Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Medical Marijuana Takes Steps Forward, Backward

In the cities of Los Gatos and Isleton, times are tough for medical marijuana advocates. The San Jose Mercury News reports that the Los Gatos City Council voted unanimously last night to ban medical pot dispensaries in this wealthy Silicon Valley enclave. As in many other California towns, the ban makes permanent a 2009 moratorium. No public discussion took place at the council hearing, and members offered no reasons for the ban. When contacted by the News, an official for the city pointed to six recent armed robberies at dispensaries in San Jose; a city report reads, "Current and prior investigations revealed that many MMDs are, in fact, opportunistic criminal enterprises that are engaged in illicit sales for profit." Which makes complete sense, because, after all, San Jose and Los Gatos are in no way different at all. Way to show us democracy in action, Los Gatos!

Meanwhile, the Sacramento Delta town of Isleton is continuing its fight against the Kafka-esque forces regulating medical marijuana cultivation. Isleton, you may recall, was hoping to use a massive medical pot farm to revive its struggling economy, and was on its way until being shut down by the Department of Justice and Sacramento County. A month ago, a county grand jury released a scathing report denouncing the planned farm as "a project that is perched on the blurry edge of marijuana law . . . not because of any desire to test the limits of the law, but because of the promise of money and jobs." Today, the Sacramento Bee reports that the city is fighting back, and its response to the grand jury is, well, spirited. According to Isleton's lawyers, the grand jury report claimed the jury's report was riddled with errors, that the county has failed to keep them apprised of the status of its investigation, and that the pointless investigation has cost the cash-strapped city $100,000 in legal costs. Presumably the ball is back in the Star Chamber's court now.

On the positive side, California's second largest city has backed down on an ordinance restricting where medical dispensaries can be located. Apparently, rather than finance a ballot election that would've put the ordinance before San Diego voters, the City Council has chosen to rescind it. Given the speed with which advocates were able to gather enough signatures for the ballot measure, the ordinance would likely have died in the election. So it makes sense that San Diego didn't view it as worth fighting for.

Also on the positive side, the backers of the Regulate Marijuana Like Wine Act have gotten the green light from Attorney General Kamala Harris to begin collecting petition signatures. The initiative now has until late December to gather roughly 505,000 signatures in order to qualify for the ballot. This initiative would decriminalize the possession, sale, cultivation, processing, and transportation of marijuana by anyone 21 or older, and would instruct state and local officials to not comply with the federal government's ban on the drug.

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