By Ian Butler
In 1996, 56% of California voters approved Proposition 215, the “Compassionate Use Act”, which legalized medical Cannabis throughout the state.
15 years later, medical Cannabis is an established part of California life. Dispensaries across the state are safely providing Cannabis to patients, getting it off the streets and bringing in millions of dollars in tax revenue.
Yet there are no dispensaries in San Mateo County.
This severely limits access to patients with a legitimate medical need, while robbing our communities of precious revenues in a time of draconian budget cuts.
In 2009 San Mateo County passed regulations that discouraged medical Cannabis in non-incorporated areas, but those regulations don’t apply to the cities, which under Prop. 215 are able to craft their own policies.
Currently Colma, Half Moon Bay, South San Francisco, Millbrae, Brisbane, Daly City and San Bruno have outright bans in place, and the other cities either have no official policy or restrictive regulations, which add up to a complete lack of access throughout the county.
Meanwhile, in San Jose, 78% of the voters approved Measure U last November, taxing medical Cannabis and generating $290,000 for the city in the first month, and an estimated $3.5 million in the first year.
Obviously there is a tremendous demand in the region for medical Cannabis, and the city that can meet that demand will reap a tremendous windfall.
I believe Pacifica should be that city.
Last November Californians weighed in on Prop. 19 which would have legalized marijuana for adult use.
The measure failed, with 46.2% voting yes, but here in Pacifica, a whopping 59.13% of us voted in favor of legalizing marijuana for all adults.
The number of us who support medical Cannabis is far higher. Recently the Pacifica Tribune had an online poll asking readers their views on the subject, and only 17% were against both medical Cannabis and outright legalization, making it one of the most universally popular issues in the city.
But you’d never know it.
Unfortunately, after 60 years of Reefer Madness type hysteria, most marijuana users are still in the closet, afraid of losing their jobs or being branded as drug addicts. Even the protein smoothie I have every morning is made from hemp seeds that have to be imported from Canada, a telling remnant of our insane drug policy.
Yes there are serious problems associated with marijuana; it can influence the mental development of minors and affect long-term memory, among other things. But our laws against marijuana have been far more damaging than the drug itself, and most of us figured that out long ago.
We now know that Cannabis is a valuable treatment for many debilitating conditions, such as AIDS, cancer, glaucoma, ALS, MS, depression and arthritis. Often, due to limited mobility and other problems, it is the patients who need it most that have the most difficulty obtaining Cannabis.
The most common argument against medical Cannabis is that some people use it who don’t really need to, and that is no doubt true. But, with nearly 60% of us in favor of outright legalization, that argument is irrelevant here.
The pertinent question is whether it is better for Pacificans to get their legal medical Cannabis from San Francisco or for that money to stay here in town. To anyone who has been paying attention to our city’s financial woes the answer is obvious: we absolutely need that money, which could easily add up to millions of dollars.
Up until now it made sense for smaller cities to wait before jumping on the Cannabis bandwagon. The courts had to sort out the conflicts between Federal and State law, and only larger cities had the resources to do so. Also, Prop. 19 loomed on the horizon, threatening to throw a monkey wrench into whatever local regulations were enacted.
But now, with Prop 19 in the rear view mirror, drastic cuts being made in important city services and even more severe cuts on the way, the time to act is upon us.
It’s time for Pacifica to craft a reasonable policy that would allow and attract a well-run, compassionate dispensary, while safeguarding our community with reasonable limits, such as regulating proximity to schools. (Eureka Square might be a good location, next to the yoga studio, gun store and hydroponics shop.)
Eventually a ballot measure like San Jose’s could be considered, which collect an extra 5% to 10% tax for the city’s general fund. Such measures are extremely popular, and usually exceed the 2/3 majority vote needed to pass a tax increase.
Yes it’s controversial. A vocal minority will speak out against it. Even medical Cannabis supporters may not want a dispensary in their own neighborhood, but a strong majority of Pacificans are in favor of medical Cannabis. It could quickly bring significant revenue into our city, while providing safe access for those who need it most. It’s the practical thing to do, and it’s the right thing to do.
Submitted by Ian Butler