Saturday, April 16, 2011

Reefer Madness in San Jose

As we wrote back in March, officials at all levels of government seem to have a serious problem respecting Prop 215, the law Californians passed back in 1996 that legalized the use of medical marijuana. In March, we wrote that the federal government was trying to shut down dispensaries in California by refusing to allow them to deduct normal business expenses. Now, we have news, courtesy the Mercury News, that the city of San Jose is considering an outright ban of medical cannabis dispensaries.

Ah, the good old days of 1917, when the world wouldn't end when marijuana was prescribed by a doctor.
The problem? Apparently, the city just can't decide where and how all these marijuana dispensaries are supposed to operate. While the number of dispensaries has grown rapidly in San Jose, the City Council has insisted on micromanaging the zoning process for them. As such, it doesn't view any of these dispensaries as legal businesses. And now, having failed to reach agreement on where to locate them or any rules for their oversight, the city is going in a direction that it can agree on: banning the businesses outright. According to the Mercury News story, Mayor Chuck Reed is fully behind the Council on this.

The obvious question to us: what's so bad about San Jose's dispensaries as they stand now? It's not totally clear from the article. They appear to be locating themselves in office parks and small shopping centers, so we're not sure there's a serious zoning problem here. Other comments from the City Council, however, are more telling. Councilwoman Rose Herrera, for example, supports a ban due to public safety concerns; she views the dispensaries as drug stores with lots of not-very-sick customers. The Council also appears hung up on how to define a marijuana "collective" as called for by Prop 215. Apparently, they'll support marijuana dispensaries if they're sufficiently socialist; that is, if groups of patients cooperate to produce and share marijuana among themselves. For those not familiar with the history of the Soviet Union or Maoist China, trust us: a business model that doesn't include employees or exchanges of money just doesn't work.

Someone who's very glad he doesn't pitch in San Jose anymore.
As libertarians, we don't believe the government has any right to tell us what we can put in our bodies, particularly within the privacy and peace of our homes. To say nothing of people who can benefit medically by consuming particular plants. But we're also tired of hearing liberals selling the virtues of decriminalization coupled with tightly regulated and taxed drug markets. For one thing, high taxes will only ensure that the black market for drugs persists; if you don't believe us, check out this profile of a "cigarette dealer" in New York. But trusting the government to regulate drugs will almost certainly give you more stories like what's happening in San Jose, where local bureaucrats who find drugs icky, scary, and immoral will figure out ways of keeping them away from their towns.


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