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May 8, 2012

"Why I Want a Medical Marijuana Dispensary Near My Children's School"

The title of this post is the headline of this potent commentary appearing at the Huffington Post, which is authored by Tamar Todd, a Staff Attorney at the Drug Policy Alliance.  Here are excerpts:

Last week, one of California's oldest and most respected medical marijuana dispensaries, Berkeley Patients Group, closed its doors. It shut down because its landlord, like dozens across the state, received a letter from United States Attorney Melinda Haag threatening to seize the property for renting to a medical marijuana dispensary located within 1,000 feet of a school.  My three children attend elementary school and preschool in West Berkeley, just blocks from Berkeley Patients Group.  The notion that the closure of Berkeley Patients Group is going to somehow serve to protect my children is patently absurd.

Berkeley Patients Group served thousands of medical marijuana patients in the Berkeley area for 12 years.  It was an industry leader and a model of compassion and legal integrity. It was in strict compliance with state and local law, and has long worked with the City of Berkeley and the local community to provide a safe and responsible service to patients in need.  As a small business, it employed 75 people and was one of the top sales tax generators in the city.

Ms. Haag has claimed that one of her concerns about dispensaries that are in close proximity to schools and parks and playgrounds is the possibility they could be the target of violence or armed robbery.  Banks and pharmacies are also targets of armed robberies and there are a number of them located in West Berkeley.  Like Berkeley Patients Group, they have security.  There is no evidence to suggest, and I have never felt, that it is dangerous to send my children to a school that happened to be near a bank, or a pharmacy....

Ms. Haag has chosen to use her presumably limited resources to deprive the thousands of patients who frequent Berkeley Patients Group a legal, regulated, secure place to purchase desperately needed medicine.  Of course, the closure of Berkeley Patients Group does not mean that these thousands of people will stop buying and using medical marijuana.  They are sick, in pain, and are allowed to purchase and consume marijuana under settled California law (a law that was approved by voters overwhelmingly).  Ms. Haag says that she is not going after medical marijuana patients.  But she must understand that patients will now simply have to find marijuana elsewhere, from the streets, and near schools and parks.  Ms. Haag has not made these areas safer; she has simply increased the demand for an illegal and dangerous drug market.

Ms. Haag also claims that her crackdown on dispensaries is necessary because of problematic marijuana use by high school students.  The reality is that between 1996 (when California passed its medical marijuana law) and 2008 there was an overall decrease in teens' marijuana use.  An analysis commissioned by the California Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs found "no evidence" to support the claim that legalization of medical marijuana in California increased marijuana use during this period....

Most offensive is the notion that legal access to medical marijuana sends the wrong message to kids.  I find the existence of legal medical marijuana very easy to explain to my children.  This is what I tell them: Research and science matter.  The opinions of medical professionals matter.  We should have compassion for those who are very sick, and even for those who are just a little sick; for those suffering the effects of chemotherapy or for returning veterans suffering from PTSD; that we should help meet people's needs and ease pain as best we can (even if it goes against the conventional wisdom or drug war ideology).  I tell my children that it is better for people to buy marijuana from a safe, well-regulated source, than on the street.

I tell my children that the lives of children in Mexico matter too, where United States drug policy has led to the narcotics-related murders of nearly 50,000 people over the last five years, including thousands of children.  That is the harm to children caused by marijuana prohibition, and a drug market that Ms. Haag's actions directly fuel.  The "threat" posed by Berkeley Patients Group, and other dispensaries like it, pales in comparison.

May 8, 2012 at 09:54 AM | Permalink


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The article has next to nothing to do with medicine, but a lot to do with exactly the doper ideology you'd expect to find on the streets of Berkeley. No serious person could view this as other than propaganda.

I must have missed the place where the AMA has endorsed smoked pot as medicine. Oh...........wait.............there is no such endorsement. Research, yes (an it's being conducted with the DEA's blessing). But medicine? Hardly.

And it would have been nice if the author had at least indirectly acknowledged what is almost universally known, to wit, that these so-called medical dispensaries are de facto drug dealers, doing exactly what California voters (and NOT just the feds) voted against doing when they defeated Prop 19.

Posted by: Bill Otis | May 8, 2012 12:54:47 PM

this dumb broad of a fedeal DA should be glad I am not the landord. I'd catch her ass and inform her that as far as i was concerned her letter THREATENING my life and family was LEGAL and MORAL ground to KIL HER ASS!

Posted by: rodsmith | May 8, 2012 1:48:01 PM

'missed the place where the AMA has endorsed smoked pot as medicine'

outright endorsement maybe not but this certainly comes close to an endorsement for medicinal purposes....federal legalization is inevitable, get over it, do something productible in your life

2009 L.A. Times article


Posted by: advocate | May 8, 2012 4:37:08 PM

advocate --

You're right, it's quite explicitly not an endorsement. Nice try though.

"...federal legalization is inevitable, get over it..."

Do send me your crystal ball. Wasn't the Equal Rights Amendment "inevitable" a few decades ago? Wasn't merely accommodating the Soviet Union? How's the old USSR doin' today?

My, my, how times do change.

"..do something productible in your life."

I've done lots of productive things with my life, thanks so much, and none of them has involved getting stoned. And you?

Posted by: Bill Otis | May 8, 2012 7:00:24 PM

Who dares deny potheads a miracle drug that cures everything. And no one is making a profit from the "collective."

Posted by: Federale | May 8, 2012 11:52:30 PM

'I've done lots of productive things with my life,'

I hope propagation wasn't one of them

Posted by: advocate | May 9, 2012 8:06:03 PM

advocate --

I'll leave you guessing on that one. But, just fyi, children have been known to rebel against the opinions of their parents.

Would you want your kid to get blasted? When would you like him to start? 14? 12? 10?

Posted by: Bill Otis | May 9, 2012 10:41:59 PM

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