Pubdate: Wed, 03 Oct 2012
Source: East Bay Express (CA)
Copyright: 2012 East Bay Express
Author: David Downs


Newly Released Police Records Prove That the Medical Pot Institutions 
Are Not Menaces to Society.

Newly released records from the Oakland Police Department provide 
conclusive evidence that the world's largest medical pot dispensary, 
Harborside Health Center, and the famed cannabis college, Oaksterdam 
University, do not attract crime - thereby refuting allegations that 
such places are menaces to society. According to records of OPD 
calls, incidents, and arrests, Harborside, which sees 700 to 1,000 
patients a day, was the site of just one arrest in almost four years 
- - and that involved a non-patient who tried to get into the club.

Oaksterdam University generated two arrests stemming from protests 
during the April 2 federal raid of the school. Eleven other recorded 
arrests logged at the location stemmed from police car stops, 
vagrancy, and other issues unrelated to the institution.

The Oakland Police Department logs were obtained via a California 
Public Records Act request made by Berkeley programmer Rich Jones. 
OPD did not respond to requests for comment on the logs.

"Harborside has a great safety record," wrote co-founder and operator 
Stephen DeAngelo in an email. "In six years of operation serving our 
112,000 patients, we have not experienced a single act of violence, a 
single robbery or burglary, or even a serious attempt. I am confident 
that our robust security presence has made our neighborhood safer in 
general, and on several occasions we have provided direct assistance to OPD."

Dale Sky Jones, chancellor of Oaksterdam University, wrote in an 
email: "We have a fantastic relationship with OPD. ... The only time 
we had interaction with OPD was to help them investigate neighborhood 
crimes (not school-related, just as a neighbor)."

Oaksterdam founder and former chancellor Richard Lee chaired the 
downtown area neighborhood crime prevention committee for two years, 
Sky Jones noted. "We have a strong history of improving our 
neighborhood, increasing foot traffic and small business sales in our 
area," she added. "In fact, it is sad to see how quickly Oaksterdam 
starts to deteriorate without Richard's stewardship."

Lee stepped down as chancellor of Oaksterdam this summer to fight 
potential federal charges after the college was raided by federal 
agents. Harborside could be raided by the feds any day, and is 
fighting forfeiture attempts in court this fall.

Medical cannabis opponents have long alleged that dispensaries are a 
magnet for loitering and weed smoking, as well as burglaries and 
robberies. In the Northern District, US Attorney Melinda Haag 
generally doesn't comment on her yearlong crackdown, but has said in 
interviews that medical pot clubs are a danger to public safety. OPD 
logs tell a different tale.

During the only arrest at Harborside on July 7, 2009, a security 
guard blocked Nai Saephan from trying to enter the facility without a 
doctor's recommendation and a valid ID. As Saephan left, he 
"intentionally swerved his vehicle" at Harborside staff, so the club 
called OPD, which picked him up on 16th Avenue.

In a review of non-arrest incidents, Harborside Health Center 
reported the use of a stolen credit card, as well as multiple 
incidences of found property, and a vandalized stolen vehicle parked 
illegally across the street. OPD also performed many car stops in 
front of Harborside, which is located at 1840 Embarcadero, "a 
favorite spot for pullovers from I-880, which are unrelated to HHC," 
DeAngelo stated. "I suspect that a comparison of OPD reports for any 
other retail store that serves 700 to 1,000 customers per day would 
reveal a larger number of more serious incidents than is reflected in 
the OPD reports for 1840 Embarcadero."

Over at Oaksterdam, at 1600 Broadway, police made many unrelated car 
stops on the busy thoroughfare, arresting three men for robbery and 
kidnapping with a loaded firearm at 5 a.m. on September 25, 2010 - a 
time when the cannabis university was closed. On July 8, 2010, three 
people were arrested for remaining at the scene of a riot and 
vandalism. Two were arrested for strong-arm robberies on September 
14, 2009, and two men for drunk and disorderly conduct in 2009.

None of the arrests were Oaksterdam-related, Sky Jones stated. "We 
cleaned up the streets of downtown Oakland, paid for and championed 
support for the Lighthouse Charter High School, the Fox Theater 
restoration, and the Ambassador Community Safety Program - so you can 
walk our streets at night," Sky Jones wrote. "We have been part of 
the solution for Oakland."

The OPD data is just a slice of the picture, of course. For a more 
sophisticated examination of the relationship between dispensaries 
and crime, there's the report "Exploring the Ecological Association 
Between Crime and Medical Marijuana Dispensaries" in the July issue 
of Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, in which UCLA researchers 
Nancy J. Kepple and Bridget Freisthler found that crime is not 
associated with pot shop density.

So what is associated with violent and property crime? According to 
the study: "... percentage of commercially zoned areas, percentage of 
one-person households, ... unemployment rate ... concentrated 
disadvantage. ... [and] the percentage of population 15-24 years of age."

This is the exact type of marginal neighborhood usually zoned for 
medical pot clubs. Scapegoating such businesses clearly doesn't add 
up, but hey, that's why it's called scapegoating.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom