In an era of 24-hour cable news, non-stop talk radio, and a never ending list of politically flavored blogs, it is easy to be overwhelmed by it all. Planes are going down over Russia, bombs are being dropped in Gaza, and back at home, Republicans and Democrats bide their time bickering over gay marriage and contraception coverage.
It’s enough to make people want to just tune out altogether, and unfortunately, they are in droves. This manufactured apathy for all things “political”, trickles down from global, to national, to state, and ultimately to local politics; and can have dire real-world consequences in the community.
The city of San Jose, in northern California’s Bay Area, is realizing this sad reality the hard way when it comes to medical marijuana. There, as in many Californian municipalities, the local City Council has turned a tuned-out public against its own best interests when it comes to weed.
Recently, the City Council enacted a new zoning ordinance in the city, aimed directly at impacting the 100+ medical marijuana dispensaries currently operating quasi-legally under California’s medical marijuana laws.
According to analysts, the new rules would force as many as 70 weed shops to shut their doors, costing many employees their jobs, and the city untold amounts of tax revenue. Additionally, viable locations for legal storefronts will be few and far between, making safe access to cannabis harder to find for many patients.
Aside from some of the strictest zoning laws in the state, the new ordinance requires all dispensaries to grow their own meds onsite. They must also provide 24-hour security, cannot allow access to anyone under the age of 18 for any reason, and are strictly prohibited from medicating onsite.
Last year alone, the area’s pot shops kicked back over $5,000,000 in tax revenues to the cash-strapped city of San Jose, which undoubtedly helped to shore up law enforcement budgets, as well as clean up local schools and parks.
Still the fear mongering by folks like the local City Council has taken its toll in the region, and polls consistently show a majority of citizens in favor of some sort of reform and regulation of the city’s growing number of medical marijuana dispensaries.
When the new zoning laws were passed earlier this month, the city’s 100 or so pot shops knew they had to act, and act fast. They were told that they had just 15 days to try to gather 33,000 or more signatures for each of two pieces of emergency initiatives to try to stop the new laws from taking effect.
Rallies were held at town hall, and clubs got incredibly creative in their attempts to persuade local voters to sign their petitions. Some gave away coupons good for a free medical marijuana evaluation for those who may be interested in the process. Others straight up gave away weed in exchange for an autograph.
Ultimately, however, the effort fell well short, as each initiative gathered roughly 22,000 of the 33,000 signatures needed.
San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed was happy to see the new laws put into place, saying, “We need to have (a) strong and effective regulatory ordinance that controls marijuana, keeps it out of our neighborhoods, keeps it out of our school and keeps it away from our kids.”
Having failed in the political arena to halt the de facto ban in San Jose, local cannabis advocates will now turn to the courts in a last ditch effort to save the city’s dispensaries, who now have one year to comply, or to close.
In a city of over 982,000 people, it really shouldn’t matter if even a large majority of the citizens are in favor of “regulating” pot. The fact is, they needed just 3% of the people in San Jose to get off their ass and sign a petition – that’s it – and they couldn’t do it. Nobody had to march, or donate funds – just sign their name.
You know what they say, all politics is local.