Pubdate: Sun, 08 Dec 2013
Source: Napa Valley Register (CA)
Copyright: 2013 Lee Enterprises


The city of Napa witnessed yet another game of medical marijuana
tug-of-war play out in council chambers last week.

Advocates made points. Critics made others. Few opened themselves to
new viewpoints and the council heard the same impassioned arguments
for and against medical marijuana that have been made in front of them
for years.

It was disappointing in so much as the pros and cons of medical
marijuana were not the issue at hand.

The question in front of the council wasn't whether medical marijuana
is a good or bad thing for Napa. It wasn't even about whether a
Napa-based marijuana dispensary is appropriate. Those questions have
already been asked and answered by the city of Napa. It's how we came
to have a dispensary ordinance in the first place.

Last week's vote was about how vulnerable the city's ordinance was to
a federal legal challenge. Staff and the city attorney say they
believe it left the city too exposed to serious litigation.

In a 3-2 vote, the council agreed.

Too many in attendance Tuesday made the argument about something else.
Marijuana proponents, by and large, made their pleas to an already
sympathetic council. While many opponents spoke not to the legal issue
but to the dangers of dispensaries themselves, dangers the city had
already spent years working to minimize in the adopted ordinance.

This issue isn't as simple as a thumbs up or down for medical

Whether you are for or against improved local access, it is important
to remember that this vote was about legal vulnerability and not
morality or the risk of increased criminal activity.

Some public comment did acknowledge the true issue at hand and were in
fact pleading with the council to test that legal water. And to their
credit, councilmembers were weighing the legal element most heavily in
their comments and their votes.

Too often in local debate, the mechanics of the issue gets obscured
and forgotten in the roar of ancillary causes.

This was evident in the Planning Commission's approach to this same
dispensary ban. The planners, who voted 3-2 last month not to repeal
the dispensary ordinance, essentially ignored the legal issue
presented to them by the city attorney in favor of support for medical
marijuana itself.

Multiple commissioners encouraged the City Council to "lead the way"
on standing up against the threat of federal intervention.

The council decided the possibility of picking a fight with the U.S.
government wasn't in the best interest of the city of Napa.

The medical marijuana issue itself, however, isn't going away. Polls
throughout the country show public acceptance of marijuana use,
especially for medicinal purposes, is on the rise and the connected
legal issues continue to evolve.

Medical marijuana questions will be put before the city of Napa again.
When next such an issue is raised locally, let's make sure the details
get their proper due throughout the public process and are not drowned
out the way they were through this one.
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MAP posted-by: Matt