Over the last weeks and months I have read a myriad of articles and opinions on medical marijuana cooperatives, collectives and dispensaries (we’ll just say “MMDs” for ease in reading). Inevitably, all the articles disintegrated into an argument over who smoked how much and when. This opinion is strictly a land use opinion about appropriate public policy in the locating of an MMD and whether or not Poway has an appropriate zone for such an MMD. I applaud the , until a complete study can be done. Understanding that medical marijuana use for a qualified patient is legal in the state of California, we need to be cautious about how and where we allow these businesses to become established. From a personal perspective, anywhere short of a pharmacy is unacceptable. However, given the expansive nature of the law, the confusing Attorney General Guidelines and the rabid, almost religious zeal to push MMDs into any commercial shopping center with an open storefront, it is critical we look objectively at the land use issue.
My position? Firmly and emphatically there is absolutely no place in the city of Poway, especially the Town and Country Shopping Center, where an MMD would be appropriate. Businessman, Daniel Lutz, applied to open an MMD in April but the City denied the permit request. This specific location Lutz requested is between a dog boutique, a laundromat, a Pizza Hut, a karate school, and across the way from a large family-style restaurant—all businesses frequented by children and families.
My argument against MMDs in Poway is straightforward—four basic points which clearly show an MMD is contrary to good land use and public policy in Poway.
Fallacy No 1: Cooperatives are nonprofits and private. Cooperatives should be by nature closely held partnerships where only individuals who actively participate in the cultivation and harvest are allowed access, according to California Norml. MMDs are not allowed to be a for profit business. However, the dispensary laws allow for a membership fee for those unable to “assist” in the cooperative physically. Salaries and employees fall under overhead, as do caregivers being allowed to charge for their services in delivering cannibas. So to say that cooperatives will be a nonprofit is really a misuse of the term.
Fallacy No. 2: I’m not impaired. I’m just high. The reality is drug impaired fatalities where alcohol is not a factor are rising dramatically. In 2004, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released a report which states:
“Marijuana has been shown to impair performance on driving simulator tasks and on open and closed driving courses for up to approximately three hours. Decreased car handling performance, increased reaction times, impaired time and distance estimation, inability to maintain headway, lateral travel, subjective sleepiness, motor incoordination, and impaired sustained vigilance have all been reported. ... The greater the demands placed on the driver, however, the more critical the likely impairment. Marijuana may particularly impair monotonous and prolonged driving. Decision times to evaluate situations and determine appropriate responses increase.”
In 2005, the French medical journal BMJ published "Cannabis Intoxication And Fatal Road Crashes In France: Population Based Case-Control," a study of over 10,000 fatal accidents. Twice as many drivers involved in fatal car accidents tested positive for marijuana compared with a group of other drivers. Further, the study also showed that drivers who tested positive for marijuana were more than three times as likely to be responsible for the fatal car crash. Researchers say the likelihood of being at fault increased as the blood concentration of marijuana increased.
Fallacy No. 3: We’ll keep the kids out. This is not only unrealistic but virtually impossible to prevent. Understanding how medical marijuana cards are distributed and the ease with which one can obtain a card makes the statement “we’ll keep the kids out” false and misleading. Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez legally obtained his medical marijuana card for a bad back from a gynecologist. There is nothing in the law that prevents any doctor from prescribing marijuana to a minor. The broad spectrum of ailments claiming positive response from marijuana treatment is staggering. Almost like snake oil.
And one very important statistic that parents specifically need to look at is more teens are in treatment each year for marijuana dependence than for alcohol and all other illegal drugs combined. This is a trend that has been increasing for more than a decade. In 2002, 64 percent of adolescent treatment admissions reported marijuana as their primary substance of abuse, compared to 23 percent in 1992.
Fallacy No. 4: Crime? What Crime? The Plaza is conveniently located near much of the subsidized housing projects for Poway. This is not an affluent area—not that drug use respects socioeconomic boundaries. But in the harsh economic realities of today, south Poway is not a viable, safe location for an MMD. It puts patrons of the other legitimate businesses at an increased risk of becoming a crime victim. The city of Anaheim found that almost immediately after its first dispensary opened for business it was taken over and robbed in June 2005. The owners of the dispensary were less than forthcoming in reporting the crime, by the way—didn’t want to muck up statistics. It was the only MMD robbery reported by the Anaheim MMD. Neighboring businesses, however, reported at least one other robbery occurring. In a search of other complaints surrounding Orange County MMDs, the complaints centered primarily on illegal sales outside the MMD and the ever present smell of marijuana smoke coming from the MMD site. Which puts you right back at Fallacy No. 2.
There is no logical or safe place in which we can locate an MMD in the city of Poway. Not in the Town and Country Shopping Center and not in the business park. Leave the MMDs to the city of San Diego and its commercial districts. They have appropriate business districts. Poway is simply too small a community with enough stresses on our local businesses struggling to stay open without throwing in such a tremendous negative.