Officials just say no to medical marijuana
Mobile distribution joins brick-and-mortar stores in citywide ban
By Chris O'Neal 11/21/2013
Though the turnout was varied and the speeches impassioned, the Ventura City Council narrowly passed a ban on mobile medical marijuana dispensaries within the city, effectively shutting out all sales to local residents.
The ruling, which goes into effect on Dec. 2, came after a request to form a working committee to discuss the issue further failed.
After the 4-3 vote — with Mayor Mike Tracy, Jim Monahan, Christy Weir and Cheryl Heitmann in favor and Neal Andrews, Brian Brennan and Carl Morehouse opposed — several members of the community were left disappointed.
Stephen DeBaun, local proponent for the safe sale of medical marijuana, believes that the debate was flawed and the facts were misrepresented.
“Public safety is important, and every single study ever done has shown that dispensaries reduce crime,” said DeBaun. “[Police Chief Ken Corney] contributed absolutely no pertinent facts in that discussion. His research produced a handful of anecdotal stories.”
Ventura currently has four mobile marijuana dispensaries that, come Dec. 2, will have to kill the engine or move to neighboring Oxnard, where several operations are already established.
Weir cited an increase in crime around dispensaries in Santa Barbara as reason enough to ban them.
“As far as defining success, it’s kind of different,” said Corney when asked to give details on the success of legal dispensaries across the state. “Having contact with over 300 police chiefs in this state, it hasn’t brought anything good to any community.”
Commander Tim Turner cited violent incidents in Los Angeles and Bakersfield as examples of an increase in crime around pot dispensaries, but failed to provide any evidence or statistics that the dispensaries statewide are inducing a higher rate of crime.
Opponents of the ban cited the medical benefits of marijuana, including the therapeutic benefits such as pain relief and appetite stimulation for those suffering from glaucoma, forms of cancer, anxiety and other medical problems.
Bonnie Counseller, a former school nurse for the Ventura Unified School District, admitted to being anti-drug during her career. When her son was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer, she changed her opinion.
“There was a trio of very strong drugs that would prolong life,” said Counselor. “He started on them and could not keep anything down.”
Reluctantly, her son tried medical marijuana and was able to eat while continuing the treatment.
“It was a miracle,” said Counseller to the council. “I think there is a potential for abuse with any drug … but I think we need to make sure that we have a way for people who need it to get it.”
Tracy claimed that visitors from outside of the city (and also citing the experience with dispensaries in Santa Barbara), would make regulating marijuana difficult.
“I believe, whether right or wrong, someday medical marijuana will be legal in the state,” said Tracy. “This is something that we cannot regulate at the local municipal level. If we legalize it in Ventura, it will have a huge impact on our community.”
A smattering of jeers fell upon the Council as opponents of the ban left the chamber following the vote.