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Opinion: Why We Fight

"Our opponents claim that the will of the voters is immaterial, that the only thing that matters is federal law. But what about state law, the will of San Diego voters and the needs of San Diego patients?"

As the association of compassionate use dispensaries in San Diego County, the Patient Care Association is seeing firsthand the panic and despair of our patients as the dispensaries they've relied on to supply them with access to medicine that helps them battle serious medical conditions are being shuttered across San Diego.

Extensive medical research, including research conducted at UCSD, has shown that medical marijuana helps to alleviate the pain and suffering caused by many diseases including cancer, multiple sclerosis, chronic pain, arthritis, and HIV/AIDS wasting syndrome. Medical marijuana is recommended by licensed doctors, not dispensaries. However, compassionate use dispensaries are the only manner permitted by state law for patients, without the resources to grow their own medicine, to obtain medical marijuana. And it is these patients that are suffering.

Unfortunately, over the past year, nearly all storefront access to medical marijuana in San Diego County has been eliminated, including those locations that were operating in complete compliance with California State Law. Today, severely ill San Diegans battling debilitating conditions are forced to choose between fly-by-night delivery services, street corner drug dealers, or more expensive and often less effective pharmaceutical alternatives to manage their pain.

There exists, however, a misconception of why the dispensary services across San Diego were closed. Yes, the federal government continues to oppose medical marijuana, in defiance of California law, the will of California voters and the needs of sick Californians. And yes, the US Attorney did send threatening letters to landlords, resulting in the closure of a few dozen locations, and yes, the US Attorney did, in coordination with local officials, raid a few dozen dispensaries in San Diego County. That said, the US attorney has never actually pursued forfeiture against a single landlord and has yet to successfully convict a single dispensary operator as a result the raids.

The vast majority of dispensaries in the City of San Diego, well over 100, were closed though lawsuits by the San Diego City Attorney for violation of the city zoning ordinance. The San Diego City Zoning code does not currently include medical marijuana dispensaries, and if this were any other establishment, code compliance would simply place medical marijuana dispensaries in the nearest available category for zoning purposes—they could be classified as pharmacies, natural remedy providers, etc… However, the conclusion of the City Attorney was that no category of establishments was similar enough to include medical marijuana dispensaries, and, therefore, all dispensaries in San Diego were out of zoning compliance and therefore operating illegally.

Under the guise of code enforcement, the San Diego City Attorney compiled a list of every dispensary in the city, sued them for operating out of zone and actively and openly collaborated with the US Attorney regarding the locations and status of dispensaries in San Diego, facilitating any federal enforcement that did occur.

Their attacks have worked. By our estimates, more than 90 percent of dispensaries have been closed, and the few that remain operate in constant fear of reprisal.

What appears to be missed by our heads of law enforcement is that by closing dispensaries in San Diego, they are forcing patients on to the black market. Our patients would prefer to receive their medicine in a licensed, regulated environment—not some substance of unknown quality and origin from a street dealer on the corner. By closing dispensaries, it is the drug dealers and their cartel backers that benefit.

There is little we can do about federal disregard for state law and patients’ rights.

However, we can eliminate their support from city officials, by putting in place clear regulation—allowing well-regulated compassionate use dispensaries in appropriate zones in supportive neighborhoods in San Diego County.

A citizen’s ballot initiative, such as those being considered in Del Mar, Solana Beach, Lemon Grove and Imperial Beach, would change the municipal zoning codes in these cities to include medical marijuana dispensaries. With proper inclusion of dispensaries in the municipal code, local officials would have no authority to close dispensaries acting in full compliance with California state law and would have no authority to assist the federal government with enforcement actions against collectives operating in compliance with the municipal laws they are responsible for upholding.

Our opponents claim that the will of the voters is immaterial, that the only thing that matters is federal law. But what about state law, the will of San Diego voters and the needs of San Diego patients? What about the Compassionate Use Act, which was approved by the majority of San Diego voters more than fifteen years ago, and every poll/survey and referendum conducted in San Diego ever since, re-affirming the voters’ support of legal, regulated, access to marijuana medicine? How long must California patients suffer at the whim of unelected Washington bureaucrats whose capricious laws fly in the face of the will of the people?

This November is a chance for voters in Del Mar, Solana Beach, Lemon Grove and Imperial Beach to make a stand against federal intrusion, the black market and for the patients of their community. We have full confidence that the rational, compassionate voters in these municipalities will once again show the proponents of prohibition that they support the rights of medical marijuana patients to obtain affordable, natural, quality, scientifically-proven medicine in their communities in fully regulated and legal compassionate use dispensaries by voting “Yes” to allow and regulate medical marijuana access in these communities.

—Schmachtenberger is the president at Patient Care Association of California.

