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Medical Marijuana Dispensaries On The Ballot In Four Cities

Evening Edition

Medical marijuana has been legal in California since 1996. But today in San Diego County, many patients are having trouble getting their hands on the drug. That’s because all of the openly operating storefronts that sell marijuana have been shut down. In response, activists in four local cities have placed measures to authorize medical marijuana dispensaries on the November ballot. KPBS Health Reporter Kenny Goldberg tells us even if the measures win, patients might ultimately lose.

Aired 10/1/12 on KPBS Midday Edition.


Alex Kreit, Associate Professor Director, Center for Law and Social Justice, Thomas Jefferson School of Law, former chairman San Diego Medical Marijuana Task Force.

Kenny Goldberg, Health Reporter, KPBS.


KPBS Evening Edition

Alex Kreit, Medical Marijuana

Alex Kreit, an associate professor and director of the Center for Law and Social Justice, at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, talks to KPBS about medical marijuana.

Medical marijuana has been legal in California since 1996. But today in San Diego County, many patients are having trouble getting their hands on the drug.

That’s because all of the openly operating storefronts that sell marijuana have been shut down.

The Mother Earth Alternative Healing Cooperative was the last licensed medica...
Enlarge this image

Above: The Mother Earth Alternative Healing Cooperative was the last licensed medical marijuana co-op in San Diego County. It closed its doors in September 2012.

In response, activists in four local cities have placed measures to authorize medical marijuana dispensaries on the November ballot.

But even if the measures win, patients might ultimately lose.

Vey Linville has severe emphysema. He needs bottled oxygen to survive.

When Linville was first diagnosed, doctors told him without a double lung transplant, he’d soon be dead.

Linville got his affairs in order.

Then one day when he was searching on the Internet, he discovered a treatment for breathing problems that used to be widely prescribed in the 1800s, Tincture of cannabis. Linville found a recipe for it, and decided to make it himself.

"And I went out and joined one of the clubs, one of the dispensaries, and was able to buy a quarter pound of concentrates, that I put in a small amount of alcohol, and consumed over about 10 weeks," Linville recalled. "And instead of dying as expected, here I am, six years later, doing better and better."

These days, Linville uses just a few drops of the tincture in his tea. But getting any amount of marijuana is difficult, because nearly all local dispensaries have been closed.

Linville said that puts him in a tough spot.

"It’s immoral to make me choose between suffocating and doing business with a drug dealer," Linville argued. "This is not a choice that the patient should be faced with. It’s wrong."

Linville is with the group Americans for Safe Access. With the help of some local activists, they’ve placed a measure on the November ballot in Imperial Beach. That’s the town where Linville grew up.

A sign at a medical marijuana dispensary in Santa Monica is pictured in this ...
Enlarge this image

Above: A sign at a medical marijuana dispensary in Santa Monica is pictured in this undated photo.

Prop S would repeal Imperial Beach’s ban on medical marijuana dispensaries. It would allow dispensaries to operate under specific zoning and operational requirements.

Imperial Beach business owner Marcus Boyd is one of the driving forces behind Prop S.

Boyd became an advocate back in 2008, when his sister was dying in a local convalescent home.

Boyd says marijuana helped relieve her pain.

One night she asked staff for a joint. She wanted them to call Boyd to get one for her.

"They laughed, and a couple of hours later, she passed away," Boyd remembered. "When I found that out the next morning by going there, I made a commitment to myself and to her that I would make sure that people in need are able to find medicine when they need it."

Boyd says Prop S limits dispensary operating hours, and has more than a dozen other restrictions to protect patients and the community.

Nonetheless, Imperial Beach Mayor Jim Janney and the majority of the City Council are against it.

Janney’s not opposed to medical marijuana per se. He thinks patients should be able to get it. But Janney said the authors of Prop S went overboard.

"If it was as simple as saying I want to allow for three storefronts in Imperial Beach, they would have said that. But they didn’t do that," Janney pointed out. "We could have up to 19 or 20 of them, or more, depending on how you locate them. I think that’s way too far. I don’t think that was good law. I don’t think that’s really the way it should work."

Imperial Beach voters won’t be the only ones in November to decide whether to allow dispensaries in their town.

Voters in Solana Beach, Del Mar and Lemon Grove will also weigh in.

But even if these measures pass, there are no guarantees that any medical marijuana dispensaries will be allowed to operate.

That’s because U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy has been aggressive in enforcing the federal ban on marijuana. Working with the DEA and local law enforcement, she’s led the way in forcing local dispensaries to shut down.

Duffy has gone even further.

In July, she sent a letter to the City Attorney in Del Mar. The letter said city employees who conducted activities mandated by their dispensary ordinance would not be immune from federal prosecution.

Duffy declined to be interviewed for this story.

Despite the federal government's position, Vey Linville said there are tens of thousands of sick people in San Diego County who could benefit from medical marijuana.

"People with AIDS, people with cancer, that really are entitled to safe access to this medicine, as they would be to any other," Linville said.

Encinitas voters will get to decide whether to allow dispensaries in 2014.

Alison St John, Patty Lane and Peggy Pico contributed to this report.

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Avatar for user 'NiceDay'

NiceDay | October 1, 2012 at 9:20 a.m. ― 4 years, 5 months ago

Pot shops or dispensaries are not about the “serious ill” or “compassion”, which is why all 18 cities in San Diego county prohibit them and 90% of the cities in Califorinia. Go sit outside a pot shop and watch who their customers are, all young, mostly male, none serious ill. It’s a sham, plain and simple. It’s become quite clear “medical” marijuana is a Trojan horse for backdoor legalization. Law enforcement and public have become wise to this and are cracking down on pot shops for their unlawful operations and fraudulent “medical” assistance.

Pot shops make millions of dollars, which are then spent on trying to legalize marijuana and forcing cities to allow them to operate even though they directly violate the Controlled Substance Act. Any 18-year high school senior can go into a pot shop and buy as much pot as he wants, claiming “pain” for anything, and then use or sell to anyone they see fit. You can get a recommendation from a ‘doctor’ online for $30, without any real exam, this recommendation never expires nor does it limit how much pot you can smoke. This is not medicine, this is not healthy or safe.

Dr. Barbara Geller reported in Journal Watch Psychiatry on June 18, 2012 that 74% of teens in Colorado substance treatment programs admit to use of pot from pot shops. This example, with others, highlights what parents, school officials, students, and neighborhoods have found; that healthy young people easily obtain pot from illegal pot shops.

Also, pot users will of course try and claim pot is harmless, denial is a common trait of an addict. Pot is a highly toxic, addictive, cancer-causing weed. There are 483 chemicals in pot and when smoked or ingested and 4 to 5 times more tars and cancer causing agents than in tobacco cigarettes.

In 2009, the California Office of Environmental Health and Assessment Science listed marijuana as a cause of cancer. Pot is also known to cause respiratory and reproductive problems, mental illness, birth defects and irreversible brain damage.

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Avatar for user 'jway'

jway | October 1, 2012 at 10:25 a.m. ― 4 years, 5 months ago

American taxpayers are being forced to pay $40 Billion a year for a prohibition that causes 10,000 brutal murders & 800,000 needless arrests each year, but which doesn't even stop CHILDREN getting marijuana.

After seventy-five years of prohibition, it's obvious that the federal marijuana prohibition causes FAR more harm than good and must END! Drug Dealers Don't Card, Supermarkets Do.

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Avatar for user 'Mocha'

Mocha | October 1, 2012 at 10:54 a.m. ― 4 years, 5 months ago

I agree with Mayor Janney and oppose pot shops in IB. If the ordinance passes, IB will become a pot sanctuary city, not good for its image, residents, or businesses. Prospective and current pot shop owners have put $50,000 dollars to try to get enough votes to pass this illegal ordinance. IB is fighting for its life against the financial strengths of the pro-pot lobby and their pot shop owners. Pot shops facility abuse and access to fraudulent “medical” use of pot, this is harmful and not safe.

Let’s listen to community members and not pro-pot lobbyists and prospective pot shop owners who look to make a profit off our healthy young people. Proposition 215 and SB 420 don’t mention marijuana dispensary storefronts and the State Attorney General marijuana guidelines on this issue states, “Although marijuana dispensaries have been operating in California for years, dispensaries, as such, are notrecognized under the law.” Nowhere in California’s laws or the State Attorney General’s marijuana guidelines does it allow marijuana to be sold. California laws allow for caregivers and their marijuana users to gather collectively to operate in a closed circuit network, but not for profit as a commercial enterprise. Nobody is getting in the way of this true relationship.

It’s also important to refute the need of illegal pot shops, because there are hundreds of delivery services found online fighting for business that will delivery 24/7 to your door. There is no need for pot shops, but shop owners will falsely claim their operations are legal and needed, just so they can make a profit in IB.

Let’s vote no against pot shops this November.

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Avatar for user 'NeedToBreathe'

NeedToBreathe | October 1, 2012 at 3 p.m. ― 4 years, 5 months ago

Your use of derogatory language is demeaning to the handicapped, to the disabled, and to sick and dying patients. I am not a criminal, and I refused to be treated as if I were. It is inappropriate.
You can call me names, you can call my medicine names, and you can call places to get my medicine names; but I will continue to faithfully exercise my right as a free American to use a legal medicine recommended by my doctor, and to tell others what it has done for me.
Your pernicious arguments go on and on, and they sound more and more like Hate Speech. Collectives are legal, with or without a storefront; and the courts maintain that cities cannot ban them.
Proposition S provides for safe, regulated, and open access to a legal medicine by patients as provided for by California law. It balances carefully the concerns of the community with access for patients.
We are not criminals. Vote YES on S.

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Avatar for user 'HealthFirst'

HealthFirst | October 1, 2012 at 5:08 p.m. ― 4 years, 5 months ago

Because ASA or pro-pot lobbyist say marijuana is medicine, doesn’t make it so.  Marijuana shops that sell “Medical Marijuana” makes a mockery of medicine. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is responsible to regulate ALL medications.  So why would “medical marijuana" be exempt from the usual monitoring and safety regulations, especially given that we know significant risks are involved with its use? And since when can a 18-year old kid with no license or schooling sell “medicine”, it’s ridicules, and of course fraudulent at best.  The courts have agreed cities and counties can prohibit marijuana shops, which is why none of the cities in SD county allows them.

In California with a recommendation from a doctor for any ailment, you can use marijuana, but there is no stipulation as to dose or frequency of administration, or for standard follow-up appointments to determine whether the marijuana is helpful or is causing side effects. For those people in whom marijuana induces a negativereaction in the form of an addiction, lowered motivation, paranoia or even schizophrenia, no mechanism exists for the physician to monitor or halt use of the drug if the patient wishes to continue using it against medical advice.There is no quality control to regulate the potency of the active ingredient or to standardize and safeguard the product being delivered.

“Medical” marijuana is often recommended for psychiatric conditions such as insomnia, anxiety and mood disorders — and often by someone who has no specialized training in psychiatric disorders. There is no research to support this practice, and it is not thecurrent standard to recommend marijuana for psychiatric conditions. In fact, marijuana is known to exacerbate and accelerate some psychiatric symptoms.

Until smoking marijuana for medical conditions undergo the same study, scrutiny and prescription monitoring as every other prescribed medication, deemed safe and effective by the FDA, and can be obtained by a licensed pharmacist, I don't it wise for Imperial Beach to become the home of the fly by night illegal dispensaries.

