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Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Let's Recoup Some Money From Reagan's War On Drugs

It's Time To End The Phony 
War On Drugs 

As we round year 42 in the national War on Drugs, we have to ask, shouldn't Emeryville residents expect a reasoned, cogent public policy emanating out of City Hall with regards to medical marijuana?
Emeryville shockingly still has a prohibition on medical marijuana dispensaries; left over detritus from the absurd 'just say no' years.  With nothing more than phony demagoguery about the evils of marijuana and an unmentioned but palpable overlay of Christian puritanism, Emeryville's city council instituted a ban on medical marijuana dispensaries many years ago.  It wasn't for lack of compassion towards medical patients the council told us upon initiating the ban, it was because of the criminal element that would flock to our town.  That and the fact that some people might obtain marijuana under false pretenses; they might attempt to obtain marijuana by lying or exaggerating the extent of their illnesses to their physicians.  Legitimate cancer patients would have to make do without in order to stop some patients who might enjoy the pleasant calming effects of marijuana we were told.

Now there's a new push to remove the ban and allow a marijuana dispensary in Emeryville.  A non profit group wishes to locate a dispensary in our town and the Public Safety Committee will consider this on Thursday.  The group has shown how they expect more than six million dollars in sales the first three years and these revenues would be directly taxable, unlike Pixar.  Emeryville's General Fund would benefit greatly at a time when we desperately need a new revenue stream.
The State and County regulation on marijuana dispensaries is inexorable and omniscient, negating ancillary criminal activity, unlike the Oaks Club.   Auto use by patients should be relatively light, keeping traffic impact reasonable, unlike the Powell Street Plaza.  Further, the group has shown that our police services will not be overly impacted, unlike the Bay Street Mall and if for any reason the council decides to shut down the dispensary, all it takes is one phone call from the City Manager, unlike Kitty's Bar.

Emeryville allows a host of different businesses to operate in our town and they negatively impact the residents to greater or lesser degree.  We allow this because the tax revenue is supposed to more than offset the negative impacts.  A medical marijuana dispensary is no different except unlike these other businesses, a non-profit medical dispensary is in business to help suffering patients, sometimes the help comes in the form of pain management at the end of their lives.  As we jettison past low-minded jingoism and irrational public policy, we should consider this value added benefit for this new business in our town.


  1. I saw school board member Miguel Dwin leaving the Oaks Card Club one day. He used the same excuse everyone uses "I go there for the food".
    Which surprises me, as that kitchen smells like shit every time I walk by it.

  2. Absolutely Brian. Sell pot and tax the sh*t out of it and send all that money to the schools and city. Boom. No more griping about money.

  3. it's not an excuse. i don't play cards or gamble but i honest to god go for the food. and wednesdays are fried chicken day! i also occasionally take bus trips with the seniors to native indian casinos and take a book to read. i like the scenic rides.

  4. We simply cannot allow a medical marijuana dispensary in Emeryville. It would make us a laughing stock. We have our proud history of moral rectitude to consider. Besides, it is the first step in a slippery slope. What's next? A gambling parlor?

  5. The Safety Commission has forwarded this item to the Feb 21, 2012 Council meeting to create a task force that can review the pros and cons of the project.

    The plan is to have the Task Force report their findings to the Council in late April or May.

    1. The puritanism regarding medical marijuana is absurd in a town where we freely buy booze at bars and a liquor store, gamble 24 hours a day at a card club, get "massages" at a venue that
      was once busted for human trafficking. There seems to be a worry that people might get high on the weed that is helping them recover from chemotherapy. Brings to mind H.L Mencken's comment that "Puritanism is the lingering fear that someone, somewhere may be having a good time." Even people on the political right will eventually have to face the prospect of a time when medical marijuana can greatly help them when they are stricken with a serious disease and facing death. Lighten up, folks.

    2. The Task Force that will make a recommendation on this will be multi-year or even multi-decade. Perfect way to kill this thing.

  6. Everyone's talking about opposition being about the morality issue or the fear of the crime it could invite around a dispensary, but no one is talking about the risks being slapped with a law suit by the Federal DA when it comes to getting involved with the business of medical marijuana. Though there's a very strong case that this drug should be legalized, the fact is that under the current circumstances, running a business that's governed by local and federal laws that are in opposition to one another is part of the problem with dispensaries and the murky economy and regulations that surround it. As much as everyone thinks this is a simple matter, it's not - and there are real legal risks and real community impacts both good and bad. Does the City of Emeryville have the cash to support entry into a legally murky domain and the possible law suits it invites? Additionally, the City would be wise to at least review the actions taken by residents in areas located near dispensaries in Oakland to see what their complaints have been and what the legal outcomes of those complaints have been. Does the non-profit looking to open a dispensary have a plan for this in the event that their "family friendly" approach to a medical marijauna dispensary actually has some detrimental community impact? Also, perhaps the City would be wise to see that it's actually NOT easy to shut down a dispensary and can eat up hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees if it came to that - i have a hard time believing that any new dispensary proposed would shut down so willingly once established. Though dispensaries are non-profits, that typically have tons of cash to oppose any such effort by a city. I agree that people should have legal access to medical marijuana and think the laws should be changed and regulations put in place so this can happen, but sharing this belief and set of values shouldn't mean that we have to ignore the realities surrounding dispensaries as they are now.

    1. These are valid points to raise in order to start the discussion and gather information. The Council and residents should be fully informed before lifting the current ban.

      First, under our model, any Federal liability is borne by the privately organized dispensary, and not the City of Emeryville.

      Moreover, before moving forward, we want the Task Force to review & report on the effects that other dispensaries have had on surrounding communities.

      And lastly, about closure, the legal costs would be minimal because the federal government (and its numerous agencies with oversight) have been quick to take the lead & aid local communities that oppose dispensaries.

      All of these issues should be reviewed independently by the Council and its Task Force.