Kevin Berg November 03, 2012 at 10:01 PM
The author, Mr. Schmachtenberger, is a pot shop owner and president of Patient Care Association, which is a group of pot shop operators who financed the campaign and placement of the pot shop-permitting proposition on the ballot. What Mr. Schmachtenberger and his fellow shop owners are fighting for is profits. There are pot delivery services, but pot shop operators want a stationary location and a part of the delivery services’ market. But permitting a shop that sells pot is illegal, regardless of state or local laws. As Mr. Schmachtenberger said, they have been run out of the City of San Diego, and are looking at these smaller cities to set up shop. 95% of campaign donations supporting pot shops in Del Mar, Solana Beach, Lemon Grove, and Imperial Beach come from people who don’t live in these cities. Isn’t that interesting. Why aren’t the pot shops customers/residents of Del Mar, Solana Beach, Lemon Grove, and Imperial Beach financing and putting forth this proposition? Why are out-of-town pot shop operators the ones fighting the community and law enforcement? Because it’s about profits. The propositions are about the pot shop owners’ market share. They are once who have bank rolled the effort, they are the ones who will benefit financially, and they do this under the guise of compassion.
Trevor Polischuk November 04, 2012 at 02:36 AM
1700 Lemon Grove residents signed the petition. The people want this. Your out-dated unscientific position is failing. It's time to end prohibition, take away the business from the cartels and start coming up with solutions like adults.
Tara S November 04, 2012 at 11:06 PM
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CR7j7lGEwaw
Tara S November 04, 2012 at 11:12 PM
Real Medicine for Real Patients! http://delmarsandpiper.org/Pages/News2012_10/Oct2012-12.html
BFranks November 04, 2012 at 11:27 PM
Thanks, Trevor. Of course there is going to be money made from this- if that's what you want to argue about then I have a simple question for you...who is making the money now? Oh yea, about 50 thousand people have died in Mexico since ~2006 from the "War on Drugs" because cartels are making hundreds of millions of dollars selling drugs (lots of pot) and growing it in places like our national and state parks. So of course people will always buy pot, I guess the question is, who is it going to be from? I would much rather have a regulated system here that acknowledges that there is a huge contingent of people smoking cannabis (for medical reasons or not) and at the least brings in some tax money, creates a few LEGAL jobs and goes along with that whole democracy thing.
John V November 05, 2012 at 04:18 AM
Medical cannibis relieves seriously ill patients of many side effects of conventional medicine such as appetite loss, pain relief and is the definition of compassion in these cases - especially terminally ill individuals. Also, the residents of Del Mar, Solana Beach, Lemon Grove, and Imperial Beach have shown overwhelming support for the initiatives in order to get them on the ballot through a petition drive. I would urge Kevin Berg to reconsider slandering the campaigns for safe access on the basis of money-making. Medical cannibis is a natural alternative medicine (A PLANT) which should be available to sick people! Yes on W,H,T,S!
Daniel Knowtorious November 05, 2012 at 04:35 AM
The El Paso Times published an article last week stating that if the United States legalized marijuana, it would cost the Drug Trafficking Organizations (DTO's) up to $12 billion. That is $12 billion that won't buy guns (Operation Fast and Furious), Politicians, and Generals (four generals were arrested earlier this year for helping the DTO's). So does this mean that you support the DTO's then Kevin? (http://www.elpasotimes.com/news/ci_21900716/colorado-washington-and-oregon-vote-legalizing-marijuana?_requestid=10529944) http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/19/world/americas/mexico-detains-3-generals-tied-to-drug-cartel.html?pagewanted=all
Cathy Bliss November 05, 2012 at 07:03 PM
The purpose of law in a democratic society is to maximize human freedom while ensuring safety and social harmony. Just law only limits individual freedoms where people’s choices otherwise would cause harm or limit the freedom of others. Law for any other reason tends towards imperialism and away from democracy and self-government. The current prohibitionary laws regarding medical cannabis excessively limit choices that are meaningful to human health and personal sovereignty for something that presents no substantial, realistic threats to society or citizens. The desire to keep medical cannabis inaccessible to those that need it is not warranted, is not in line with the desires of the majority of those affected and is directly opposed to the overwhelming body of relevant, unbiased, social and medical scientific findings on the topic. This desire represents a de-evolutionary movement, antithetical to the ideals of a self-governing, free society. As voters and concerned citizens it is our role to uphold the ideals of a free society by voting in favor of propositions and candidates that maximize individual freedom and science based law. For this reason I urge you to vote YES on Proposition T (Lemon Grove), Proposition W (Solana Beach), Proposition H (Del Mar) and Proposition S (Imperial Beach).
Michelle M November 05, 2012 at 07:05 PM
Vote Yes on Prop T in Lemon Grove!

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