Pubdate: Sun, 25 Aug 2013
Source: Napa Valley Register (CA)
Copyright: 2013 Lee Enterprises


Legal concerns have doomed Napa's mission to provide a local medical 
marijuana dispensary.

The federal government's surprising shift in 2011 toward aggressively 
fighting city ordinances that support these facilities has made it 
impossible for Napa to move forward with its previously approved initiative.

Tuesday, the City Council wisely decided to reverse course and repeal 
the law permitting dispensaries within city limits. Legally, there 
weren't many other options.

Where does that leave Napa's medical marijuana users?

Most likely, in Vallejo.

Despite police raids and court battles in the last few years, 
dispensaries continue to operate in Solano County's largest city, the 
closest option for most Napa residents. At least one of those 
dispensaries, Enhanced Energies, offers delivery to Napa, according 
to its website. Enhanced Energies opened for business after the city 
of Napa unanimously voted for a medical marijuana ordinance 
permitting a city-approved dispensary in June 2010.

State and local laws governing Vallejo's dispensaries are murky and 
have been repeatedly challenged in the last two years after the 
Vallejo Police Department began a crackdown on facilities it believed 
were operating illegally. Two cases associated with those series of 
raids were tossed out of court last year and in April, Vallejo police 
were forced to return an estimated $200,000 in seized marijuana and 
other supplies to local dispensaries.

Decriminalizing medical marijuana dispensaries, as Napa Councilman 
Scott Sedgley moved to discuss at Tuesday's meeting, comes with its 
own set of complexities. It was the inability to control who operates 
a dispensary - to ensure reputable and legitimate sources are 
selected - that led the council to eliminate the possibility of 
decriminalization three years ago.

It was compassion, not data, that drove that campaign to initially 
get Napa in the medical marijuana business. Personal stories of pain 
and marijuana's anesthetic powers dominated that debate. The 
justification most often cited for the local need for a dispensary 
was the fact that 60 percent of Napans voted in favor of the 
statewide medical marijuana initiative in 1996.

There's no evidence that local support has since waned.

Where are those advocates to turn now?

The best answer, if inconvenient, is the federal government. It may 
not be the easiest course to chart, but it was change in national 
policy that ended Napa's initiative, and that is where proponent 
energy is best spent to reverse it. That means contacting local 
Congressman Mike Thompson and U.S. Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein.

Effecting change at that level isn't easy, but if the passion 
displayed in public comment at Tuesday's council meeting is any 
reflection, Napa has plenty of people willing to put in that time.

Napa's ordinance was designed to initially serve up to 8,000 
patients, although hard statistics on how many medical marijuana 
users live in the county were never cited during the seven months of 
public testimony that preceded the City Council's approval in 2010. 
Statistics from the Marijuana Policy Project indicate that there were 
553,684 medical marijuana cardholders in California in December 2012. 
Applying that number to the county's population would put local need 
around 20,000 users.

As one of the most abused medical prescriptions in California, 
there's certainly room to question the legitimacy of that number with 
an untold chunk of users falling into the recreational rather than 
medicinal category. But testimony in the last three years has shown 
that public sentiment in the city favors a local source for those 
truly in need.

It is now up to that group to start this fight anew.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom