Pubdate: Tue, 09 Aug 2011 Source: Anderson Valley Post (CA) Copyright: 2011 The E.W. Scripps Co. Contact: http://www.andersonvalleypost.com/ Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/5046 Author: George L. Winship, Editor MEDICAL MARIJUANA DISPENSARIES HOT ISSUE 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 dispensaries. 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 disappointed. - --- MAP posted-by: Richard R Smith Jr.