November Election May Raise Weed Debate To New Heights

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Jim Finnel

Cannabis Warrior - News Moderator
CHICO — With more than 14 years of debate over medical marijuana already behind us, California is poised for even more cannabis conversation over the next few months.

For the city of Chico, those debates will likely revolve around an ordinance that will be presented to the city council Tuesday.

For the last three months, City Attorney Lori Barker has been crafting the ordinance expected to address zoning for medical marijuana dispensaries and regulations for outdoor residential marijuana gardens.

Although many cities throughout the state already allow dispensaries, Chico has taken a more prohibitive approach.

"We have always taken the position that dispensaries are not allowed under our land-use policies," Barker said.

But that could soon change, depending on the direction of the council.

In past public discussions on the issue, some councilors have seemed favorable to dispensaries, with Councilor Andy Holcombe advocating for a community marijuana garden at a recent council meeting.

There are others who aren't too keen to see Chico legitimize dispensaries, however, with Councilor Larry Wahl hesitant to open the door for pot shops because of a potential propensity for increased crime and negative impacts on surrounding businesses.

But aside from the issue of medical marijuana in Chico, there is also a movement the council has no power over — the comprehensive legalization of marijuana throughout the state.

In November, California voters will once again vote on legalizing marijuana. This time, voters will consider expanding the medical use of marijuana to recreational use.

The initiative certainly has the backing of some Californians, as more than 433,000 signatures were collected to get the measure on the ballot. But for many in Chico, the idea of legalized marijuana is concerning.

Assistant City Manager John Rucker recently helped to coordinate an event entitled The Great Debate, which focused on the issue of legalized marijuana.

Rucker, who has an extensive background in law enforcement, said he worries about the impacts to California if marijuana is legalized, and believes it will only bring more problems into the state.

"The amount of marijuana produced in the state could climb sky high, and bring in organized crime," Rucker said.

Chico Police Chief Mike Maloney agrees.

"Why are we not to believe people would not invest millions and millions into growing marijuana here," Maloney said. "This will become the base for the distribution of marijuana throughout the world."

Proponents of legalized marijuana, such as Chico lobbyist Max Del Real, argue that legalized marijuana means more money for a cash-strapped state.

"The fact is, it will bring in jobs," Del Real said, noting he sees an opportunity for hemp cultivation and increased tourism of marijuana grows, similar to what Napa has experienced with the wine industry.

Yet even if marijuana is not legalized and dispensaries are not allowed in Chico, marijuana doesn't seem to be going away. Neither are the discussions surrounding it.

As court cases are debated and laws are enacted, marijuana use still abounds.

And somewhere along the line, the state must reach a balance on the issue that maintains the public's safety while honoring the medicinal attributes of marijuana.

For Maloney and Ramsey, that balance can only be reached if and when the federal government acknowledges marijuana as medicine.

"If we're going to say marijuana is legitimate, there should be some mechanism to bring it into pharmacies," Maloney said. "It makes more sense. If it's a medicine, let's really treat it as a medicine. Let's really be legitimate about it."

The federal government's hand in California's marijuana debate may not be too far off.

Though the Obama administration began its tenure with a claim the federal government would in-essence back off on the prosecution of medical marijuana dispensaries and grows, they may soon be forced to take a greater stand on cannabis in California.

"The feds will have to do something," Rucker said. "I think we can accurately predict that they will have to get involved.

"Interstate commerce is a huge federal issue. If you have one state growing and selling marijuana legally, there's going to be a problem when the other states aren't."

But perhaps the far greater balance doesn't need to be reached between the state and federal government but between citizens themselves.

A law enacted as the Compassionate Use Act still has medical marijuana patients struggling to shed a stigma that is sometimes inaccurate.

For individuals such as Kris Kidd and Rosalina Acevedo, who suffer from pain and illness and who medicate with marijuana, looking forward is realizing a future without condemnation.

"I definitely see more compassion," Acevedo said. "I see a chance to find relief and not feel like I'm living in a closet. Seeing a place without judgment is seeing a ray of sunshine."

For Acevedo, a true solution to medical marijuana is a platform of understanding, where opinions can be expressed but the pain of an individual is still recognized as a priority.

Because as much as pot's proper place in society can and will be heavily debated, ultimately Acevedo says human suffering should supersede any political positions.


NewsHawk: User: 420 MAGAZINE
Source: chicoer.com
Author: Toni Scott
Copyright: 2010 Chico Enterprise-Record
Contact: Contact Us - Chico Enterprise Record
Website: The Politics of Pot: November election may raise weed debate to new heights - Chico Enterprise Record

• Thanks to MedicalNeed for submitting this article