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A Good Buzz at City Hall

By Billy Fried
By Billy Fried

Public comments about prohibiting medical marijuana deliveries and commercial cultivation at this past Tuesday’s Council meeting was a marvelous display of community activism, and proof that Council can be good listeners, capable of changing their minds when presented with compelling testimony.

Fourteen courageous individuals (plus me) waited three hours to speak their truths about why banning deliveries would be bad not just for patients, but also Laguna’s heart and soul as a compassionate, tolerant town. No one spoke in favor of the ban. There were activists, pain and cancer survivors, veterans, and even a homeless man who spoke of having to travel by bus to Santa Ana to obtain his meds, and where he felt very vulnerable to assault.

In the end, Council listened with their hearts as much as their minds and at the advice of Chris Prelitz attached a sunset clause to the bill that would void it when Gov. Brown extends the deadline by when local municipalities need to enact legislation to 2018 (instead of March 1 of this year), which he is expected to sign next week.

Here’s what I said:

“I believe in the rush to judgement to outlaw medical marijuana delivery and commercial cultivation, there has been a haze of misinformation, both to you from the state, and from you to the public in this bill.

We now know that the March 1 deadline for local municipalities to enact legislation was an administrative typo. It’s about to be lifted to allow cities time to get their heads around the ever changing world of pot as we inch closer towards total legalization.

So let’s take a collective breath, get our information right, and stop trying to sweep cannabis underground and into the hands of criminals.

First, let’s be real. Marijuana is everywhere. Recreational use has been decriminalized. Right now, anyone of you could pick up your phone, dial a friend, and have a quarter ounce of Sour Diesel delivered to your chair before the next recess. That might help liven up these marathon sessions! And whether they are public about it, your friends take it for a variety of reasons, especially if they have cancer, anorexia, AIDS, chronic pain, spasticity, glaucoma, arthritis, or migraine headaches, all listed by the state as illnesses that pot can help relieve suffering from.

But this is not about those of us with a network of connections in town. This is about the older cancer patient who is suffering from pain, has a legal prescription, and doesn’t know a grower or caregiver. There is a lot of nuance to the type of marijuana that is right for a particular ailment, and a licensed, non-profit mobile caregiver can provide compassionate care and prescribe the right medicine for the right ailment. Take them out of the equation and you have for-profit drug dealers peddling whatever strain of pot they can get their hands on. That is a terrible disservice to the community you have sworn to protect.

If you really want to ensure public safety, then allow mobile delivery collectives that have legally registered with the state as non-profit, mutual benefit corporations. That is the first line of defense. These people don’t want to imperil their businesses by doing something stupid or illegal. The second line of defense is to have them apply for a local permit, and as part of the approval have them register with the police and submit to background checks. That way these delivery people would be far more vetted than, say, the pizza delivery guy.

As for commercial growing, that needs further defining. Does it mean that, if someone grows six mature or 12 immature plants for a patient, then delivers it, it’s a commercial act and they could be prosecuted for cultivation and distribution? Isn’t this a wasteful use of law enforcement?

Besides, if everyone grew pot in their backyards, perhaps it would solve our coyote problem by mellowing them out.

This referendum may only affect a few people, but many will be our most vulnerable, as Toni Iseman said. And, most importantly, it does reinforce the moral high ground of tolerance and compassion that this city has fostered since its inception. I hope this rush to judgement doesn’t make us resemble Arizona or Utah more than the Laguna I moved to years ago.

So please, please, shelve this bill for six months, and appoint a committee made up of perhaps the police chief, one of you, and other stakeholders – including a health advocate or doctor who can really educate us on the various strains of THC and cannabinoids and their useful applications – so we can enact smart, sensible legislation for the near term, and when it is inevitably made legal.”

So the city has all but indicated their intent to allow for deliveries. But my fear is that they sent it to staff for recommendations on implementation, even after some Council people recommended a broader committee composed of members of the community. I don’t think city staff – who have a strong anti-drug policy and conduct drug testing of employees – has a mindset to think as broadly on these issues as community members who are patients, caregivers, parents, and part of the medical community. Let’s encourage our Council and city to do the right thing by making sure this eloquent community is heard from before a bill is crafted, not after.

 

Billy Fried hosts “Laguna Talks” on Thursday nights at 8pm on KX93.5, and can be reached at [email protected]

 

 

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