Rally to be staged for medical marijuana rights in Ventura
By Shane Cohn 08/01/2013
Medical marijuana advocates are sick of Ventura politicians interfering with their safe access to medicine.
A peaceful rally led by the local Americans for Safe Access (ASA) Action Group in support of patients’ rights will be held on Monday, Aug. 5, at 6 p.m. in front of Ventura City Hall.
The City Council has placed moratoriums on dispensaries over the years, and earlier this month they voted in favor of an ordinance to ban all types of dispensaries, cooperatives, collectives and the growing of marijuana for commercial sales.
“We want to raise awareness,” said Rachel Sedacca, local musician and ASA group member. “People don’t know what’s going on. People support medical marijuana because they voted for it, but unless you’re a legitimate patient or a patient’s family you’re disconnected from this.”
The Compassionate Use Act of 1996 (Prop. 215) and subsequent laws, like SB 420, made it legal for patients and their designated primary caregivers to possess and cultivate marijuana for their personal medical use, and for patients to “collectively or cooperatively” cultivate it for medical purposes.
But there has since been a murky interpretation of what are considered legal and illegal distribution, manufacture and sale methods. In 2010, Prop. 19 tried to clear up the fog by presenting a framework for local governments to regulate the commercial production and sale of the drug, but it was narrowly defeated. Instead of trying to figure it out independently, many cities, like Ventura, have since issued bans or moratoriums on medical marijuana distribution until there is more direction from the state.
“They don’t want to do it (draft regulation policy) because it’s a lot of work,” suggested Sedacca. “It’s easier to say, ‘just ban it.’ ”
The cities of Santa Barbara and Los Angeles have tried allowing dispensaries, but the results were mostly negative, as police and city officials reported a rise in crime-related activities in the neighboring areas.
Because other cities have failed with their regulation policies, that doesn’t mean Ventura has to, proponents argue. The city could be on the forefront instead of playing follow-the-leader.
“It’s their responsibility to do it already,” said Lisa Bean, Ventura ASA member. “They’re taking the easy way out and backing law enforcement over substantial community support for implementing regulation; and that is, as far as I’m concerned, a police state over a democracy. When you take law enforcement’s will over the will of the people, City Council isn’t doing their job.”
Mayor Mike Tracy, former police chief, disagrees. Unless the entire state is on board, he doesn’t think Ventura could handle the issue.
“We don’t have the resources to control, not just distribution and sale, but the manufacture,” he said. “It would create all kinds of issues we’re not prepared, financially or otherwise, to deal with.”
Tracy’s motion on July 8 to ban all medical marijuana uses in the city included direction for staff to see if it was viable to work with county health officials to find a regulated way to legally dispense medical marijuana.
“The amount of bureaucratic funding and education that would have to go into that, when there are already private businesses trying to go about this in a legal manner, is a waste of money and time,” said Bean.
Tracy admitted that he couldn’t imagine a feasible dispensing strategy unless there was a legal statewide standard.
“It would be like if Ventura was the only city in the state that allowed the sale, manufacture and distribution of alcohol. It would create all kinds of issues,” Tracy said.
“You can’t compare this to alcohol,” said Sedacca, “because that has no medical value and it’s for entertainment and, in my opinion, a way bigger problem.”
Based on earlier reports by the VCReporter, there are about 50 collectives operating in Ventura, and close to 150 in the county. If the city’s ban is strictly enforced, thousands of medical marijuana patients in the city and county may resort to buying from the black market, largely regulated by Mexican cartels, or drive to storefront dispensaries in another county, which some patients aren’t physically able to do because of their illnesses.
“In the end, we want sensible policy,” said Sedacca. “If they want to do regulation, we want to comply. Let us comply. We’re law-abiding citizens. We’re not criminals.”