The Writing on the Wall: Article shows community intolerance brewing

CW: Here is an article with all of the makings of a real backlash. The proponents of the “all use is medical” mantra should be put on notice. Your rhetoric is dangerous and when spelled out in the press makes our movement look silly. It is imperative we pass prop. 19 to begin to end this charade and put legal adult use cannabis on the map. What is happening is that it is becoming more and more difficult to convince people that the current situation truly is medical. It is unclear how long we can keep up this situation, as it is obvious some opponents feel that the current situation leaves too much gray area and there are constant calls to bring an end to the chaos on both sides.

Patients feel like they are backed into a situation that waters down their true medical need, as the current situation requires many to push the envelope of medical need in order to remain legal. There is nothing wrong with fudging ones need to a doctor if it means staying out of a cold jail cell for your choice to use cannabis. The following article makes it too clear that the controversy continues to brew. Generally these controversies are eventually cleared up, as public officials and law makers are sure to find a way to clamp down on the perceived abuses. The problem is that a tightening of the situation may make for an uncomfortable playing field for most. Generally a call for stricter regulation and control ends in officials overstepping their bounds and the development of an unworkable situation as a result of regulation that does not reflect reality, yet is put in place to quell the outrage rather than serve the patients in need.

Believing that the “all use is medical” situation will last forever is simply naive.


By John Woolfolk and Sean Webby

Mercury News

In the year since U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced federal drug agents would stop targeting medicinal marijuana use where state law sanctioned it, Santa Clara County — like other parts of California — has become the Wild West.

But suddenly, the sheriff has ridden into town.

California, the first of 14 states that now allow medical marijuana, has one of the loosest laws of its kind. It doesn’t limit conditions that qualify patients, nor does it require them to register with the state. It gives doctors wide latitude in approving the drug’s use. And it doesn’t specify how marijuana should be distributed to users.

CW: That is key..Doesn’t specify SAFE ACCESS or access at all for that matter.

Even though state voters next month will decide whether pot should be legalized for recreational use, activists like Denis Peron — co-author of the 1996 ballot measure that sanctioned medical marijuana — freely acknowledge the secret that’s sparked an explosion of distributors and left officials scrambling statewide:

“Pretty much,” Peron said, “marijuana is legal already.”

CW: C’mon Dennis. That is a fallacy, at best. As long as ANYONE has to worry about having their personal space rifled through by law enforcement because of the way we smell CANNABIS IS NOT REALLY LEGAL. Sorry. You should know that though. You know prop 215 made nothing lawful, yet exempted medical users from prosecution. Just because you say “cannabis is legal” does not make it so. And it is that assertion that has many up in arms…

But while that may be true for anyone who takes the trouble to get a doctor’s recommendation, the situation is not as clear for medical pot providers. In the past three weeks, Santa Clara County law enforcement has sprung into action, shutting down two dispensaries and a pot-delivery service. And while at first they raided operators who didn’t follow basic guidelines demanding a doctor’s recommendation, their latest target was one of the county’s largest and appeared to comply with all the rules.

CW: I wonder if the folks at Angel’s Care and the 22 delivery services that were part of the “sting” think that the current system is working fine?

The reason? Authorities believed the operators had crossed the line from nonprofit collective to cash cow.

“These guys are making truckloads of money,” said Bob Cooke, the South Bay’s special agent in charge of the state Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement. He said many of the patrons at the dispensaries looked “like the healthiest people in the world.”

CW: And herein lies the problem. While I am the first to support the fact that law enforcement has no right to play doctor and decide who looks healthy or not, it is apparent that there is an abuse in the system. From the multitudes of $60 doctor services that blanket the landscape these days, to the numerous ailing 23-year-olds that seem to be prevalent in the medical cannabis community, at some point we must address the 500-pound gorilla in the room. By passing 19 and making a way for adults to be “legal” without stretching their need to a Doctor will be sure to legitimize the real medical needs of true patients. I am not saying that it is wrong to want to be legal. I am saying it is unnecessary and that you are a fool if you think this will last forever.

Even before the raids, San Jose code enforcement efforts to shut down the most troublesome pot clubs prompted lawsuit threats from club operators who say officials are misinterpreting– or willfully ignoring — state law. Peron insists that under Proposition 215, “All use of marijuana is medicine.”

CW: “All use of marijuana is medicine…” Do you even hear what that sounds like when it comes out of your mouth? It is non-sensical. So the kid who is ripping a fat 6 foot bong rip in his college dorm with his buddies tonight is medical? The person who does not feel like they are sick or in need of medicine, but just likes to smoke, they are medical whether they like it or not? A person who fires up a doobie every once in a while at the weekend BBQ has to be a patient because you said there use is medical no matter what they think? That is an absurd assumption. Even all use of FDA approved medicines is not all medical, so let’s stop the semantics and get to business. All use is NOT medical and people who are not patients should be able to enjoy cannabis without having to get a doctor to write them permission to do so.

