|Photo: ASA San Bernardino County|
The debate over medical marijuana dispensaries grew heated Thursday morning at the San Bernardino County Planning Commission meeting, which was set to vote in the afternoon on a staff proposal to ban the facilities in unincorporated areas.
Outside the county government center shortly before the hearing, 30 to 60 advocates rallied in support of safe access to medical marijuana, reports Natasha Lindstrom of the Victorville Daily Press. Activists carried signs reading “Pills Kill,” “Collectives, Not Street Drugs” and “Marijuana = Medicine.”
Some of the patients smoked cannabis outside the government building as they protested, according to the Daily Press.
Meanwhile, those favoring a dispensary ban criticized the medical marijuana facilities, claiming they “increase crime and blight” in surrounding neighborhoods and are “widely abused by young adults.”
The Planning Commission, likely a bit taken aback by the vociferous debate on both sides, delayed a vote until February 17, so the issue remains unresolved for now.
|Photo: Riverside Press-Enterprise|
|Paul Chabot, Inland Valley Drug Free Community Coalition: “It has nothing to do with compassion or sick people.”|
The proposed ordinance bans dispensaries — even including what some patients call collectives — in unincorporated areas of San Bernardino County and limits personal medical marijuana growing to indoors only. “Limited exceptions” might apply to “state-run providers and hospitals.”
At the three-hour public hearing, 70 citizens filled out speaker cards to have their say on the decision, with a majority of speakers opposing the ban for violating the rights of legitimate patients to access medical marijuana with a doctor’s recommendation under state law.
The general sentiment among the medical marijuana supporters was “Regulate and tax, don’t ban,” the Daily Press reported.
Paul Chabot, the buzzkill founder and president of the Inland Valley Drug Free Community Coalition and also (wow, this guy really doesn’t want anyone to smoke a joint) the Coalition for a Drug Free California, of course said he “firmly supported” the ban and is “confident” the county will impose it.
“These people are all about the money and it’s all about drugs,” Chabot claimed. “It has nothing to do with compassion or sick people. All they do is sit on the backs of sick people to promote overall drug legalization.”
Ryan Michaels of the Yes We Cannabis group, based in Riverside, acknowledged there are substance abuse issues within the medical marijuana world, but said he wants to work with all sides to come up with reasonable regulations that don’t require an outright dispensary ban.
“I’m not one to say that there aren’t problems, but there are problems in all circumstances,” Michaels said. “You’ve got individuals who go out and pursue fraudulent prescription medications all the time as well.”
“From my perspective as a patient and as an advocate and someone who’s managed a facility before, regulation would bring protection for both sides of the equation,” Michaels said. “Regulation would bring protection for patients and it would bring protection for the community.”
If the Planning Commission approves the ordinance, the Board of Supervisors will decide whether to make the dispensary ban an official county policy at a meeting on March 15.