“Let’s get to the point,
Let’s roll another joint,
And let’s head on down the road,
There’s somewhere I got to go.”
The freedom to responsibly access and administer medicine is a right everyone ought to have, but doesn’t. That’s because a prohibition on marijuana, medicinal or otherwise, has been in effect since the ’30s. The federal government calls it a drug and patients call it medicine. Potato, potahto? Whatever your perspective, the fact of the matter is that this debate is costly to our country, and we desperately need a solution.
Thanks to California’s landmark Proposition 215, you can have access to medicinal marijuana. Referred to as the “Compassionate Use Act of 1996,” this law ensures that “patients and their primary caregivers who obtain and use marijuana for medical purposes, upon the recommendation of a physician, are not subject to criminal prosecution or sanction.” All you need is a recommendation from a physician (of which there is no shortage in town) and you are free to legally explore an alternative to pills in a bottle.
Another push-via-ballot initiative in 2010 AKA Proposition 19 would have legalized marijuana for recreational use. With a 53.5% opposed vote and 46.5% in favor, as reported by the Secretary of State, Californians missed out on a leadership opportunity to further pioneer the right to use medicinal marijuana.
The projected savings to state and local governments included tens of millions of dollars annually on the costs of incarcerations alone. Not to mention the income generated through taxing marijuana products. Fiscal responsibility, anyone?
You may have noticed that Colorado and Washington recently rolled in to the voting booths and showed us how it’s done. Good for them. It will be interesting to examine the fiscal impact in those states…
So here we are, 17 years post-Prop 215. While that law essentially legalized the use of medicinal marijuana in California, we still have a long road to recovery from the damages that fighting the so-proclaimed “War on Drugs” has caused our society.
California has essentially taken the stance that local jurisdictions are to hash out their own approach in facilitating the cultivation and distribution of this crop. And that’s just what the Butte County Board of Supervisors has been trying to do for years. At the end of February, the BOS adopted an ordinance delineating specific requirements for cultivation. The new ordinance promotes setback regulations that vary depending on the acreage of the property, which addresses the very important public safety element. It also allows residential grow to occur, but the caveat is that the grow needs to be within a greenhouse, obstructing the view and smell from the public, and helping to ensure public safety. The ordinance also outlines the complaint-driven aspect in terms of how the cops will enforce the ordinance, which can be good if not abused.
This recent ordinance is a fair one, especially compared to what the BOS tried to pull a couple years back. The BOS adopted Ordinance 4029 – a much more restrictive policy in which a 1.5-acre parcel or greater was required to grow, the Sheriff’s office was authorized to conduct a warrantless search, and anyone wishing to grow was required to file medical records to the county. Wow, a clear limit to personal freedom and civil rights. This ordinance was slammed by a referendum in June, 2012.
Enter “Measure A,” which sent Ordinance 4029 up in smoke. We now have a better system in place and it’s not perfect, but it’s just about as good as it’s going to get here in Butte County: a compromise.
It would be rude not to express thanks to everyone who stood up for the right to access medicinal marijuana. There have been a handful of folks out there doing the groundwork collecting signatures, attending and speaking at city and county meetings, and writing letters to the editors of various publications, and they’ve done an effective job for the limited resources available to them.
One such individual is Rob MacKenzie, the man behind 2012’s Measure A. MacKenzie is a local lawyer who is doing what so many of us are too scared to do – advocate on behalf of the citizens of Butte County for medicinal marijuana. Chatting with him was as refreshing as it was informative.
“Congress should be on the forefront of this issue,” lamented MacKenzie. He thinks the reason Congress hasn’t made the headway it should’ve by now is because they’re afraid of not getting re-elected. This is a national issue, as MacKenzie points out, and the representatives in Congress need to BE leaders and provide solutions, instead of allowing the FBI and the DEA to set the precedent.
Locally, MacKenzie encourages the public to speak out to their city council and ask that the dispensary ordinance be brought back to the table. Access is an important factor, and eliminating the dispensaries in town hinders a patient’s ability to get access to their medicine; imagine if all the pharmacies closed in town. Why has the dispensary ordinance been disbanded? A well-placed threat by a high profile.
Sacramento-based US attorney, Benjamin Wagner, wrote a letter to the Chico City Council warning that he would prosecute any city employee or official who violates federal law regarding dispensaries Naturally, the council decided against moving forward with such an ordinance. No one is asking anyone to go to jail over this (unless you believe it’s worth going to jail over something you believe in), but it’s safe to say that we can ask our leaders to BE leaders.
It’s understandable why so many people are scared to speak out about this issue due to their careers or public image, but we also need to stress the importance of citizens freeing themselves from the perspective of fear that the “War on Drugs” has instilled in us. We need to fight for the right to have access. We shouldn’t even be having the discussion of whether marijuana ought to be legalized anymore.
It comes down to two things; our fear of public engagement, and legislators who remain in power with a vendetta against legalization. As a community and a culture, we must shift the marijuana paradigm. Too many lives have been ruined, too many tax dollars have been wasted, too many jails have been filled, too many patients have needed to go beyond the law at the cost of their own personal safety to gain access, and too many opportunities have been wasted to generate income for the state via taxation (an estimated 1.4 billion in annual revenue, according to drugpolicy.org).
We can’t, financially or morally, afford to keep marijuana as a federally-listed, schedule one substance. We need to do what’s right on a local level and, hopefully, Congress will do what’s right on a federal level.