No Pot Monopolies
When I read the full ballot Initiative to overturn the city’s prohibition on medical marijuana dispensaries, sponsored by locals Corey Aufhammer and Elizabeth Toomey, all I could think of was, “what were they smoking?” Did they really believe that on the strength of 2,414 signatures from registered Laguna voters – the required 15% of the electorate – our city would roll over and approve the initiative outright, thereby granting said sponsors the exclusive right to a dispensary for a minimum of a one-year period? This is one railroad that ran straight into a freight train called Laguna.
Don’t get me wrong. I am a serious proponent of medical marijuana and the healing wonders of this sacred flower and plant medicine. But I believe it needs regulating, because, through chemistry, it has simply gotten too strong. And patients need guidance on safe and practical use.
Last weekend I ventured to San Bernardino for the Cannabis Cup (cultural anthropology, I swear!). What I saw astounded me. Pot no longer resembles anything like a plant. Instead, it’s been reduced into super concentrates called dabs. Dabs are concentrated doses of cannabis that are made by extracting THC and other cannabinoids using a solvent like butane or carbon dioxide, resulting in sticky oils, also commonly referred to as wax, shatter, budder, and butane hash oil (BHO). It was about 80% of the fair, and it’s a world I knew nothing about. God, I’m old!
This is some heavy, heavy stuff that may be good for a cancer patient, but certainly not for casual, recreational use. It’s frequently up to five times stronger than the strongest flowering bud, which has already been manipulated for potency. Add to that the sinister way of inhaling it – through elaborate glass pipes that look like something for crack or crystal meth, and what was once beautiful, flowering, organic buds are now some kind of Franken-concoction that is way too strong for casual consumption.
The intensity of weed should be regulated before making it available to the public, whether for medicinal or recreational use. We already know that edibles are often too strong and the usual culprit for emergency visits to the hospital. Colorado has began limiting the amount of THC in them.
So if we’re talking medical marijuana dispensaries in Laguna, let’s go a little deeper into the kind of care we want to offer. The initiative spells out the safety measures the sponsors think should be in place: operating 1,000 feet from a K-12 school (already law), no merchandise displays outside, lighting in the parking lot, keeping hours between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m., making all areas of the dispensary visible by management, possessing a valid seller’s permit, prohibiting alcohol, and being in a commercial or industrial zone.
Yawn. These are tent poles designed to make it safe to enter and exit the building. But it does nothing to address the very real health and safety applications of prescribing a very potent medicine to a variety of sick people. There are 80-plus compounds that make cannabis a unique medicine that treats a variety of illnesses. Shouldn’t we have something in the CUP that requires responsible patient care from licensed professionals, and not kids who know nothing about the medicinal properties or provenance of what they are selling.
But the most egregious part of the initiative was the presumption that the license automatically goes to the petitioner. Buried in the initiative was clause Sec 5.85.070 D, called Priority Registration, which says if an applicant is already a non-profit that was incorporated prior to May 15, 2014, has a Laguna Beach business license for home care and therapeutic services, has a re-sale license, leases or owns a location that qualifies from a zoning standpoint, then said applicant is automatically approved immediately, and “no other application or any applicants will be accepted for the first year.” This smacks of the conspiracy last fall when four people put an initiative on the Ohio state ballot to legalize marijuana, which gave them the exclusive right to wholesale cultivation.
Here’s why I’m particularly galled. I remember signing this petition months ago on Main Beach. I was excited to see somebody following a legal channel to get this silly prohibition lifted. But when the paid consultants from Sacramento stood in front of the council and said this initiative is what the citizens voted for, that “they want this,” I was resentful. I did not vote for this group to have a monopoly. I voted for sensible legislation to make Laguna a shining example of how a medical marijuana dispensary could serve the greater good, with consultation on any number of complimentary and holistic healing modalities, including perhaps herbs, aromatherapy, acupuncture, juice cleansing, nutrition, education and more.
I will leave it to the experts to craft a measured and beneficial counter initiative that we can vote for in November that opposes the current ban, but opens the door for a fair and democratic process to select the best, most compassionate medical marijuana caregivers to open a medical marijuana apothecary that could be a template for the world.
Billy Fried hosts “Laguna Talks” on Thursday nights at 8pm on KX93.5, and can be reached at [email protected].