Pubdate: Wed, 6 Apr 2011
Source: San Diego Union Tribune (CA)
Copyright: 2011 Union-Tribune Publishing Co.
Note: Seldom prints LTEs from outside it's circulation area.
Author: Christopher Cadelago
Cited: Americans for Safe Access
Bookmark: (California)
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal - U.S.)


Some Worry About Supply During Transition

With the City Council prepared to ratify medical marijuana 
restrictions, patients, collectives and cannabis advocates are 
calling on the city to relax aspects of the rules in advance of a 
final vote Tuesday.

The regulations would require every storefront collective in the city 
to close and then apply for an operating permit, temporarily blocking 
access to thousands of people with doctors' permission to use medical 

The permit process could take more than a year, depending on the 
amount of opposition. While it remains unclear how many collectives 
would eventually be allowed to operate, there's universal agreement 
that it would be far fewer than the 165 that now exist.

Medical marijuana advocates contend that patients and providers 
should not be zoned into far-flung industrial areas and forced to go 
through a restrictive compliance process. In addition to expected 
litigation - initiated either by medical marijuana interests or city 
attorneys - another concern has emerged as the most immediate.

"Where are patients going to go in the meantime?" said Michelle 
Medina, general manager of Higher Healing Patients Association. "Many 
of them don't have transportation, so how are they going to get to 
another area? There's a large part of society that doesn't have a 
caregiver and doesn't have the resources to grow their own medicine. 
They are the real victims here."

Fifteen months ago Vey Linville was referred to the University of 
California San Diego for a double-lung transplant. Despite his 
primary pulmonary failure, he declined, instead opting to combine 
Everclear with cannabis concentrates and drinking the mixture over 10 
weeks. Now down to small doses, he worries about the potential lack of access.

"To maintain any kind of safe access, there has to be some kind of 
grace period, some kind of compliance period or we are hanging every 
patient in the county out to dry," said Linville, 50, who lives in 
Spring Valley and visits dispensaries in San Diego. "We have people 
in the middle of chemotherapy and on dialysis. Are they supposed to 
drive to Los Angeles?"

Linville, oxygen tank in tow, said he would "figure something out" to 
get medical marijuana. "But there are a lot of people in convalescent 
homes and hospice care that are in the middle of dying," he said. 
"They don't deserve this from their government."

At least 50,000 people living in the county have doctors' 
recommendations for medical marijuana, according to the San Diego 
chapter of Americans for Safe Access, an organization that promotes 
safe and legal access to cannabis for therapeutic use and research.

Of those, 704 patients have active medical marijuana identification 
cards, said Ron Owens, spokesman for the California Department of 
Public Health. The identification card program, which was initially 
challenged by San Diego County, is meant to shield qualified patients 
from criminal prosecution.

Cities and counties have struggled to deal with the proliferation of 
dispensaries since state voters approved marijuana for medical use in 
1996, and most municipalities were slow to set clear rules for 
storefront operators.

Anti-drug coalitions maintain that over time the initiative became 
less about the terminally ill and more about an industry of drug 
legalization. Paul Chabot, founder of the Coalition for a Drug-Free 
California, faulted San Diego for restricting dispensaries rather 
than pursuing a blanket ban.

"Once you let them in, it's like letting cancer into your body. You 
have to search everywhere, and it starts to take over everything," 
Chabot said. "Pot shops don't cure cancer; rather, they themselves 
are a cancer to the community."

Madeline Kerlin, 49, supports efforts to crack down on dispensaries 
despite using medical marijuana for more than a decade. Suffering 
from neurofibromatosis, a genetic disorder that causes tumors to grow 
in the nervous system, she says cannabis saved her life. Still, 
Kerlin quit last year because of "unforeseen problems it has created, 
including the loss of respect and dignity that I once had in my community."

"The responsibility and the respect of the law has been lost and has 
gotten out of control," she said. "It is being used for an excuse to 
party, be disrespectful, to sell illegal drugs and even (for) 
landowners and property managers to be dishonest, which creates an 
unfair housing issue and unsafe neighborhoods."

The two city ordinances would limit dispensaries to some commercial 
and industrial zones. Cooperatives would have to be at least 600 feet 
from each other as well as schools, playgrounds, libraries, child 
care and youth facilities, parks and churches.

They also must operate as nonprofits, have curtailed business hours 
and hire security guards.

Americans for Safe Access wants the following amendments: a two-year 
compliance period for existing collectives; allowing storefronts in 
all commercial and industrial areas; and reducing the proximity 
restriction to 600 feet from schools. In addition, members want the 
approval process to mirror that of pharmacies.
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake