San Diego County has long been a Republican fiefdom. But in a county moving towards acceptance of the adult, or recreational, use of cannabis, officials have stayed steadfast in their old-guard, prohibitionist approach to governance.
In November 2016, Proposition 64 passed with the support of 57 percent of California voters and 57 percent of San Diego County voters. The ballot measure allowed local cities and counties to grant permits to legally sell personal quantities of cannabis to any adult over the age of 21.
Yet, despite overwhelming support among their constituency, three of the five members of the San Diego County Board of Supervisors put a ban on all commercial cannabis activity in the unincorporated areas of the county.
Have those members of the Board of Supervisors forgotten the oath they swore as elected officials, to uphold the will of the people and ratify it into law? If these members are so clearly ignoring the public will in favor of their own beliefs, then they are definitionally derelict in their duties as elected officials in a representative democracy.
Prop 64 gave local municipalities the ability to opt out of a licensing system and that’s what the board is doing. Proponents of the ban argue that the board is acting within the structure of the law, and of course this is true. But that does not mean that what they are doing is morally justifiable.
Perhaps the most insidious aspect of this ban is its direct targeting of terminally ill individuals. Not only does the ban forbid retailers and delivery services from selling recreational cannabis, but it mandates that even currently licensed medical cannabis operations close their doors before 2022.
This is an egregious step that defies both logic and ethics. Patients suffering from terminal diseases like cancer, Parkinson’s, AIDS and a host of other afflictions use medical cannabis to treat lack of appetite, chronic pain, depression and a myriad of other symptoms. Hundreds of thousands of people in America use cannabis for bona fide medical purposes, a practice of which 94 percent of Americans approve.
Those 94 percent of Americans believe in safe, legal access to medical cannabis for patients. Coincidentally, 94 percent of Americans also support the Equal Rights Amendment. By blocking access to medical cannabis in the unincorporated areas of San Diego County, the Board of Supervisors has taken a step as unpopular as allowing workplace discrimination based on race.
Comparisons aside, it is cruel to deny terminally ill patients access to medicine they are prescribed. Cancer patients should not have to make themselves criminals to access the medicine they need.
While, of course, there are patients in the unincorporated county who can drive to San Diego City, where retail sales of cannabis are legal, to pick up their medicine, there are undoubtedly patients who are home-bound who will not able to do this.
The current Board of Supervisors is neither concerned with increasing county tax revenue for public programs nor the welfare of the most vulnerable living among us. This shameful failure has placed increased importance on the upcoming 2018 Board of Supervisors elections, the most hotly contested of which is the race for District 4, a seat representing the city of San Diego. This seat is currently occupied by termed-out Supervisor Ron Roberts, who voted against the ban in March of 2017, but has since endorsed a prohibitionist candidate to replace him.
With so much at stake, seasoned political veterans have flocked to the race for District 4. The aforementioned prohibitionist candidate is former San Diego County District Attorney and Republican Bonnie Dumanis, who’s interminable career in public life has been a series of questionable dealings and scandals, seeks to pad her already quarter-million-dollar pension with a run for the board. Running on a prohibitionist platform, Dumanis is endorsed by all five of the current supervisors.
She’s expected to face former Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher in the November general election. Fletcher is a United States Marine Corps veteran who has seen first-hand the benefits of medical cannabis. He also supports adult use legalization, which has earned him the endorsement of a plethora of major industry leaders.
Fletcher alone can’t repeal the county’s cannabis ban, but his victory would be a start, and his voice could help change the conversation.
Voters within San Diego have a very important decision on their hands come November. The question is simple — to let terminally ill patients suffer, or allow them relief? To tax and regulate a product legalized with both state and local support, or allow a vacuum of demand to be filled by criminals peddling untested and untaxed merchandise?