Pubdate: Sun, 10 Dec 2006
Source: North County Times (Escondido, CA)
Copyright: 2006 North County Times
Cited: San Diego County Board of Supervisors
Bookmark: (Marijuana - Medicinal)


Supervisors' efforts to ban outdoor smoking, medical marijuana 
infringe on liberty

Friends of liberty in San Diego County suffered one important defeat 
and one important victory last week. Both struggles involve smoking, 
and both find the San Diego County supervisors on the wrong side of freedom.

First, the good news: The Board of Supervisors' errant crusade 
against medical marijuana was dealt another setback Wednesday thanks 
to an astute judge. While smoking is only one means of taking this 
medicine approved by referendum and state law, county supervisors 
opted to stand between the sick and suffering and their ersatz 
medicine cabinets - and trampled liberty along the way.

But the bad news is the supervisors didn't stop there: They voted 
last week to ban cigarette smoking in the county's 40,000 acres and 
300 miles of parks, open spaces and hiking trails. Clutching a carton 
of flimsy rationales, the supervisors - with the welcome exception of 
North County's Bill Horn - chose to dramatically and dangerously 
expand government's reach at the expense of today's pariahs, tobacco smokers.

Let's acknowledge that smoking, particularly cigarette smoking, is a 
nasty habit. What's more, it's one of the greatest public health 
scourges of our time. One careless toss of a cigarette butt can 
ignite a deadly wildfire; such criminal negligence is blamed, for 
instance, for the 2001 Alpine fire that burned more than 10,000 acres 
in East County, destroyed five homes and injured two firefighters and 
a civilian. Finally, anyone who's spent time picking up trash, 
especially along beaches too often confused with ashtrays, is all too 
familiar with the relentless tide of butts left behind after any 
sunny summer day.

But there are laws against littering already; should we ban eating 
takeout because some boors don't discard their food wrappers 
properly? Public education and peer pressure about the wildfire risks 
of cigarette tossing are already snuffing out that menace; should 
cigarettes really be forbidden around a campfire? And, crucially, 
it's still legal to buy cigarettes and smoke them.

Banning the practice in open-air environments such as parks and 
beaches is better politics than it is rational policy. The same 
health concerns about second-hand smoke that validate indoor bans are 
whipped away by the wind and open air; they just don't linger long 
enough for us to linger upon them.

Of course, the county supervisors are merely following a quickening 
trend. Del Mar, Solana Beach, El Cajon, National City and Imperial 
Beach have already banned smoking on beaches and parks, as have the 
city of San Diego and its Port Commission. Oceanside's Parks and 
Recreation Commission has recommended a ban on smoking in that city's 
parks, pier and beaches, though the council has yet to act.

It may be that Lady Liberty doesn't carry a torch today, but a cigarette.

Considering the chronic pain she must be in from a six-year struggle 
with the Bush administration, Lady Liberty may qualify for a doctor's 
prescription of medical marijuana. If she resides in San Diego 
County, however, she would be hard-pressed to get her medicine, 
thanks to the supervisors' other anti-smoking crusade.

This one is much worse than the just-imposed cigarette ban, however, 
as the supervisors' stand worsens the pain endured by real suffering 
San Diego County residents, such as Vista's Craig McClain, a spinal 
cord injury victim and medical marijuana user.

We hail Superior Court Judge William R. Nevitt's rejection of the 
county's challenge of California's medical marijuana program, which 
was authorized by voters in 1996 and enacted by the Legislature in 2003.

The supervisors' primary justification - that the state's system for 
regulating access to medical marijuana is rife for exploitation and 
encourages illicit drug use - is flimsy enough; after all, alcohol is 
abused far more widely but prohibiting that proved a disaster. But 
their legal argument - that the federal ban on all marijuana use 
supersedes state law - was rightly and roundly refuted by Nevitt.

The supervisors are set to meet Tuesday to decide whether to appeal 
Nevitt's decision to a higher court; we hope they decline this 
option. It's bad enough to get in the way of what ought to be the 
exclusive concern of a patient and a doctor, but the supervisors are 
grandstanding at taxpayer expense to deny suffering people their medicine. 
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake