Scott Chipman and the Prohibitionists Clan Prepare to Threaten and Scare City Council into Banning Dispensaries

Scott Chipman, a paid lobbyist on behalf of a phony group called San Diegan’s for Safe Neighborhoods has been on a crusade against proposition 215 since it was enacted and is the main organizer of the prohibitionists planning on coming out to the SD City Council meeting on Monday. Scott Chipman has devised a plan that will attempt to divert the San Diego City Council’s attention from passing an ordinance that protects patients, to banning dispensaries in San Diego.

Here is a sheet of talking points he sent out to the prohibitionists clan:

San Diegans for Safe Neighborhoods Talking Points
When addressing any of these items, please make them specific to your neighborhood or circumstances to ensure that the City Council recognizes that although some items may be reiterated, they are different because of the neighborhood or circumstances of the speaker.
Thank you City Council for: In summary, our group requests the following be included in the land use and regulatory ordinances the Council will soon consider:
The regulations in this ordinance are the lowest level of regulations that the community can accept and there can be no compromise that could be made that will decrease any regulatory item in this ordinance. It is imperative that the ordinance that is passed by the Council today is at the very least what is in the draft to ensure the safety of our families, community members, neighborhoods and the success of our city.
Conditional Use Permit 4 (CUP) – Thank you to City Council members for making the permit process a CUP 4 – which allows the permit to be appealable to the City Council not just the Planning Commission.
Protected Use Locations: – Thank you to the City Council members restricting the permitting of Medical Marijuana Cooperatives within 1,000 feet from schools, parks, churches, child care facilities, playgrounds, libraries, youth-serving facilities, or other medical marijuana cooperatives.
Existing dispensaries must come into compliance with the new ordinance – Thank you for stating that all dispensaries must come into compliance, but it should be immediately. All dispensaries must close and reopen in compliance. Anything else allows for illegal businesses to operate in the city of San Diego.

Would like to add:
A Police Regulated Business Permit should be a condition of the Conditional Use Permit 4 (CUP)
I would like to request that a condition of the permit 4should be that Marijuana Dispensaries/Cooperatives be police regulated. A police officer should have the authority to enter these establishments to ensure that they are operating within the law, as they do with alcohol.

Documentation of the closed loop nature of the cooperative should be maintained on site for immediate inspection by law enforcement.
This ensures that only those individuals that are members of the cooperative and are required to have state/county issued cards be allowed to obtain marijuana for a medical purpose.

Residences, treatment facilities and public and private post-secondary schools should be included in the list of protected uses – Residences be included in the ordinance. This is where our children sleep, eat dinner and do their homework. Treatment facilities must be included in this ordinance. The individuals seeking treatment for substance abuse should be supported in their efforts to improve their lives. Public and private post-secondary schools should be included in this ordinance. Youth entering the college system should be protected as they enter one of the most precarious times in their life.

The CUP 4 should be reviewed annually – This allows for additional oversight for cooperatives to ensure that they are cooperatives that only allow members to access marijuana for medical purpose. This helps to ensure that they are not making a profit.

The ordinance should contain the following language: Under no circumstances may an applicant be granted a CUP unless it is located in an approved zone and unless it is located more than 1,000 feet from a protected use. No variances will be granted which would in any way run counter to the zoning requirements of the ordinance – Under no circumstance should there be any exception to the rule in this ordinance. Variance will not be granted.

Thank you to our community partners for your efforts, together we can make a difference.

It is critical for the medical marijuana community to prepared to counter these reefer madness views and the Chipman propaganda. Aside from the above talking points, he has sent out an inaccurate list of City’s who have outright bans against dispensaries and will tout it in front of the City Council urging them to Ban Dispensaries and suggesting that subverting state law is actually legal.

Here are our talking points that address the majority of the arguments brought forward by Scott Chipman:


Approve the ordinance with the following amendments:

1. Allow for all commercial and for all industrial uses to be included in the proposed ordinance.
2. Adjust the sensitivity use restrictions to comply with state law (AB2650); 600 ft from schools.
3. Allow Medical Cannabis Facilities to operate “by right” identical to land use requirements imposed on pharmacies.

Cannabis dispensaries have been operating successfully around California for a decade with very few problems. But since the legislature and courts have acted to make their legality a matter of state law more than local tolerance, the question of how to implement appropriate zoning and business licensing is coming before local officials all across the state. What follows are recommendations on matters to consider, based on adopted code as well as ASA’s extensive experience working with community leaders and elected officials.

In order to appropriately resolve conflict in the community and establish a process by which complaints and concerns can be reviewed, it can often be helpful to create a community oversight committee. Such committees, if fair and balanced, can provide a means for the voices of all affected parties to be heard, and to quickly resolve problems.

The Ukiah City Council created such a task force in 2005; what follows is how they defined the group:

The Ukiah Medical Marijuana Review and Oversight Commission shall consist of seven members nominated and appointed pursuant to this section. The Mayor shall nominate three members to the commission, and the City Council shall appoint, by motion, four other members to the commission. Each nomination of the Mayor shall be subject to approval by the City Council, and shall be the subject of a public hearing and vote within 40 days. If the City Council fails to act on a mayoral nomination within 40 days of the date the nomination is transmitted to the Clerk of the City Council, the nominee shall be deemed approved.

Appointments to the commission shall become effective on the date the City Council adopts a motion approving the nomination or on the 41st day following the date the mayoral nomination was transmitted to the Clerk of the City Council if the City Council fails to act upon the nomination prior to such date.

Of the three members nominated by the Mayor, the Mayor shall nominate one member to represent the interests of City neighborhood associations or groups, one member to represent the interests of medical marijuana patients, and one member to represent the interests of the law enforcement community.

Of the four members of the commission appointed by the City Council, two members shall represent the interests of City neighborhood associations or groups, one member shall represent the interests of the medical marijuana community, and one member shall represent the interests of the public health community.

Reason: To ensure that qualified patients, caregivers, and dispensaries are protected, general regulatory oversight duties — including permitting, record maintenance and related protocols — should be the responsibility of the local department of public health (DPH) or planning department. Given the statutory mission and responsibilities of DPH, it is the natural choice and best-suited agency to address the regulation of medical cannabis dispensing collectives. Law enforcement agencies are ill-suited for handling such matters, having little or no expertise in health and medical affairs.

Examples of responsible agencies and officials:
• Angels Camp — City Administrator
• Atascadero — Planning Commission
• Citrus Heights — City Manager
• Los Angeles — Planning Department
• Plymouth — City Administrator
• San Francisco — Department of Public Health
• Selma — City Manager
• Visalia — City Planner

ARBITRARY CAPS ON THE NUMBER OF DISPENSARIES CAN BE COUNTER-PRODUCTIVE Reason: Policymakers do not need to set arbitrary limitations on the number of dispensing collectives allowed to operate because, as with other services, competitive market forces and consumer choice will be decisive. Dispensaries which provide quality care and patient services to their memberships will flourish, while those that do not will fail.

Capping the number of dispensaries limits consumer choice, which can result in both decreased quality of care and less affordable medicine. Limiting the number of dispensing collectives allowed to operate may also force patients with limited mobility to travel farther for access than they would otherwise need to.

Artificially limiting the supply for patients can result in an inability to meet demand, which in turn may lead to such undesirable effects as lines outside of dispensaries, increased prices, and lower quality medicine.

Examples of cities and counties without numerical caps on dispensaries:
• Dixon
• Elk Grove
• Fort Bragg
• Placerville
• Ripon
• Selma
• Tulare
• Calaveras County
• Kern County
• Los Angeles County
• City and County of San Francisco

Reason: As described in this report, regulated dispensaries do not generally increase crime or bring other harm to their neighborhoods, regardless of where they are located. And since for many patients travel is difficult, cities and counties should take care to avoid unnecessary restrictions on where dispensaries can locate. Patients benefit from dispensaries being convenient and accessible, especially if the patients are disabled or have conditions that limit their mobility.

It is unnecessary and burdensome for patients and dispensaries, to restrict dispensaries to industrial corners, far away from public transit and other services. Depending on a city’s population density, it can also be extremely detrimental to set excessive proximity restrictions (to schools or other facilities) that can make it impossible for dispensaries to locate anywhere within the city limits. It is important to balance patient needs with neighborhood concerns in this process.

DIFFERENTIATING DISPENSARIES FROM PRIVATE PATIENT COLLECTIVES IS IMPORTANT Reason: Private patient collectives, in which several patients grow their medicine collectively at a private location, should not be required to follow the same restrictions that are placed on retail dispensaries, since they are a different type of operation. A too-broadly written ordinance may inadvertently put untenable restrictions on individual patients and caregivers who are providing either for themselves or a few others.

Example: Santa Rosa’s adopted ordinance, provision 10-40.030 (F):
“Medical cannabis dispensing collective,” hereinafter “dispensary,” shall be construed to include any association, cooperative, affiliation, or collective of persons where multiple “qualified patients” and/or “primary care givers,” are organized to provide education, referral, or network services, and facilitation or assistance in the lawful, “retail” distribution of medical cannabis. “Dispensary” means any facility or location where the primary purpose is to dispense medical cannabis (i.e., marijuana) as a medication that has been recommended by a physician and where medical cannabis is made available to and/or distributed by or to two or more of the following: a primary caregiver and/or a qualified patient, in strict accordance with California Health and Safety Code Section 11362.5 et seq. A “dispensary” shall not include dispensing by primary caregivers to qualified patients in the following locations and uses, as long as the location of such uses are otherwise regulated by this Code or applicable law: a clinic licensed pursuant to Chapter 1 of Division 2 of the Health and Safety Code, a health care facility licensed pursuant to Chapter 2 of Division 2 of the Health and Safety Code, a residential care facility for persons with chronic life-threatening illness licensed pursuant to Chapter 3.01 of Division 2 of the Health and Safety Code, residential care facility for the elderly licensed pursuant to Chapter 3.2 of Division 2 of the Health and Safety Code, a residential hospice, or a home health agency licensed pursuant to Chapter 8 of Division 2 of the Health and Safety Code, as long as any such use complies strictly with applicable law including, but not limited to, Health and Safety Code Section 11362.5 et seq., or a qualified patient’s or caregiver’s place of residence.

Reason: Not all patients smoke cannabis. Many find tinctures (cannabis extracts) or edibles (such as baked goods containing cannabis) to be more effective for their conditions. Allowing dispensaries to carry these items is important to patients getting the best level of care possible. For patients who have existing respiration problems or who otherwise have an aversion to smoking, edibles are essential. Conversely, for patients who do choose to smoke or vaporize, they need to procure the tools to do so. Prohibiting dispensaries from carrying medical cannabis consumption devices, often referred to as paraphernalia, forces patients to go elsewhere to procure these items. Additionally, when dispensaries do carry these devices, informed dispensary staff can explain their usage to new patients.

Examples of localities allowing dispensaries to carry edibles and delivery devices:
• Angels Camp
• Berkeley
• Citrus Heights
• Santa Cruz
• Sutter Creek
• West Hollywood
• Alameda County
• Kern County
• Los Angeles County

DISPENSARIES REDUCE CRIME AND IMPROVE PUBLIC SAFETY Some reports have suggested that dispensaries are magnets for criminal activity or other behavior that is a problem for the community, but the experience of those cities with dispensary regulations says otherwise. Crime statistics and the accounts of local officials surveyed by ASA indicate that crime is actually reduced by the presence of a dispensary. And complaints from citizens and surrounding businesses are either negligible or are significantly reduced with the implementation of local regulations.

This trend has led multiple cities and counties to consider regulation as a solution. Kern County, which passed a dispensary ordinance in July 2006, is a case in point. The sheriff there noted in his staff report that “regulatory oversight at the local levels helps prevent crime directly and indirectly related to illegal operations occurring under the pretense and protection of state laws authorizing Medical Marijuana Dispensaries.” Although dispensary-related crime has not been a problem for the county, the regulations will help law enforcement determine the legitimacy of dispensaries and their patients.

The sheriff specifically pointed out that, “existing dispensaries have not caused noticeable law enforcement of secondary effects and problems for at least one year. As a result, the focus of the proposed Ordinance is narrowed to insure Dispensary compliance with the law” (Kern County Staff Report, Proposed Ordinance Regulating Medical Cannabis Dispensaries, July 11, 2006).

The presence of a dispensary in the neighborhood can actually improve public safety and reduce crime. Most dispensaries take security for their members and staff more seriously than many businesses. Security cameras are often used both inside and outside the premises, and security guards are often employed to ensure safety. Both cameras and security guards serve as a general deterrent to criminal activity and other problems on the street. Those likely to engage in such activities will tend to move to a less-monitored area, thereby ensuring a safe environment not only for dispensary members and staff but also for neighbors and businesses in the surrounding area.

Residents in areas surrounding dispensaries have reported improvements to the neighborhood. Kirk C., a long time San Francisco resident, commented at a city hearing, “I have lived in the same apartment along the Divisadero corridor in San Francisco for the past five years. Each store that has opened in my neighborhood has been nicer, with many new restaurants quickly becoming some of the city’s hottest spots. My neighborhood’s crime and vandalism seems to be going down year after year. It strikes me that the dispensaries have been a vital part of the improvement that is going on in my neighborhood.”

Oakland’s city administrator for the ordinance regulating dispensaries, Barbara Killey, notes that “The areas around the dispensaries may be some of the most safest areas of Oakland now because of the level of security, surveillance, etc…since the ordinance passed.”

Likewise, Santa Rosa Mayor Jane Bender noted that since the city passed its ordinance, there appears to be “a decrease in criminal activity. There certainly has been a decrease in complaints. The city attorney says there have been no complaints either from citizens nor from neighboring businesses.”

Those dispensaries that go through the permitting process or otherwise comply with local ordinances tend, by their very nature, to be those most interested in meeting community standards and being good neighbors. Cities enacting ordinances for the operation of dispensaries may even require security measures, but it is a matter of good business practice for dispensary operators since it is in their own best interest. Many local officials surveyed by ASA said dispensaries operating in their communities have presented no problems, or what problems there may have been significantly diminished once an ordinance or other regulation was instituted.

Mike Rotkin, fifth-term councilmember and former four-term mayor in the City of Santa Cruz, says about his city’s dispensary, “It provides a legal (under State law) service for people in medical need. Because it is well run and well regulated and located in an area acceptable to the City, it gets cooperation from the local police. Because they are under strict city regulation, there is less likelihood of theft or violence and less opposition from angry neighbors. It is no longer a controversial issue in our city.”

Regarding the decrease in complaints about existing dispensaries, several officials said that ordinances significantly improved relations with other businesses and the community at large. An Oakland city council staff member noted that they, “had gotten reports of break ins. That kind of activity has stopped . That danger has been eliminated.”

WHY DIVERSION OF MEDICAL CANNABIS IS TYPICALLY NOT A PROBLEM One of the concerns of public officials is that dispensaries make possible or even encourage the resale of cannabis on the street. But the experience of those cities which have instituted ordinances is that such problems, which are rare in the first place, quickly disappear. In addition to the ease for law enforcement of monitoring openly operating facilities, dispensaries universally have strict rules about how members are to behave in and around the dispensary. Many have “good neighbor” trainings for their members that emphasize sensitivity to the concerns of neighbors, and all absolutely prohibit the resale of cannabis to anyone. Anyone violating that prohibition is typically banned from any further contact with the dispensary.
“The areas around the dispensaries may be some of the most safest areas of Oakland now because of the level of security , surveillance, etc. since the ordinance passed.”
—Barbara Killey, Oakland
As Oakland’s city administrator for the regulatory ordinance explains, “dispensaries themselves have been very good at self policing against resale because they understand they can lose their permit if their patients resell.”

In the event of street or other resale, local law enforcement has at its disposal all the many legal penalties the state provides. This all adds up to a safer street environment with fewer drug-related problems than before dispensary operations were permitted in the area. The experience of the City of Oakland is a good example of this phenomenon. The city’s legislative analyst, Lupe Schoenberger, stated that, “…[P]eople feel safer when they’re walking down the street. The level of marijuana street sales has significantly reduced.”

