Many Pacific Beach residents were dismayed on Aug. 13 to see a full page color ad for an illegal “pot shop” (collective) in the Beach & Bay Press. Not long ago there were 25 of these marijuana retailers illegally operating in PB and 250 in the city at large. Many of those were closed but more continued to open.
The current city ordinance is allowing “permits” to be issued based on a series of geographic limitations, but not based on planning group’s recommendations, neighboring business concerns, or past criminal records of the applicant. More questions remain.
Question: Are dispensaries legal?
Answer: No. The 2008 State Attorney General Guidelines ‘ensure the security and non-diversion of marijuana’ to a patient upon the written or verbal recommendation or approval of a physician and the patient’s caregiver can possess or cultivate marijuana for the personal medical purposes of the patient in a manner of a non-profit exchange. Selling marijuana for profit in California continues to be illegal.
Federally, the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) established a federal regulatory system designed to combat recreational drug abuse by making it unlawful to manufacture, distribute, dispense, or possess any controlled substance, of which marijuana is one.
California law allows for patients and caregivers to work together collectively and cooperatively to serve the patients’ needs. State law does not contain the language of ‘collective’ or ‘cooperative’; that is just a ruse to open a storefront, effectively pursuing back door legalization of marijuana.
California did not “legalize” medical marijuana, but instead exercised the state’s reserved powers to not punish certain marijuana offenses under state law when a physician has recommended its use to treat a serious medical condition.
Question: What is the difference between an illegal “pot shop” and a city approved dispensary?
Answer: Nothing, other than having a city permit and being in an industrial zone. The permitted and unpermitted pot shops operate exactly the same.
Both illegally sell botanical marijuana and marijuana products such as candies, popcorn, sodas, cookies, and hash oils in various unregulated amounts and potencies. Unlike filling a prescription at a pharmacy, a pot shop “patient” can buy as much as they want from as many locations as they choose for as long as they want. This puts lots of pot into our communities and into the hands of kids.
Question: But doctors are providing prescriptions right?
Answer: No. There is no prescription for marijuana and the “recommendation” process is mostly fraudulent. I have received several “recommendations” for pot myself. No doctor was present for any of my “examinations.” The doctor’s signatures were preprinted on the recommendation form. And, anyone can get a recommendation for any ailment, real or fake.
Question: But don’t we need “medical” marijuana for some seriously ill people.
Answer: Yes, and we have it. The FDA has approved several cannabis based drugs. Dranabinol and Nabilone are two. Unlike pot, these have been proved via double blind testing to treat specific conditions.
These drugs have been around for years but the pro pot and drug legalizers used the idea of providing “medical” marijuana to fool voters and get them to approve a very dangerous and destructive initiative (Prop 19). FDA approved drugs require prescriptions, testing, potency, frequency and duration of use, and are strictly regulated with follow up doctor visits. Pot shops (even those with city permits) are just illicit drug dealers selling for profit.
Our coalition members have visited and watched hundreds of pot shops, monitored their advertizing and their product offerings and watched who goes in and out. About 90 percent of customers are males under the age of 30. This is not the demographic of the seriously ill.
Question: What should be done?
Answer: We shouldn’t be fooled by this back door marijuana legalization of pot shops, with their diversion to teens and their message of normalization of drug use.
The California Healthy Kids Survey indicated a 70 percent increase among 11th graders in San Diego City Schools from 2007 to 2011. According to County Health and Human Resources, the average age of first use of marijuana is now 14 and nearly 80 percent of teens in county drug treatment facilities are being treated for marijuana addiction. And SANDAG reports 48 percent of males arrested for a crime test positive for marijuana.
Teen and adult use of marijuana in Colorado is twice the national average based on research by the Colorado Department of Public Health. For our kids, for our schools, for safe roads and for safe communities we should keep marijuana illegal and close down the ruse of medi-pot dispensaries.
And we certainly shouldn’t legalize marijuana in 2016. This would set in motion the huge machinery of “Big Marijuana” that is nipping at the heels of our communities. Like “Big Tobacco,” “Big Marijuana” knows the real money comes with targeting the young, building a market based on addicted young users. It is a public health tragedy that we can’t afford.
Scott Chipman is a parent and a Pacific Beach resident for 45 years. He is co-founder of SavePB.org, co-founder of San Diegans for Safe Neighborhoods and Southern California Chairman of CALMca.org – Citizens Against Legalizing Marijuana.