On a cloudy Friday morning, medical marijuana patients from all walks of life are pouring through the doors of the Inland Empire Patients Group in Bloomington.
Once inside, they select what is appropriate for their illnesses. The choices range from cannabis strains named Jupiter, Trainwreck and Afghani to baked goods such as lime cheesecake and pecan pie.
It is a similar story at such facilities up and down the state.
"We are seeing a huge growth in this industry all the time, with folks looking for alternatives to prescription drugs like Vicodin for pain or Prozac for depression," said Jan Werner, vice president of The Clearview Lake Corp., which runs the Bloomington collective and another in Corona.
Indeed, the industry has come a long way since the passage of Proposition 215 in 1996, which legalized medical marijuana in California.
For that reason, many involved in collectives or growing have mixed feelings about Proposition 19.
The proposition, on the Nov. 2 ballot, legalizes marijuana under California law but not federal law and permits local governments to regulate and tax commercial production, distribution and sales.
It is trailing badly, according to a Los Angeles Times/USC poll released Friday, which found likely voters opposing the measure 51percent to 39percent.
As soon as a visitor walks into the colorful waiting room at the patients group in Bloomington, one can see where Werner stands.
On a table next to information about holistic clinics, glassware operations and hydroponics, there are piles of fliers saying "Vote No on Prop. 19 and protect your collective."
"If the law passes it would create rules and regulations on who would grow and distribute, and in all likelihood that would be big corporations that would put the collective operators out of business," he said. "It's really a giant step backwards for patient rights because it takes out of the equation facilities like ourselves."
Werner also fears that allowing hundreds of cities to come up with their own ordinances to regulate marijuana will result in chaos.
Johnny Donna, chief executive officer of Og Genetics, a Hemet-based seed and clone company that supplies other growers with cannabis, believes medical marijuana has come into its own, eliminating a need for the passage of Proposition 19.
"Back when I got my medical card in 2006, there were 13 dispensaries in Southern California and now there are close to 1,000 because it has been proven to help people in pain," he said. "For that reason it shouldn't be in the hands of just anybody. I certainly don't want corporate America coming in and taking over the marijuana industry."
A growing number of patients flock to the Chino-based San Bernardino Patients Association, which has regrouped since people were arrested there earlier this year.
"We are seeing more people turn to medical marijuana as an alternative to pharmaceuticals and we are currently approaching the City of Hope in Duarte to include medical marijuana in their research," said Abel Chapa, president of the association.
In addition, thousands of people flocked this month to the Cypress Hill Smokeout, which featured a medical marijuana expo, he said.
Although Chapa admits to still being on the fence on Proposition 19, he plans to ultimately vote yes.
"It's because keeping it a criminal act makes criminals out of otherwise law-abiding citizens," he said. "If it doesn't pass, it will be a backlash against medical marijuana. We will be back to drug cartels selling it to grandmothers and law enforcement hauling those grandmothers off to jail for having it."
Lanny Swerdlow, director of the marijuana anti-prohibition project and clinical manager of the THCF Medical Clinic in Riverside, is very much for the proposition.
"If marijuana becomes readily available, alcohol consumption will go down, as will the price of cannabis, which people are currently paying as much as $400 an ounce for," he said "A number of collectives out there are not for profit in name only and they do not want to see that price go down."
Debbie Pfeiffer Trunnell
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