The City Council unanimously passed an ordinance Tuesday night that prohibits medicinal marijuana dispensaries within city limits. The possibility of increasing sales tax revenue for the city was not mentioned.
Making his case that getting pot is already too easy, Mayor Kelly Boyd held up a local weekly newspaper that advertised free delivery to patients with a medical marijuana prescription card.
Council Member Toni Iseman recounted a personal anecdote: "I had an experience of sitting in my chiropractor's office who had sublet to an osteopath who was a marijuana doctor. In a matter of a half an hour, I probably saw five healthy males under the age of 22 walk in and walk out. It was a real eye-opener."
While acknowledging the need for marijuana for bona fide medical reasons, the council sided with Laguna Beach School District officials who voiced concern over adding the outlets to the city's list of attractions.
"Just last year, we had a young person in the age range of 10 who brought marijuana to school and several students purchased it. Several more students admitted to using marijuana on the weekends and on a regular basis," Joanne Culverhouse, principal of Thurston Middle School, told the council, adding that the students purchased the marijuana "from somebody who had a card."
A medical marijuana card, with photo identification much like a driver's license, can be obtained for approximately $100 from a county health department after receiving a prescription for the drug from a physician. There are more than 250 health problems for which it can be prescribed, ranging from cancer and cataracts, to premenstrual syndrome and joint pain.
One of five individuals requesting to open a dispensary in Laguna, Scott Monte of La Palma, said he represented a medical marijuana "collective," a licensed dispensary, and that purchasing the herb for relief of pain and other symptoms, requires following stringent guidelines.
"There's really no likelihood that a student could be a member given the criteria that we would go through," he said. "Our membership would be counseled in terms of their medicine and it's very unlikely they would have excess medicine in terms of something that could be sold more in a black market sense."
Nancy Robinson, a mother who has raised two children in Laguna Beach, offered a closerto home perspective on prescription Cannabis indica, which also comes in packaged "edibles" such as brownies, chocolates, cookies, cakes and lollypops for those who want to avoid smoking it.
"These kids know the doctors to go to ( in order ) to get these licenses," she claimed. "They all talk on the phone about who they're going to sell the pot to. Some of them can't smoke pot, it makes them paranoid, it makes them weak, it makes them sick, but they still have the cards just so they can sell the pot to these kids. These doctors are not being punished for giving these kids ( medicinal marijuana cards ). It's no big deal for these kids to get them. And when they get the pot, they just sell it for profit."
There are 11 internet-listed medical marijuana dispensaries currently operating in Orange County and 26 online delivery services. Two are listed in Dana Point, both located across the street from the post office, and one in Capistrano Beach, which listed no address and took only phone messages. According to information from the council meeting, the closest dispensary is in Laguna Hills.
"Whether a clinic's here or not, it's not going to solve the problem that the school administration has," commented Bill Roley, president of the Permaculture Institute of Southern California, college environmental science professor, former Laguna Beach Lifeguard and high school teacher.
"We're on a collision course with a cottage industry that's growing no matter if we deal with it or not," he said.
Rather than treating the problem punitively and using schools as "babysitters" for young people, Roley suggested that the schools make more efforts to get students interested in activities that they find constructive, preempting marijuana use.
"We're trying to legislate a morality situation and putting our heads in the sand, but it's all around us. Just by calling Laguna a pot-free city isn't going to stop the problem. ( Marijuana use ) a symptom of something much greater," said Roley.
California voters passed the Compassionate Use Act, Proposition 215, in 1996 by 52.6 percent. The law allows residents with a prescription to grow and possess the herb for personal medical use. As Section 11362.5 of the California Health and Safety Code, the act was expanded to protect a growing system of dispensaries, known as collectives and cooperatives.
"When my grandfather, who started a church and has never done drugs ever in his life, got cancer, we helped him get a medical marijuana license," Sheridan Linehan, representing Laguna Beach Medical Marijuana, told the council. As a result, Linehan said his grandfather was able to lessen his reliance on narcotic pain relief medication. "Edibles was the only way he was able to ingest it. Just like morphine lollypops that doctors recommend, we got him medical marijuana lollypops."
Laguna Beach High School Principal Don Austin said there are 216 students at the high school this year that are 18 years old, the eligible age for a physician's prescription for medical marijuana. The problem, isn't new he said, "Drugs from these facilities have undeniably been illegally distributed on our campus when the previous Laguna Beach collective was in place," he said.
Several local marijuana retail outlets were located in town in recent years, according to City Manager Ken Frank. The most recent, on Third Street next to the Laguna Beach Community Clinic, was closed in 2008 after investigation by undercover police, due to lack of a city permit to use the building for that purpose. Another pot shop was closed shortly thereafter, said Frank, on South Coast Highway at Mountain Road for lack of proper city permits, as was a physician's office near Broadway and Beach Street.
"His specialty," commented Frank, "was giving prescriptions to kids in their 20's."
According to Austin, a California Healthy Kids Survey showed that drug use at school dropped dramatically while off campus use stayed relatively unchanged. "We believe that one contributing factor to this phenomenon was that the structure our school provides is not always replicated once our students leave us for the day," he said.
September 18, 2009
Laguna Beach Independent