Dispensaries operating with the permission of the city are also more likely to appropriately utilize law enforcement resources themselves, reporting any crimes directly to the appropriate agencies. And, again, dispensary operators and their patient members tend to be more safety conscious than the general public, resulting in great vigilance and better preemptive measures. The reduction in crime in areas with dispensaries has been reported anecdotally by law enforcement in several communities.

DISPENSARIES CAN BE GOOD NEIGHBORS Medical cannabis dispensing collectives are typically positive additions to the neighborhoods in which they locate, bringing additional customers to neighboring businesses and reducing crime in the immediate area.

Like any new business that serves a different customer base than the existing businesses in the area, dispensaries increase the revenue of other businesses in the surrounding area simply because new people are coming to access services, increasing foot traffic past other establishments. In many communities, the opening of a dispensary has helped revitalize an area. While patients tend to opt for dispensaries that are close and convenient, particularly since travel can be difficult, many patients will travel to dispensary locations in parts of town they would not otherwise visit. Even if patients are not immediately utilizing the services or purchasing the goods offered by neighboring businesses, they are more likely to eventually patronize those businesses because of convenience.

ASA’s survey of officials whose cities have passed dispensary regulations found that the vast majority of businesses adjoining or near dispensaries had reported no problems associated with a dispensary opening after the implementation of regulation.

Kriss Worthington, longtime councilmember in Berkeley, said in support of a dispensary there, “They have been a responsible neighbor and vital organization to our diverse community. Since their opening, they have done an outstanding job keeping the building clean, neat, organized and safe. In fact, we have had no calls from neighbors complaining about them, which is a sign of respect from the community. In Berkeley, even average restaurants and stores have complaints from neighbors.”

Mike Rotkin, fifth term councilmember and former four term mayor in the City of Santa Cruz said about the dispensary that opened there last year, “The immediately neighboring businesses have been uniformly supportive or neutral. There have been no complaints either about establishing it or running it.”

Mark Keilty, Planning and Building director of Tulare, when asked if the existence of dispensaries affected local business, said they had “no effect or at least no one has complained.”

And Dave Turner, mayor of Fort Bragg, noted that before the passage of regulations there were “plenty of complaints from both neighboring businesses and concerned citizens,” but since then, it is no longer a problem. Public officials understand that, when it comes to dispensaries, they must balance both the humanitarian needs of patients and the concerns of the public, especially those of neighboring residents and business owners.
“Dispensaries themselves have been very good at self policing against resale because they understand they can lose their permit if their patients resell.”
—Barbara Killey, Oakland
Oakland City Councilmember Nancy J. Nadel wrote in an open letter to her fellow colleagues across the state, “Local government has a responsibility to the medical needs of its people, even when it’s not a politically easy choice to make. We have found it possible to build regulations that address the concerns of neighbors, local businesses law enforcement and the general public, while not compromising the needs of the patients themselves. We’ve found that by working with all interested parities in advance of adopting an ordinance while keeping the patients’ needs foremost, problems that may seem inevitable never arise.”

Mike Rotkin of Santa Cruz stated that since Santa Cruz enacted an ordinance for dispensary operations, “Things have calmed down. The police are happy with the ordinance, and that has made things a lot easier. I think the fact that we took the time to give people who wrote us respectful and detailed explanations of what we were doing and why made a real difference.”

DISPENSARIES PROVIDE MANY BENEFITS TO THE SICK AND SUFFERING Safe and legal access to cannabis is the reason dispensaries have been created by patients and caregivers around the state. For many people, dispensaries remove significant barriers to their ability to obtain cannabis. Patients in urban areas with no space to cultivate cannabis, those without the requisite gardening skills to grow their own, and, most critically, those who face the sudden onset of a serious illness or who have suffered a catastrophic illness — all tend to rely on dispensaries as a compassionate, community-based solution that is an alternative to potentially dangerous illicit market transactions.

Many elected officials around the state recognize the importance of dispensaries for their constituents. As Nathan Miley, former Oakland City councilmember and now Alameda County supervisor said in a letter to his colleagues, “When designing regulations, it is crucial to remember that at its core this is a healthcare issue, requiring the involvement and leadership of local departments of public health. A pro-active healthcare-based approach can effectively address problems before they arise, and communities can design methods for safe, legal access to medical marijuana while keeping the patients’ needs foremost.”

