at its lowest point since 1969, and has been on a decline since 2003. The Sheriff’s online crime analysis tool and reports from SANDAG reveal .

Based on a report by the County District Attorney's Medical Marijuana Task Force, the San Diego County Grand Jury recommended in June 2010 that the Imperial Beach City Council, along with other cities which enacted moratoriums, establish cost neutral programs for the licensing, regulation and monitoring of medical marijuana co-ops. Furthermore, the Task Force recommended Imperial Beach rescind its moratorium because qualified patients were being denied access.

A month later, the council voted unanimously to extend the moratorium another year.

"If we can come up with proper legislation we feel is adequate for Imperial Beach, the moratorium could be lifted," Mayor Jim Janney said at the July 7 meeting.

In December 2010, City Manager Gary Brown recommended an outright ban of dispensaries and pointed to five reasons why:

  • Their presence could result in an increase in crime.
  • Dispensaries are easily accessible in San Diego.
  • "The complexity of regulation and enforcement will place a costly burden on the city's limited resources."
  • The city cannot adopt county regulatory rules, and allowing dispensaries in commercial zones could present hazard to residents, public safety staff, firefighters and others.
  • Based on distances considered acceptable in other municipalities between dispensaries and schools, churches and parks, no current commercial zone in Imperial Beach would qualify.

According to estimates from the San Diego County Sheriff and Imperial Beach Code Enforcement Officer David Garcias, enacting regulations specifically for IB "could easily be in the range of $90,000 to well over $100,000 per year," Brown said.

"Now the response to that or it's been suggested, 'Well, gee, if that's what it's really costing, why not make that a licensing cost?' And the response is, we still probably would not have the time to adequately enforce the state rules on it," he said.

Included in the proposal to City Council was a Power Point presentation prepared by detectives Steven Brewer and Michael Helms with the San Diego County Sheriff's Department Licensing Division.

The presentation cites claims by the California Police Chiefs Association and a retired LAPD detective that San Francisco and Los Angeles have seen an increase in crime near marijuana dispensaries.

It also states that motorcycle and street gangs in British Columbia Canada and the Mexican mafia in Los Angeles have attempted to forcibly control dispensaries and claims crimes in proximity to a dispensary may be under reported.

The city's argument that marijuana is made readily available at dispensaries just over the Imperial Beach-San Diego border has been put in danger by legislation enacted by the San Diego City Council last month.

New stricter zoning laws could result in the closure of dispensaries just over the San Diego-Imperial Beach border.

A coalition of medical marijuana co-ops and patients submitted a referendum with more than 47,000 signatures May 27 which forced the council to amend its ordinance or let voters decide the fate of co-ops in a special election. A decision on this matter is expected by the end of June.

Should a permanent ban be adopted, the group Stop the Ban IB, which is currently promoting a letter writing campaign, may make a similar push in Imperial Beach to put marijuana dispensaries in Imperial Beach on the 2012 ballot.

