Medical Marijuana Meets De-facto Ban

“Stop the Ban” coalition responds to 3/27/11 Union Tribune Editorial

There is a disconnect in San Diego that finds the Union Tribune Editorial Board, District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, and some members of the City Council on one side of the medical marijuana debate and the large majority of San Diegans, Physicians, the Medical Marijuana Task Force, and “the facts” on the other.

Today the Union Tribune printed an editorial endorsing the current medical marijuana land-use ordinance before the City Council on Monday on the basis that though medical marijuana may be effective in treating serious illnesses, it is largely a fraud that harms neighborhoods, is untested and dangerous, and that an ordinance that shuts down every medical marijuana facility in the city is “tough – but good – public policy”.

The Stop the Ban campaign – a coalition effort of LGBT groups, Veterans’ groups, Physicians, Clergy, Law enforcement, Community groups, and concerned citizens who have organized the largest letter-writing campaign in city history in opposition to the ordinance as too restrictive– would like to address some of the falsehoods advanced by the UT in today’s editorial.

The claim that collectives operate more in violation of the law than in compliance is false. The only reason collectives in San Diego are considered by the city to be “operating illegally” is because the city has refused to adopt an ordinance governing them despite years of work by the medical cannabis community for just such an ordinance. All evidence confirms that dispensaries have an earnest wish to be in compliance with state and local law.

The claim that a large majority of patients have no medical ailments is completely unfounded, unsupported, and an insult to our city’s physicians.

The claim that collectives are a “serious community problem” ignores that San Diego’s crime rate is the lowest it’s been since 1963 and that collectives are largely a positive influence in communities offering community services like libraries, yoga classes, chess tournaments, and health workshops while participating in food drives, street cleanups, and other charitable activities.
But at the heart of this great misunderstanding – the seed from which a terrible tragedy in San Diego may grow – is the notion that if medical marijuana is not treating end-of-life medical conditions that it’s use is illicit.

In addition to AIDS, Cancer, and M.S., medical cannabis is effective in treating ailments such as chronic pain, arthritis, and insomnia and many San Diegans and their doctors prefer to treat these conditions with medical cannabis rather that pharmaceuticals in order to avoid dangerous side-effects.

Lunesta – an advertised treatment for insomnia available in every pharmacy in the city – has side-effects including pain, enlargement of breasts in males, hallucinations, and increased risk of suicide and death. That means that somewhere in the country there is a grieving widower who must tearfully recall how his wife had been having trouble sleeping and began taking Lunesta – only to commit suicide. Medical marijuana has been studied exhaustively and can be an effective treatment for insomnia, which does not increase risk of suicide or death.

If this ordinance passes without being amended and every dispensary is “shuttered” thousands of San Diegans will have to turn either to the black market or pharmaceuticals for relief. Therefore, it is no exaggeration to say that if this ordinance passes as is crime will increase and people will die. Clearly, this is the wrong path.

We urge the City Council to amend this ordinance so that it regulates medical marijuana facilities without being a defacto ban that shutters every collective in the city. The people of San Diego want and need a reasonable, compassionate ordinance that guarantees safe, local access to medical marijuana for our friends and neighbors in our communities.

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