City Council Approves Ban on Patients Growing Medicine in Private Homes in Imperial Beach

217795_141083492626993_140981395970536_234149_3394219_nImperial Beach City Council approves ban in violation of State Law on patients growing medicine in their own homes; patients and advocates are outraged and ready to turn to the voters in 2012

By: Terrie Best, San Diego Americans for Safe Access

Imperial Beach, CA – On July 7th, 2011, with a 4 to 1 vote, the Imperial Beach (IB) City Council approved an ordinance banning collective cultivation of medical marijuana within city limits including in the private homes of qualified patients.

This latest move by the council against California’s medical marijuana laws goes above and beyond banning dispensaries or large scale cultivation of marijuana in Imperial Beach. The law actually prohibits patients from growing small numbers of plants together in their homes. The ordinance now stands in direct contradiction to state law, which explicitly allow patients to “associate in order to collectively or cooperatively cultivate medical marijuana”. (CA H&S 11362.775)

“It’s not our job to sit up here and say who does and who does not need medical marijuana.” said Councilmember Bilbray just prior casting the only vote in opposition to the ban.

The ban comes two years after the IB City Council enacted a moratorium committing them to creating reasonable regulations and over the most unprecedented opposition the Council has ever seen on this issue. Throughout the months leading up to the final vote, over 700 hundred residents and local supporters of safe access wrote letters to city officials urging them to create reasonable regulations protecting the most vulnerable members of their community.

In response to pleas from constituents and patients, city officials offered claims of crime as the reason for the ban and decided to enact an ordinance that is in direct violation of state law.

The day of the final vote, a number of speakers from the community came out to urge the council not to enact the ban including Brianna Bilbray, Councilmember Bilbray’s sister.

In a moving speech Ms. Bilbray, a medical cannabis patient and cancer survivor herself, shared her experience treating nausea and fatigue caused by the chemotherapy she underwent using cannabis therapeutics. She focused on the fact that driving across the county to obtain medication to relieve the side-effects of chemotherapy was not something sick and dying patients should have to endure.

No one from the public that night spoke in favor of the ban.

“If you vote to approve this ban tonight, you will be doing so against the will of your own constituents who you purport to represent,” said Marcus Boyd, Vice Chair of San Diego Americans for Safe Access, the local chapter of the nation’s largest medical cannabis patient’s rights advocacy group. “Although you may think you are putting this issue to rest tonight, I can assure you, by taking these steps you are guaranteeing that this issue will stay front and center leading right into 2012.”

Boyd also spoke directly to the Mayor and each Councilmember, to Mayor Janny Boyd said, “I specifically recall Mayor, you instructing staff to keep politics out of this process. You have not kept your promise. You have allowed this bias and reefer madness propaganda to drive your decisions rather than facts and findings.”

Marcus went on to tell Councilmember Spriggs, “I’m surprised you Councilmember, of all people, allowed anyone to pollute your thoughts on this issue with misinformation, you are a chancellor at UCSD’s Medical Center, the very same medical center that was contracted and funded by the State of California to study only harm related to the use of marijuana as a pharmaceutical. And as you know, and can testify with authority, no HARM was found, in fact weren’t major benefits found?”

It appeared the Council members who voted to approve the ban already had their minds made up and nothing, including compelling patient testimonials, science, or actual crime statistics would change their minds. Each of them simply reiterated their weak positions before taking a vote against the most vulnerable members of their community and the objections of the community at large.

“I am very disappointed in the City Council vote” Said Eugene Davidovich, Chair of San Diego Americans for Safe Access, “the only next logical step is to place an initiative on the ballot, one that protects the needs of patients in Imperial Beach as well as addresses the concerns brought forward by the City Council, IB will have safe access, it is just a matter of time”.

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