Pubdate: Tue, 09 Aug 2011
Source: Anderson Valley Post (CA)
Copyright: 2011 The E.W. Scripps Co.
Author: George L. Winship, Editor


By the time you read this online Tuesday or in the newspaper beginning
Wednesday, the City of Anderson's five member planning commission most
likely will have made a recommendation to either ban medical marijuana
dispensaries in the city or allow, but regulate, such

The matter is then expected to go to the Anderson City Council for
adoption, rejection or suggestions on modification.

This is a highly emotional issue that directly affects the lives of
many in the community, whether a person holds a doctor's
recommendation for legal use of medical marijuana or someone who
objects to any use of a controlled substance.

This is a difficult issue and there are many factors that come into
play. I envy neither the planning commissioners nor the council
members who must answer for their decisions.

While I realize there are those who openly and willfully abuse the
system for their own financial gain or personal pleasure, I have also
come to know individuals who genuinely need the calming and healing
properties of medical marijuana to alleviate a variety of physical
aches and pains.

Taking emotion out of the equation, let's explore a few factors that
may not be so readily apparent.

When the voters of California first approved the Compassionate Use Act
in 1996 allowing limited use of marijuana for strictly medical
reasons, no provisions were outlined in that law for the legal
purchase of medical marijuana. Doctors could recommend marijuana for
medical use, but they could neither provide marijuana nor aid the
patient in obtaining it.

Rather, it was assumed that patients would simply grow their own and
in whatever quantity was appropriate.

Some patients, particularly those suffering from cancer, HIV/AIDS or
other debilitating conditions, were unable to grow their own. Others
did not live in climates or habitats suitable for growing anything.
Some do not possess the knowledge to grow anything, let alone
understand the intricacies of growing marijuana where only female
plants produce the psychotropic properties that result in THC, the
active ingredient in marijuana.

While serving as California's Attorney General, Jerry Brown wrote an
opinion suggesting dispensaries, especially those operated as
cooperatives or collectives, was a legal way for groups of successful
growers to share the fruits of their labor with others less talented
in that regard.

Several years ago, President Barack Obama's Justice Department
publicly announced that its officers, agents and prosecutors would no
longer actively pursue investigations and arrests of those
dispensaries, cooperatives and collectives operating within the
guidelines of those states that allow the personal possession and use
of medical marijuana.

That led to an explosion of such establishments, including the Green
Heart in Anderson, a compassionate patient collective that has
operated without incident or complaint for more than two years.

Once patients were able to readily and safely obtain samples of a
variety of carefully grown, organic strains of medical marijuana
without the stigma of buying it clandestinely from some back alley
drug dealer, the popularity of collectives such as the Green Heart
grew exponentially. Owner Gina Munday said last week that her
collective currently has more than 3,000 registered patients. And
that, mind you, is in a community of just 10,000 inhabitants.

It may be difficult or nearly impossible to roll things back to the
way they used to be before Munday's shop opened.

Meanwhile, allowing a virtual monopoly to continue without competition
or regulation may not be the best choice either.

Whichever way the votes come down, some folks are likely to be
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MAP posted-by: Richard R Smith Jr.