The Kibitzer


No Pot Luck

By Billy Fried
By Billy Fried

The City Council did a terrible disservice to our community by unanimously voting (with Mayor Steve Dicterow recusing himself) Monday, Aug. 8, against putting a competing ordinance on the November ballot for a sensible, fair and safe medical marijuana dispensary in our town.

Police Chief Farinella was in chambers with her team to present precisely that. They gave a detailed, elaborate power point that was air tight with fair practices, adequate safeguards, and the ability to amend the measure. It would bring medical marijuana out of the shadows (most delivery services are not registered), regulate it, generate tax dollars, and be located nowhere near residences, schools, or parks. Surely now our community would have an informed choice on whether to have a dispensary with every safeguard possible, or not.

But the presentation was completely ignored. Not one bit of discussion over a very granular initiative. That’s because Council told us they had already “spoken to the community” and Laguna did not want this. Say what? Did they speak to the signers of the petition for a dispensary, or just the usual cabal with the time and wherewithal to show up in chambers at 5 p.m. on a Monday?

The special meeting was a time warp to 1936 “Reefer Madness” hysteria. One guy claimed the measure would “bring multiple drug supermarkets, narcotics dealers setting up shop, the homeless descending on ‘drugtopia’ and hundreds of drug users coming to our town to toke up, hit our streets, and very possibly our residences.” It sounded like Harry Anslinger, the prohibition era government official who ignored the opinion of leading scientists and demonized cannabis.

It felt very out of step with prevailing attitudes towards cannabis, not only statewide (where its predicted to become legal), but in the city of Laguna, which had one of the highest votes for the Compassionate Care Act in 1996. And in a recent community poll, more respondents voted for it than against.


In April the collectors of 2,414 signatures of verified residents filed a ballot initiative that would legalize dispensaries. Because the signatures represented 15 percent of Laguna’s voters, Council was required to either ratify it, or put it to the community for a vote. I wrote then that it was a flawed initiative, giving the sponsors an automatic dispensary without a fair review, not enough safety precautions, and no ability to amend the measure. But there was a third option, one which could satisfy voters, and which the Council seemed to embrace: a competing dispensary ordinance that would be crafted by the city and vetted by our police department.


We now know that pot has scientific medicinal value and a 5,000 year history as a therapeutic agent across many cultures. We also know it is a relatively harmless recreational drug too. According to the Center for Disease Control, alcohol is 114 times deadlier than cannabis. It increases the risk of heart disease, cancer, liver disease, stroke, and every year 88,000 Americans die from alcoholism. And let’s not even talk about prescription drugs like OxyContin and Percocet. Every 19 minutes somebody dies of a prescription drug overdose. Yet no one has died from cannabis, nor is it physically addictive. Is it perfect? No. Can it be abused? Sure, but so can diet soda, social media, chocolate and Botox.

I like every council member, but this move showed a disregard for the public will in favor of personal bias. Kelly Boyd told us that things like pot are ruining our town, and he doesn’t want “those people” here. Well Kelly, many folks have felt endangered by patrons stumbling out of the 40 plus alcohol establishments in Laguna.


Council member Rob Zur Schmiede summarized everything that was wrong with the citizens initiative, but said nothing of the competing ordinance (which was the reason for the meeting), only that staff had worked hours and hours on it but he didn’t think it was ready. What exactly was wrong with it?

Council member Bob Whalen said it’s not about medical marijuana but a land use issue, that Laguna is not the right place for it. So let me understand, we can have hundreds of eating and drinking establishments with no medicinal value, but not a single dispensary for the thousands of patients who live here and want a place to browse, discover and educate themselves (not unlike a wine shop or bookstore)? As for traffic, a consultant told us to expect as many as 250 patients a day. That would be an off night at Mozambique.

Look, I know cannabis is not for everyone. Your thing might be a glass of wine or beer after a long day. Or maybe you can get through life with abstinence. Most of us like a way to wind down. It’s always been about moderation, common sense, and freedom. Just last week, three separate incidents of minors were arrested for drunkenness. Our youth will score weed with or without a dispensary, just as they now score booze. At the end of the day it’s about good parenting, good role models, and good luck.

City Council did not do their sworn job to protect us by coming up with a safe competing measure. Our only choices now are a less than perfect initiative, or to continue with a fear based prohibition. Like the presidential election, the two choices are not the ones many want. In November, I will be supporting Measure KK so Lagunans can have safe access to medical marijuana.


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












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  1. You know strychnine is not as profitable as alcohol as there are not as many repeat users, the same with arsenic.

    If I was to invent a perfect rat poison it would be from marijuana, it makes the rat stupid and relaxed, it is fat soluble and accumulates in fatty tissue, the rats would want to eat more and then get fatter and dumber and eventual can’t or don’t want to move. It makes it easier to catch slow moving fat rodents that want to stay inside all the time. I would also have a growing consumer base with guaranteed income.

    The only real medical benefits found in marijuana use are for specific chemotherapy patients or people suffering from nausea.

    Other than that it’s only purpose seems to be for profitability , and the weighed with it’s popular infusion method of inhaling irritant fumes, is made accountably marginal to the tax payer and state legislature by increased medical cost that is inherently passed on. An example of this cost is seen in the sale of tobacco products.
    Sure the windfall profits are great for the supplier.


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