Likewise, Abbe Land, mayor of West Hollywood says safe access is “very important” and long-time councilmember John Duran agreed, adding, “We have a very high number of HIV-positive residents in our area. Some of them require medical marijuana to offset the medications they take for HIV.” Jane Bender, mayor of Santa Rosa, says, “There are legitimate patients in our community, and I’m glad they have a safe means of obtaining their medicine.”

Oakland’s city administrator for ordinances, said safe access to cannabis is “very important” for the community. “In the finding the council made to justify the ordinance, they say ‘have safe and affordable access’.”

And Mike Rotkin, the longtime Santa Cruz elected official, said that this is also an important matter for his city’s citizens: “The council considers it a high priority and has taken considerable heat to speak out and act on the issue.”

It was a similar decision of social conscience that lead to Placerville’s city council putting a regulatory ordinance in place. Councilmember Marian Washburn told her colleagues that “as you get older, you know people with diseases who suffer terribly, so that is probably what I get down to after considering all the other components.”

While dispensaries provide a unique way for patients to obtain the cannabis their doctors have recommended, they typically offer far more that is of benefit to the health and welfare of those suffering both chronic and acute medical problems.

Dispensaries are often called “clubs” in part because many of them offer far more than a clinical setting for obtaining cannabis. Recognizing the isolation that many seriously ill and injured people experience, many dispensary operators chose to offer a wider array of social services, including everything from a place to congregate and socialize to help with finding housing and meals. The social support patients receive in these settings has far-reaching benefits that is also influencing the development of other patient-based care models.

RESEARCH SUPPORTS THE DISPENSARY MODEL A 2006 study by Amanda Reiman, Ph.D. of the School of Social Welfare at the University of California, Berkeley examined the experience of 130 patients spread among seven different dispensaries in the San Francisco Bay Area. Dr. Reiman’s study cataloged the patients’ demographic information, health status, consumer satisfaction, and use of services, while also considering the dispensaries’ environment, staff, and services offered. The study found that “medical cannabis patients have created a system of dispensing medical cannabis that also includes services such as counseling, entertainment and support groups, all important components of coping with chronic illness.” She also found that levels of satisfaction with the care received at dispensaries ranked significantly higher than those reported for health care nationally.

Patients who use the dispensaries studied uniformly reported being well satisfied with the services they received, giving an 80% satisfaction rating. The most important factors for patients in choosing a medical cannabis dispensary were: feeling comfortable and secure, familiarity with the dispensary, and having a rapport with the staff. In their comments, patients tended to note the helpfulness and kindness of staff and the support found in the presence of other patients.

Patients in Dr. Reiman’s study frequently cited their relationships with staff as a positive factor. Comments from six different dispensaries include:
“I love this spot because of the love they give, always! They treat everyone like a family loved one!”

“This particular establishment is very friendly for the most part and very convenient for me.”
“The staff and patients are like family to me!”
“The staff are warm and respectful.”
“The staff at this facility are always cordial and very friendly. I enjoy coming.”
“This is the friendliest dispensary that I have ever been to and the staff is always warm and open. That’s why I keep coming to this place. The selection is always wide.”

MANY DISPENSARIES PROVIDE KEY SOCIAL SERVICES Dispensaries offer many cannabis-related services that patients cannot otherwise obtain. Among them is an array of cannabis varieties, some of which are more useful for certain afflictions than others, and staff awareness of what types of cannabis other patients report to be helpful. In other words, one variety of cannabis may be effective for pain control while another may be better for combating nausea. Dispensaries allow for the pooling of information about these differences and the opportunity to access the type of cannabis likely to be most beneficial.
“There are legitimate patients in our community, and I’m glad they have a safe means of obtaining their medicine.”
—Jane Bender, Santa Rosa
Other cannabis-related services include the availability of cannabis products in other forms than the smokeable ones. While most patients prefer to have the ability to modulate dosing that smoking easily allows, for others, the effects of edible cannabis products are preferable. Dispensaries typically offer edible products such as brownies or cookies for those purposes. Many dispensaries also offer classes on how to grow your own cannabis, classes on legal matters, trainings for health-care advocacy, and other seminars.