Marcus Boyd June 14, 2011 at 05:55 AM
After this analysis, city officials are left with no more arguments against fully implementing Prop 215 and the SB 420 in IB for some of IB's most vulnerable residents. Maybe now the Council will tell the public the real reason they refuse to allow even a ‘county regulated’ dispensary to provide medical marijuana as allowed by SB420 to Prop 215 patients who have 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, that the city's ban would force to ‘plow the fields’ themselves, or move or attend grow classes AND THEN wait a full grow cycle of 75 to 90 days before ‘safe access’ is achieved. Or, patients will turn to the illicit market, thereby directly increasing crime in the city, all the while, placing sick and dying patients in harms way simply to obtain medicine recommended by their doctor. "LUCY!!! You have some splaning to do...." Hope to see you all on Wednesday evening no later than 7pm, this meeting oughta-b-a-good-one.
Marcus Boyd June 14, 2011 at 06:05 AM
This press release offers more insight into the proposed ban... http://www.safeaccesssd.org/2011/06/imperial-beach-to-ban-collective.html
Malcolm Kyle June 14, 2011 at 08:46 AM
An important aspect of Individual freedom is the right to self-medicate, or to do with yourself as you please, as long as your actions cause no unnecessary suffering or direct harm to others. Some among us may disagree with this, and they should be free to believe what they wish. But the moment they are willing to use force (paid for with our own hard-earned taxes) to impose their will on the rest of us, is the exact same moment that the petty criminals/dealers, the Mafia, drug barons, terrorists and corrupt government officials/agencies enter the equation. The problems created by any possible self-harm then rapidly pale into insignificance as society spirals downwards into a dark abyss, while the most shady characters and black-market corporate entities exponentially enrich themselves in a feeding frenzy likened to that of piranhas on 'prohibition engendered' bath-tub meth. Every-time the ghastly consequences of prohibition are falsely blamed on the users, it diminishes the culpability of those who are truly responsible for maintaining the status quo. Prohibition is an absolute scourge -the end! The use of drugs is NOT the real problem, the system that grants exclusive distribution rights to violent cartels and terrorists IS. When governments prohibit drugs they effectively and knowingly hand a monopoly on their sale to dangerous criminals and terrorists.
David K June 14, 2011 at 11:29 AM
I believe that both individuals in San Francisco and Los Angles were forced to back off their positions that dispensaries were associated with crime when faced with the actual arrest records of their cities. It is distressing when public officials go out of their way to deceive the public. Promotion of what at best are blatant lies that have no grounding in evidence that can be presented to the public should be grounds for removal from public office.
2crudedudes June 14, 2011 at 03:13 PM
Unfortunately for patients all over California, a lot of city governments don't like prop 215. Moratoria, stringent zoning regulations, and outright bans everywhere contradict the vote of the people. San Diego City Council wants to enact zoning regulations treating dispensaries like bars, not pharmacies. While recreational use of cannabis is widespread, it is irrelevant in this situation. This drug is legally recognized as medicine by the state of California, and as such, should be treated just like any other legally recognized medication. Just because Xanax is abused recreationally doesn't mean that CVS has pay extra for law enforcement. Now more than ever its up to the people to make our voice heard. Self-serving politicians won't realize they're expendable until we start voting them out of office.
Kevin Gallagher June 14, 2011 at 03:14 PM
Kudos to The Patch for correctly pointing out that the allegations of "crime" occurring due to the presence of medicinal cannabis collectives is not an exaggeration - it is an outright lie manufactured by law enforcement to influence public opinion. It is refreshing to see truth in the media.
Joey the Gordo Cat June 14, 2011 at 04:26 PM
whether you use pot or not, the war on drugs is a failure. The war on drugs have taken away alot of your freedoms.
Marcus Boyd June 14, 2011 at 04:43 PM
I could not agree more. Two council seats will be up for election in Nov 2012. Do you know anyone in the city who would be wiling to run for city council? Why not ride along the ticket with the Stop The Ban IB campaign, if the campaign were to make a push for a ballot measure in 2012? According to the County, approximately 1,000 signatures are required to force the city to enact a safe access ordinance or pay to put it on the ballot at the cost of $10k-$12k. If approx. 1500 signatures are gathered, the city would be forced to hold a special election which would cost the city from $73K to $75K, according to IB's City Clerk. In any event, any candidate who would run along with the ordinance would do so with a large and popular campaign at their side along with the Democrats re-election campaign if it were to land on the Nov. 2012 ballot. Any takers?
What's the Deal? June 14, 2011 at 05:56 PM
I never want to deny anyone medical care. But having a substance abuse treatment center down the street from IB, within the boundaries of the City of San Diego, (which already has a MJ dispensary two doors down), will make the work of the folks that work in the treatment center to try to help people with substance abuse problems, that much harder if dispensaries are set up just up the street in IB. If you or someone you know has ever dealt with issues of substance abuse (alcoholism or drug addiction), than you know how difficult it is for a person to stay on course and determined to get clean when the temptation is there to smoke the green. I know one of the guys that works at the treatment center and he's said that some of the clients have come in flaunting medical marijuana cards. When he told me this, I shook my head and thought 'So much for holding oneself accountable and being serious about staying clean'. This is just a thought on a perspective that is rarely addressed in the marijuana dispensary conversation.
Marcus Boyd June 14, 2011 at 08:33 PM
As with all other myths about cannabis, the issue of 'marijuana addiction' too has been dispelled with scientific evidence through clinical research locally by UCSD in 2005. Not only is cannabis a much different substance when it comes to it's 'addictive qualities', it has shown clear evidence of assisting addicts with recovery from drugs that are actually harmful to the human body. http://www.cmcr.ucsd.edu/images/pdfs/07_Lupica.pdf As the restrictions on clinical studies relaxes, the amazing benefits that cannabinoids have on the entire body are becoming more well-known, highly respected, and with each study, proof of harm to the human body is not found, only benefits. www.cmcr.ucsd.edu
Paula Winchester June 16, 2011 at 05:21 PM
In the future we will look back at the whole pot arguments and shake our heads. Except for my religious relatives and friends, I do not know anyone who has not tried it. It is time for the anti-marijuana people to relax and realize that it should just be regulated like any other legal drug. No smoking and driving, no smoking in public, no giving it to minors, you know, just like alcohol. I, for one, would be trying to get my 96 year old grandma to smoke it if she had cancer or some other illness and this made her feel better.
Terrie Best June 17, 2011 at 01:59 AM
The County Alcohol and Drug Services Prevention money has been high jacked by a gaggle of housewives and religious zealots who focus on cannabis dispensaries instead of educating teens about good choices. Prohibitionist profiteers should turn away from the dispensaries and toward the children. The children are counting on them to help them make sound decisions but prohibitionists are looking right through our kids, trying to destroy safe access and sound regulations. Prohibitionists should do the right thing and focus on the children and leave the patients alone. Public funds are being used to harass and marginalize patients to serve a moral and financial agenda and its happening right now in this county. Money earmarked to use for the children is being used to generate lies and misinformation on this issue. It is very easy to focus on destroying safe access, not so easy to really help children with education on this issue and that is why these prohibitionist profiteers take this route. They lie to stay alive financially and then take the precious funds they do get for prevention and rob the children of their drug education programs. Now that is a SHAM. Do the right thing, educate on this issue.
Kay Kardian July 30, 2011 at 05:55 PM
Look at what alcohol has cost families death, addiction, jail time, and they still sell it. The monies that have been spent by families and the government on Alcohol abuse is outstanding. But, it continues being sold in the convainent stores. Our City Official has been seen drinking in bars and I really hope they are not driving. Well folks I just want to say alcohol does not help when patients are suffering with cancer or anything else patients are suffering with. But this herb will help people with their suffering. So why does city official get so bent out of shape to go with the people and leagalize this drug that will help sick people. It just amazes me how they fight against it. But not alcohol. How many people have been killed on our highways on pot, how many families have suffered because of alcohol addiction. Its very few compared to alcohol. It baffles me.
Chico&The Man June 09, 2012 at 07:56 PM
i wonder why the human body was created with cannabanoid receptor's ?

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