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Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | October 1, 2012 at 6:10 p.m. ― 4 years, 5 months ago

The same arguments being used against medical marijuana dispensaries can be used against legal medical pharmacies as well.

Prescription drugs are abused more than marijuana is in our society.

How many people have passed from marijuana overdose versus prescription med. overdose?

Marijuana is singled-out because it's a counter-culture product, period, end of story.

If marijuana were a product consumed historically by rich white old men instead of "hippies", it would be 100 percent legal today.

There will always be some who abuse dispensaries just as there are people who abuse regular pharmacies by taking prescriptions recreationally.

Just as we can't close pharmacies because, despite the abusers, there are many legitimate users, we also cannot lose mm dispensaries because there are many legitimately sick people who depend on them.

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Avatar for user 'NeedToBreathe'

NeedToBreathe | October 1, 2012 at 7:35 p.m. ― 4 years, 5 months ago

You can change your logon, but it does not cause your argument to be any less pernicious.
When Bayer sold Bayer Heroin (Trademark) in America in little yellow tins right next to the aspirin without a prescription in the general store, well, apparently that was fine with everyone.
The American government, through Health & Human Services, has now filed several patents on cannabinoid medicines developed from marijuana to treat Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s’, Stroke, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Emphysema, Diabetes and a host of other oxidative-related diseases. (We hide secrets like these on Google.)
Now Bayer AG has acquired an interest in GW Pharmaceuticals and their patents with the clear intention of owning marijuana medicines in America and the Free World.
I guess all that is all fine with you, too. In the meantime, you seem happy to allow me to suffocate until my medicine comes (very expensively) in a little yellow tin that says “Bayer”.
Once again, after a while it just sounds like Hate Speech. I am disabled, but I don’t want to be segregated. I don’t want to go back in the closet. I just want to breathe free and not be name-called, bullied and hate-mongered in the press by thinly-veiled public officials.
Yes on S!

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Avatar for user 'PaulyD'

PaulyD | October 1, 2012 at 9:40 p.m. ― 4 years, 5 months ago

See, here's the problem with comments like the one below this. People who are anti-pot are usually traditional, are afraid of change, and don't do the proper research. And then, you ask them this: "Why is alcohol legal?" BAM. They shut up. Alcohol is more dangerous, anybody can get it, and has one of the largest fatality rates. "well", they stutter, "alcohol is established in our culture. How would we celebrate without it?" Was alcohol not prohibited at some point? Is there not an industry making billions of dollars of profit from it? I You can even use prescription medication in this argument. Do you know how many people fake illnesses to get prescription meds? I can go to a doctor, say I have anxiety, and immediately have a prescription for Xanax. Are pills good for the human body? Come on, people. All that is happening at this point is a comedic drug war that is costing billions and will never end. Welcome to 2012. Things are different, times are changing, and people are becoming smarter. You don't believe me? Research the recent news about cannibinoids (CBD), a property of marijuana, and read about how it can halt cancer cell growth.

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Avatar for user 'factchecker'