Beyond providing safe and legal access to cannabis, the dispensaries studied also offer important social services to patients, including counseling, help with housing and meals, hospice and other care referrals, and, in one case, even doggie daycare for members who have doctor appointments or work commitments. Among the broader services the study found in dispensaries are support groups, including groups for women, veterans, and men; creativity and art groups, including groups for writers, quilters, crochet, and crafts; and entertainment options, including bingo, open mike nights, poetry readings, internet access, libraries, and puzzles. Clothing drives and neighborhood parties are among the activities that patients can also participate in through their dispensary.

Social services such as counseling and support groups were reported to be the most commonly and regularly used service, with two-thirds of patients reporting that they use social services at dispensaries 1-2 times per week. Also, life services, such as free food and housing help, were used at least once or twice a week by 22% of those surveyed.
“Local government has a responsibility to the medical needs of its people, even when it’s not a politically easy choice to make. We have found it possible to build regulations that address the concerns of neighbors, local businesses law enforcement and the general public, while not compromising the needs of the patients themselves. We’ve found that by working with all interested parities in advance of adopting an ordinance while keeping the patients’ needs foremost, problems that may seem inevitable never arise.”
—Nancy Nadel, Oakland
Dispensaries offer chronically ill patients even more than safe and legal access to cannabis and an array of social services. The study found that dispensaries also provided other social benefits for the chronically ill, an important part of the bigger picture:

[T]he multiple services provided by the social model are only part of the culture of social club facility. Another component of this model … is the possible benefit that social support has for one diagnosed with a chronic and/or terminal physical or psychological illness. Beyond the support that medical cannabis patients receive from services is the support received from fellow patients, some of whom are experiencing the same or similar physical/psychological symptoms…. It is possible that the mental health benefits from the social support of fellow patients is an important part of the healing process, separate from the medicinal value of the cannabis itself.

Several researchers and physicians who have studied the issue of the patient experience with dispensaries have concluded that there are other important positive effects stemming from a dispensary model that includes a component of social support groups.

Dr. Reiman notes that, “support groups may have the ability to address issues besides the illness itself that might contribute to long-term physical and emotional health outcomes, such as the prevalence of depression among the chronically ill.”

For those who suffer the most serious illness, such as HIV/AIDS and terminal cancer, these groups of like-minded people with similar conditions can also help patients through the grieving process. Other research into the patient experience has found that many patients have lost or are losing friends and partners to terminal illness. These patients report finding solace with other patients who are also grieving or facing end-of-life decisions. A medical study published in 1998 concluded that the patient-to-patient contact associated with the social club model was the best therapeutic setting for ill people.

Dispensaries are proving to be an asset to the communities they serve, as well as the larger community within which they operate.

ASA’s survey of local officials and monitoring of regulatory activity throughout the State of California has shown that, once working regulatory ordinances are in place, dispensaries are typically viewed favorably by public officials, neighbors, businesses, and the community at large, and that regulatory ordinances can and do improve an area, both socially and economically.

Dispensaries – now expressly legal under California state law – are helping revitalize neighborhoods by reducing crime and bringing new customers to surrounding businesses. They improve public safety by increasing the security presence in neighborhoods, reducing illicit market marijuana sales, and ensuring that any criminal activity gets reported to the appropriate law enforcement authorities.

More importantly, dispensaries benefit the community by providing safe access for those who have the greatest difficulty getting the medicine their doctors recommend: the most seriously ill and injured. Many dispensaries also offer essential services to patients, such as help with food and housing.

Medical and public health studies have also shown that the social-club model of most dispensaries is of significant benefit to the overall health of patients. The result is that cannabis patients rate their satisfaction with dispensaries as far greater than the customer-satisfaction ratings given to health care agencies in general.

Public officials across the state, in both urban and rural communities where dispensary regulatory ordinances have been adopted, have been outspoken in praise of what. Their comments are consistent on and favorable to the regulatory schemes they enacted and the benefits to the patients and others living in their communities.

As a compassionate, community-based response to the medical needs of more than 300,000 sick and suffering Californians, dispensaries are working.

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