Cooke calls the tangle of regulations and court cases that dictate medicinal marijuana use in California “a mess.”

CW: I agree agent Cooke…it is a mess. So vote YES on 19 to help clean up the mess and to begin making sensible regulation to serve both the medical and enjoyable users in the community. What is apparent is that cannabis use is not going anywhere. Do we want to keep fudging the facts or do we want to make the next logical step in legitimizing ALL use..not just medical?

“It’s a hard time for everybody trying to figure out what is legal and what is illegal,” he said. “These days, everybody has a marijuana card, they treat it like it’s a joke. Unfortunately, it is a joke. If the law was written easier, it would be easier for us to enforce.”

CW: This is not just the opinion of law enforcers gone awry. I frequent many local non-cannabis blogs and there is a large contingencies of concerned citizens that feel the current system is out of control and “a joke” as Cook asserts. Many people know a person who admittedly is not ill, but has a doctor’s rec to make themselves legal. Once again, not saying it is wrong to fudge it to stay out of jail, but that the current system is failing us in the hearts and minds of the greater community. As a real patient, it is hard to justify “the joke” much longer…

Nearly Anything Goes

For years after the passage of Proposition 215, U.S. officials continued to enforce overriding federal law, under which pot remains illegal. Even in tolerant towns like Santa Cruz that welcomed medical marijuana, those who openly invoked the state’s law faced ruinous legal battles.

But Holder’s announcement last fall emboldened sellers and users to test the limits of what California’s law might allow — which appears to be just about anything.

CW: This is the dangerous perception that is not based in reality, but assumption, that is putting many in harm’s way. Bill Panzer likens it to everyone speeding on the highway and only a few getting tickets. The phenomena we see is everyone drives a little faster than the next guy and the nest and the next. Soon enough everyone assumes it is okay to drive 100 miles an hour because everyone else is, but then they get nabbed for criminal speeding and lose their license. It is a dangerous situation that has been brewing for years based on many municipalities failures to address the hot button topic appropriately. San Jose is one of the biggest battles brewing in an unregulated market.

“California may be the loosest,” said Keith Humphreys, a psychiatry professor at the Stanford University School of Medicine and former White House adviser on drug control policy. “If it’s not de facto legalization, then it’s getting pretty close.

CW: Well someone should tell the cops that because it seems every other day there is another misunderstanding and someone’s door is getting kicked in…

The ease of obtaining pot from a storefront has attracted a growing number of people like Hillary Breslove, an admitted “recreational user” who calls herself a “high-functioning stoner.”

CW: No lady. you are a patient. Like it or not.

With a doctor’s nod, the 45-year-old Mountain View caterer smokes pot for everyday bothers like stress that others might ease with an aspirin. “I was tired of buying it out of the back of someone’s pocket,” she said.

In San Jose, Holder’s move inspired Dave Hodges last year to open the San Jose Cannabis Buyers Collective — among the first of what are now dozens of dispensaries. After stints as a tech-support specialist at Santa Clara High School and a Silicon Valley PR firm, he says he became a medical cannabis patient to manage job stress. His pot collective now has more than 3,600 patients.

Medical pot shops remain technically illegal in San Jose, where zoning codes don’t explicitly permit them. The city is considering zoning to allow a limited number and is asking voters to approve Measure U on the Nov. 2 ballot, which would authorize a tax up to 10 percent on marijuana businesses, legal or illegal.

CW: Over 60 collectives operating “illegally.” I can’t wait to see how this train wreck turns out. Everyone rushed into set up shop in the unregulated market, but will it pan out? Will they be allowed to stay? We shall see.

Oakland, San Francisco and Santa Cruz already limit dispensaries. Some Santa Clara County cities have tried to ban them. While San Jose has dawdled on developing rules, the outlets have flourished. The city, which a little more than a year ago had not a single dispensary operating in the open, now has at least 60 that have paid city business taxes. Online directories suggest at least a dozen others are in operation.

Clinics advertise marijuana approvals for insomnia, premenstrual syndrome, even substance abuse. With a valid state ID and about $50, a physician’s approval can be had with no appointment, “20 minutes in and out.” Users can then take the approval straight to a dispensary.

San Jose officials say they’re waiting to complete work on medical marijuana zoning and regulations until they see what happens with statewide Proposition 19 on the November ballot.

CW: Vote yes. Anything less is just ignorant and short-sighted. see the writing on the wall. Your medical use is under scrutiny, and if CA rejects cannabis you can be sure officials will take that as a mandate to restrict access, not expand it.