factchecker | October 1, 2012 at 9:46 p.m. ― 4 years, 5 months ago

The National Institute of Health (the organization that the government always defers to regarding marijuana) has very recently CHANGED its position on cannabis. They have issued a statement saying that the schedule 1 classification of marijuana (which makes it illegal even for medical use) is, and I quote, "not tenable" and that it should be moved to schedule 3. The NIH has been researching lung cancer effects with cannabis for 30 years, and they have concluded that it does not cause cancer, and may even have a preventative effect.
Nearly every health institute (including the Lymphoma Foundation of America and National Association for Public Health Policy) now agrees that cannabis NEEDS to be available to doctors nationwide. Some patients truly need it for cancer and multiple sclerosis, some of them will want it for insomnia. So, what to we do about those people we don't think really "need" it? Leave that up to doctors- their medical career is on the line.
The average age of a patient is 39. They all have to consult with a doctor about their condition, whatever it is, yearly. Marijuana use outside the home will still be illegal, and if the person is caught using outside, they will lose access to their medical privileges. Personal use, not sale, in home only, really puts no one else at risk.
Cannabis has been part of the criminal culture for a long time, and I know that worries people. But right now, all taxpayers are paying for this marijuana struggle. If there was a regulated market to collect money from marijuana users- this very money could be used to combat any crime that may result. Don't like "stoners?" Let them pay for their own legal, criminal, and health issues instead of insisting on paying for their use with your taxes!
Is it a "back door to legalization?" Well, I suppose, but here is how it is very different- the distributors are only allowed to be NON-PROFITS. This is the MOST important thing to consider. This means that those who want to sell marijuana will have their profits strictly limited, which decreases interest in sales on its own. Any profits are passed on to the city- this has made billions of dollars for CAs school system.
There are "tax and regulate like alcohol" initiatives on the ballots in three neighboring states this year. I believe medical cannabis is a much better option because of the non-profit structure and strict rules about who is eligible to purchase or sell it.
If it becomes a drug sold like alcohol, anyone off the street will have instant access and distributors will be the ones making billions instead of the city. If marijuana remains illegal, non-users will constantly be paying to keep a substance technically less dangerous than alcohol and cigarettes which doctors desperately want to be able to prescribe, off the streets. Your money is going to fund a battle that will never end! Elimination isn't possible, but control IS. Support medical. It's the conservative alternative to legalization.

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Avatar for user 'boykit'

boykit | October 1, 2012 at 9:52 p.m. ― 4 years, 5 months ago

it amazes me that I still hear about people talking about how people should get arrested and ruin lives of people over such a stupid thing as a plant. I suppose if someone discovered that you can get the same kind of high when smoking red roses, they are going to make red roses illegal too and go get shitfaced drinking alcohol and run over an innocent family with their car while DUI.'s just sad.

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Avatar for user 'factchecker'

factchecker | October 1, 2012 at 11:44 p.m. ― 4 years, 5 months ago

Hey, HealthFirst, I'd like to respond to some of what you've said.
The case that you are referring to was out of Long Beach, and the decision that you're talking about was actually overturned. So cities and counties cannot ban voter approved dispensaries according to the courts. In our state courts, medical marijuana is legal, access is allowed and cannot be banned. According to federal law it is still illegal, and a man in federal court for operating a dispensary according to state laws was recently given a sentence of probation. This light sentence shows that the court system probably finds marijuana prohibition to be on the level of alcohol prohibition, and definitely that they are no longer supportive of convicting medical marijuana users.

Now to the FDA. Consider vitamin supplements- on the package it says that the FDA has not given it their seal of safety, but does this mean that they do nothing or that they are dangerous? No, it simply means that they are not to be considered pharmaceutical drugs. Pharmaceutical drugs are the ones who must pass rigorous standards and testing. The FDA deals with a specific type of medicine that has more of people's trust than herbal remedies, and they are very successful because of this system. The FDA has attempted to make a pharmaceutical version of cannabis, and has failed miserably. The FDA just needs to put their warning on marijuana and let people decide if they want to risk it.
Since pharmacies can't distribute herbal products directly, they tend to sell them in the lobby of the pharmacy area. This could be done easily, or doctors could work with growers they trust to provide marijuana or edible products needed. Knowing the strain and growing history of the plant is very important, because the wrong strain can cause anxiety in some people. Thankfully there are strains that reliably don't cause these effects. A patient with psychological problems should proceed carefully not matter what, though- remember that pharmaceutical antidepressants can cause suicide.
Here is another important fact- You may "feel" differently at different potency and dose, but because of the dose/response ratio, a small amount is basically the same to your body as a large amount, the "potency" has no real affect and is largely psychological, not physiological.
The FDA doesn't have the final say about what people want to use as medicine, and they continue to defy medical marijuana because it leaves them out of the profits. Hospitals and doctors, however, can and want to be involved with and profit from people's use of cannabis.
Courts and the medical establishment are supporting marijuana- this means that some form of legalization is coming in the future. Do you want it to be highly regulated medically or sold like alcohol on every corner and in every bar?

