Reefer madness still exists in Ventura County. In fact, it’s so alive and well, that at least five cities in the last few days rushed to ban all medical marijuana related-services — commercial cultivation, dispensaries and delivery — rather than doing any research to better understand the California Medical Marijuana Regulation Safety Act and the mistake that is now being corrected.

When the Medical Marijuana Regulation Safety Act was signed into law in October, it was intended to protect consumers, the patients who were in need of the medicinal properties of cannabis but had been subject to less than the safest products due to the lack of regulations. Instead, patients statewide, and in particular in Ventura County, now have fewer, if any, options for safe legal access, much less safer products, because of a provision of a March 1 deadline that essentially stated that if cities didn’t regulate or prohibit the cultivation of medical marijuana by that date, then they would forgo their ability to enact their own local ordinances and have to go with the state mandates. That March 1 deadline, however, was a mistake and is now causing cities to panic. That panic is also being perpetuated by the League of California Cities, which sent out a letter earlier this month, stating that putting a ban in place now would show the state that the cities were doing something and that they could later revisit the subject and create their own ordinances. But what the League of California Cities failed to mention in that letter is that the March 1 deadline is being removed and will no longer be in the Medical Marijuana Regulation Safety Act by the end of the month. The damage has been done, however, as, one by one, cities all over California and in Ventura County enact comprehensive bans on cultivation, dispensaries and delivery, diminishing many patients’ ability to access their medicine.

On Monday, Jan. 11, separately, Simi Valley and Ventura City Councils voted unanimously in favor of amending the city’s zoning codes so as to prohibit such medical marijuana activities. On Tuesday, Jan. 12, separately, the Fillmore and Thousand Oaks voted unanimously in favor of bans. While a ban passed in Oxnard, 3-2, Oxnard City Councilmembers Bert Perello and Dorina Padilla are apparently thus far the only two who did not vote in favor of a ban. The Board of Supervisors have already banned cultivation and dispensaries. Surely deliveries will follow.

And so, just like that (including with the ongoing Sheriff’s investigation into Ojai’s Shangri La Care Cooperative and subsequent confiscation of its medical marijuana), by all appearances, Ventura County’s medical marijuana industry has been practically shut down; and safe access, for the most part, is now illegal. It seems that paranoia rather than progress has taken hold in Ventura County. It’s such an unfortunate situation for those desperate to consume the drug that has helped to ease all sorts of symptoms connected to various maladies. Now, where will these patients go and why doesn’t anyone care?

Paul Ramey, spokesman for Assemblyman Jim Wood, D-Healdsburg, expressed his frustration over the consequences of the mistaken deadline.

“We are disappointed there has been this reaction. The law was intended so that patients had access to safe medicine and that medicine was being tested and regulated, that the industry would have the same safeguards that [consumers] would come to expect from any industry. We are disappointed that cities have rushed to this conclusion.”

We agree with Ramey, and while he seemed optimistic that elected officials would return to the issue and enact reasonable ordinances to further enable safe access to safer products after these bans had been put in place, we are less than optimistic. One thing that we have come to understand about elected officials in Ventura County is that they vote for no access as the best option. We think that is a counterproductive stance to take, especially in light of changing attitudes toward recreational use and the possible and perhaps even likely passage of a proposition legalizing marijuana this November. While we may be rather presumptuous in assuming that cities will not revisit the enactment of reasonable ordinances for safe access, we hope we are wrong. Only time will tell but what will cities do if recreational use is legalized in November? Are city officials ready to take on expensive lawsuits just to keep up their local prohibitions? We can only hope they won’t let this issue die.