Proposition 19 would legalize adult recreational pot smoking without the pretense of medical need, but California is lurching that way already. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger opposes the initiative, but he just signed a law reducing possession of small amounts without a doctor’s recommendation to a mere citation like a traffic ticket — hoping to counter Proposition 19 backers who argue the state wastes money and time prosecuting low-level drug crimes.

CW: So they can still search you when they want- can still take your cannabis- and can still get you for a $100. Fuck that shit. VOTE YES on 19…

Holder announced last week that the federal government will not look the other way if the state legalizes recreational pot.

CW: SO WHAT. Nobody asked for Holder’s opinion to do what is right…

How We Got Here

Even if Proposition 19 loses, it’s not likely to change the fact that the state’s current regulations already allow almost anyone to get marijuana. Among the reasons:

. California law doesn’t specify what qualifies a patient for marijuana. Proposition 215 lists ailments such as anorexia and AIDS but allows it for “any other illness for which marijuana provides relief.”

Maine’s law, by contrast, allows medical pot only for eight specific ailments, including cancer and AIDS, or “intractable pain.” And users are required to register with the state, unlike here.

In California, fewer than 13,000 marijuana patient ID cards were issued in the past year. Yet Lauren Vasquez, a lawyer and pot activist, says there are about 25,000 such patients just in the San Jose area.

. California law says “no physician in this state shall be punished “… for having recommended marijuana to a patient for medical purposes.” While the Medical Board of California may suspend or revoke a doctor’s license for marijuana recommendations that violate professional standards, only a dozen physicians have been disciplined since the passage of Proposition 215. And most of them still practice and give out marijuana recommendations, such as Dr. Hanya Barth of San Francisco.

Barth, 65, said she looks to ensure marijuana use isn’t masking a serious condition. “You have to do that as a physician, just as you would if you were giving Vicodin.”

. California courts have yet to rule on whether the law even allows the marijuana dispensaries that sell pot to anyone with a doctor’s note. More than 150 communities around the state have banned dispensaries. But an appeals court weighing a challenge to such laws in Anaheim sent it back to a lower court this year without answering the key legal question.

CW: Hoping Anaheim goes well is no real strategy. Realize that if it goes the other way that we are fucked, really…

Maine’s law permits only eight state-licensed medical marijuana dispensaries.

With California’s legal landscape unsettled, all manner of marijuana entrepreneurs are hanging shingles. San Jose’s pot clubs range from the spalike Harborside Health Center — nestled in a tree-lined corporate park and guarded by professional security — to the stoner stylings of Buddy’s Cannabis, which sits next to a car stereo joint on busy Stevens Creek Boulevard and is decorated with homemade, Bob Marley-inspired art.

There’s big money at stake. The state Board of Equalization estimates receipts of up to $105 million in sales taxes last year from medical marijuana sales. Total statewide sales are estimated to be as high as $1.3 billion.

Steve DeAngelo, Harborside’s executive director, laments that the free-for-all attracts shady competitors who may finally be triggering a backlash here from residents, cops and city officials.

CW: That is rich. Last time I checked most collectives were operating illegally in San Jose, in direct violation of the City’s order to ceased and desist operations. Just because your place is “spalike” does not make it legal. Sorry. I think the opening up in defiance and not asking permission to operate like most businesses in town do may also be “triggering a backlash.” Funny how people cast stones in the press when really they are part of the issue at hand. Way to try and separate your illegal operation from the illegal operations of the “riff-raff.” Spare me the holier-than-thou rhetoric.

Mayor Chuck Reed said he’s well aware many medical marijuana users aren’t what most people would consider “medically needy.” But, he said, the city is “trying to have some controls” amid shifting federal and state edicts.

In the face of all the legal loopholes, police in recent weeks have started going after the clubs on grounds that offer more clarity — such as violating the nonprofit requirement or delivering pot like Chinese takeout, which police and prosecutors say is only legal in certain circumstances.

CW: I wonder how long it is until the forensic accountants become the chic way to go after medical cannabis organizations. It is only a matter of time. I would love to know the “certain circumstances.” Maybe if we all were clear on that we could have less confusion….

Said Reed: “All the pot clubs, collectives, whatever they’re called, have to follow the law. That’s one of the principles for how we manage this chaos.”

CW: Following the law is easy when you are clear on what that is…..unfortunately NOBODY seems to be sure of what exactly that is and in turn, everyone is in danger. Please see the writing on the wall. VOTE YES on 19, so we can begin to move on from these accusations and so people can have a clear and unquestionable access to cannabis for medical or non-medical use if they like. The walls are closing in and complacency is not an option…

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