Monday, August 29, 2011
Medical cannabis and the fringe majority
The Mayor, Chief of Police and County Supervisor walk into a cannabis dispensary.... You are probably expecting a punch line right about now, but this is no joke, it actually happened. No, they weren’t there as customers, (as far as I know) they were on a Mayor’s walk and happened upon a shop that one of the participants actually described as having “a wonderful smell”.
Let’s be honest, marijuana is no stranger to Pacifica, it used to waft through the local speakeasies during prohibition, and has been an integral part of Pacifica’s surf culture since the early sixties. But in all those years, no one ever tried to sell it here legally until August 1st, 2011, when Ruben Salvatierra and the Wellness Center Collective quietly opened up shop and began providing cannabis to patients. They managed to fly under the radar for 19 days, until the Mayor’s walk suddenly put their little shop very much on the radar.
6 days later the police issued the dispensary a Cease and Desist notice. Apparently the collective got a business license as a “flower seller”, which, although technically true, is the legal equivalent of a liquor store getting a license as a gas station. So after an historic 25 days, Pacifica’s first cannabis dispensary was shut down, before Alan Wald’s newest palindrome, “to Pacifica pot” could be put to proper use.
The day after the dispensary was discovered I started hearing about it from people around town, and word got around fast - this opening got more buzz than Fresh and Easy, and so far everyone I’ve heard from is wildly in favor. Admittedly, the people I know are by no means a representative sample of Pacificans, but you know what group is? Voters. And as I already have pointed out, last November 8,600 Pacificans voted to legalize marijuana. For comparison’s sake, the Peebles measure lost by 400 votes, but Prop 19 passed here by 2,800 votes, with 59.13% in favor. And, in almost every survey, medical cannabis polls about 25 points higher than legalization, which would put us well over 80%. So it would appear that medical cannabis supporters are an overwhelming majority in this town, and yet we are still on the fringe. Call us the fringe majority.
Well, now it’s time for the fringe majority to come out of the shadows and let everyone know how we feel; that the war on drugs is a failure, that after 30 years of Just Say No, marijuana is the number one cash crop in America, and we want a cut. Tell them that when Californians voted to allow the sale and taxation of medical cannabis, we expected it to be available in our progressive county within, oh, 15 months, not 15 years and counting. And tell them that there are lots of Pacificans who really do need safe access to cannabis; many are elderly and have mobility issues, and let’s face it, they probably shouldn’t be driving to San Francisco to get high!
Of course, not all medical cannabis supporters actually smoke it themselves, but many do. And if the fringe majority wants to come out of the closet, we need to go all the way, publicly. Because marijuana users are where gays were in the 70’s, when everyone knew one but didn’t KNOW that they knew one. “I have this friend” won’t cut it anymore.
So I’ll go first. I, Ian Butler smoke marijuana. I have a medical card and use it for medicinal purposes, but must admit that I do enjoy the side effects. The first time I purchased cannabis from a dispensary was like a dream, or an alternate reality. The friendly young woman behind the counter showed me more strains, concentrates and edibles than I could possibly keep track of, using terms like ‘couch lock’, ‘body buzz’ and ‘head high’. It was more like shopping for iPads at the Apple store than scoring drugs on the street. It was safe, reliable, and I even used my credit card. When I left it dawned on me that this is the way it should really be, and should have been all along.
Six weeks ago I advocated for a cannabis dispensary in Pacifica. I thought it would take at least a year, but miraculously, one opened a mere three weeks later, showing that we do have a viable market and that a dispensary would very much like to be in business here. And we should welcome them with open arms. The City Council, the Police Department, the Planning Commission and the Chamber of Commerce all need to know that Pacificans demand a dispensary; we need the access, we need the tax dollars and we need to figure out how to help this dispensary reopen, fast.
Wellness Medical Solutions made history when they opened up their shop. And in so doing they just may have awakened a sleeping giant. Well, not exactly sleeping, but sedated. Now it’s up to the fringe majority to rise up from their couch lock and make themselves heard.
Anyone that is interested in working on this issue can email me at email@example.com.