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Avatar for user 'factchecker'

factchecker | October 2, 2012 at 12:43 a.m. ― 4 years, 5 months ago

I'm sorry, but when I hear outright falsehoods, I have to say something.
The medical marijuana page on the site should give those of you on either side of the fence some real information- no opinions, just facts presented in a pro/con format. It's important to inform yourself, because there have been many changes in the last few years that have led medical professionals to support marijuana more and more.
It certainly isn't traditional medicine, but the alternatives- constant pointless drug war that mirrors alcohol prohibition, or total legalization- are worse in my opinion.
Think about this- decriminalization means that marijuana users have fewer penalties now than ever for their use. Possession is now just a fine. Violating medical marijuana rules could be given much more harsh penalties.

Marijuana is not toxic or addictive, it definitely doesn't cause brain damage or mental illness (!!!!???!!!) and after many years of testing, doctors haven't been able to link it to cancer (though with cancer it is hard to know what causes it), but they have found that it may prevent head, neck and throat cancer and slow the metastasis of serious cancers. These are scientific facts. This doesn't mean that cannabis is harmless, side effect free, or that it's good for everyone. It just means that it is safe enough according to the standards that we use in this country for every known substance.

There is no tar in marijuana, just like there is no tar in tobacco. Tar is added by cigarette companies to make their product burn more smoothly; it is not naturally occurring in these plants. What you observe as "tar" is combustible material, which can be dangerous to lungs, but is extracted by devices that medical professionals insist that their patients use. Medical cannabis prescriptions are given for either 6 months or 1 year, they all expire after this time. The limit per month in California is 6 ounces. Different states vary in the monthly limit they allow.
The two largest groups that use medical marijuana are veterans and the elderly. The many young men you may have seen around San Diego dispensaries may be explained by the large military population we have here. Would you like to restrict the options that a veteran has to deal with his pain from injuries he sustained in the war? Also, though they make up a large portion of patients, you may not have seen the elderly at dispensaries because they feel more comfortable with a delivery service.
I hope San Diego will support the medical community in this election, and if they don't, I hope it's not because of lies they were told.

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Avatar for user 'factchecker'

factchecker | October 2, 2012 at 1:06 a.m. ― 4 years, 5 months ago

One last thing, I swear!
Why allow store fronts if patients can get it other ways?
Because they allow a solution for patients who do not have a safe place to receive a delivery or to grow, these being their only other two options.
Store fronts are collectives of patients who donate to other patients who grow for them- exactly what is described by those who do not want store fronts- the only difference being that they have a sign and don't operate in someone's home.

More serious regulations can certainly be put in place that limit them, but eliminating store fronts really doesn't change much except for this:
The city makes less money off medical marijuana patients!! The store fronts paid rent, taxes, attracted business to areas, there were all sorts of ways that they paid money to the city that are now reduced. Why take less money from medical marijuana patients? It barely limits regular access, it's just an inconvenience and risk to the very seriously ill. There's no point in banning the shops other than appearances. Go ahead and take as much money from the medical marijuana patients as possible. If they all grow and share their own, we don't get the tax money!

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Avatar for user 'llk'

llk | October 2, 2012 at 12:22 p.m. ― 4 years, 5 months ago

There is no good reason that alcohol and cigarettes should be legal while marijuana is not. It's just a matter of time.

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Avatar for user 'Brockland'

Brockland | October 2, 2012 at 9:11 p.m. ― 4 years, 5 months ago

INVEST in the full legalization movement with stock symbol MJNA (Medical Marijuana Inc) -- With the most recent polls surging in Washington (37 and 23 point leads) and Colorado (11 point lead), ALL with majority support, there's no telling where this will go in November!

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