As a resident of the unincorporated Eden Area, I would like to share my personal opinion regarding the fact that Alameda County is considering an increase in the number of permits for medical marijuana dispensaries in the unincorporated Eden Area (i.e., Castro Valley, Ashland, Cherryland, San Lorenzo). The County is proposing one additional permit in the Eden Area, making the total number of allowable dispensaries four. Currently two permits are being used and one is unused.
Simply stated, I think that adding more dispensaries is a bad idea. I agree that marijuana may have medicinal properties, but I also know there are many problems associated with dispensaries.
Supervisor Nate Miley has suggested that the two dispensaries in the Eden Area are not meeting the needs of area residents since they have to stand in line due to residents of other communities coming into the Eden Area to shop. There are not many dispensaries in the surrounding area. However, I visited both dispensaries in the Eden Area and neither had people waiting in lines. I drove right up to the front of both and parked in front of the door. One had an empty waiting room filled with empty chairs and three security guards. I also hear there is now delivery service for patients.
At last week’s Unincorporated Services Committee meeting, none of the proponents for the dispensaries said they could not get their medication, but rather they mostly were upset with how their medication was categorized. The proponents don’t want us to call it marijuana, but rather cannabis. They don’t want us to call it a dispensary, but rather a club. They want us to call it medicine rather than a drug. I don’t see how changing terminology will change public opinion all that much.
Some proponents discussed how they felt marijuana was safer than pain narcotics or that it cured things no other medicine could. Nothing I heard indicated the need for more dispensaries or that the ones in the Eden Area were not adequate.
This subject turned out to be so complex that I did some research before responding publically to this issue. I found a comprehensive, yearly study done on Colorado after it legalized marijuana. The study was very informative regarding both dispensary issues and what happens after legalization on a number of topics (e.g., crime rates, DUIs, fatalities due to marijuana use, emergency room visits, levels of marijuana found in the blood of children, and other statistics). “The Legalization of Marijuana in Colorado- the Impact” is 170 pages of everything you wanted to know about what happened in Colorado. The information in the study is what experts are looking at when deciding whether or not to legalize marijuana. The process in Colorado developed similarly to California by first allowing doctors to prescribe medicinal marijuana to some patients, then having dispensaries, and then finally legalizing it, which is now on the November ballot in California.
I believe that abuse of the current system is rampant. The study that I previously mentioned has a chart explaining that those who reported using medical marijuana dispensaries included the following reasons: 1% Glaucoma, 1% HIV/AIDS, 2% seizures, 3% cancer, 10% nausea, 15% muscle spasms and 93% severe pain. (Total will not equal 100% because some patients reported using it for more than one condition).
Most of the dispensary patients were men. By national statistics on pain, there should be more women than men at the dispensaries. (See Scientific American, “Women Feel Pain More Intensely Than Men Do,” 1/23/12) Most of the patients at dispensaries are young men with severe pain, a subjective complaint.
Because marijuana is abused, it has a bad rap. Dispensaries that provide marijuana can be seen as a negative thing when new business is trying to develop an area. Dispensaries also have cash money going in and marijuana going out, which makes them a target for criminals wishing to rob them. The security guards wear guns.
The Colorado study concluded that after legalization, marijuana – related crime went up and that the majority of marijuana-related crime in Colorado was the burglary of licensed marijuana businesses. New businesses don’t want to be around all that. Neighboring communities don’t want to live near that. People who volunteer their time to better their communities, such as myself, would prefer if we focused on developing parks and increasing grocery stores. It says something about a community when it has more dispensaries than grocery stores.
Nobody is saying remove the dispensaries that we have, but the potential costs to our communities outweigh any need for additional dispensaries. There is no reason to provide obstacles to an already struggling community like the unincorporated areas. If the surrounding cities don’t want to host them, there must be a reason. It is likely that increased crime and enforcement monitoring outweigh any tax benefit from these dispensaries.
No one that I heard speak at any meeting gave any reason, either statistically or allegorically, that we need additional dispensaries, let alone that we need them in our area. A single unsupported statement that we need more dispensaries should not take precedence over the community’s valid and statistically supported concerns.
Some say “why should we care if it might be legalized soon?” Legalization does not mean you can buy and smoke it on the street. Marijuana would still come only from legally recognized dispensaries and would have a lot of rules associated with it. But that is a discussion for a whole other article.