Earlier this month the city board voted to ban the sale of marijuana in Los Angeles. Not just voted. 14-0, unanimously, to shut down the 762 dispensaries that operate in in the City of Los Angeles. “Immediately.” All growers would have no place to put their product. All patients would have no places to pick up their medicine. The only way one could legally have medical marijuana would to grow your own plant, a process that takes several months for a minimal yield and high expenses.
Los Angeles is one of the leaders in the controlled access of this substance. But the city revealed an about-face. Police Chief Charlie Beck claimed that most pot shops in the city are not medical dispensaries but “for-profit businesses engaged in the sale of recreational marijuana to healthy young adults.” He cited the heavy increase in crime around the dispensaries, including armed robberies, murders, and the likes. City Councilman Jose Huizar, a champion of the ban, claimed it would make neighborhoods overrun with dispensaries safer. This ban would allow the city to remove dispensaries that do not violate any zoning or placement ordinances.
This is an interesting bit of politicking. But it has been spun around in circles, opinions replacing statistics, statistics replaced by guesswork, and guesswork replaced by controlled, privately funded studies. Let’s just cut to some facts – simple, easy to follow facts–and I use alcohol only as a counterpoint, as it is both legal, controlled, widely available, and popularized in our culture via film/tv/music. And you love it.
Fact #1: Every president since 1992 has engaged in the practice of smoking marijuana. Maybe not in office. But check out their college photos. Barry, Bill and Dubyah can’t hide it. Also, the Olympic God, Michael Phelps, loves the stuff, and he was on a Wheaties box. #rolemodels
Fact #2: 37,000 Americans a year die to alcohol abuse. No number is given to those who die from marijuana abuse. Because there aren’t any. But if you want to die from marijuana abuse, you would have to ingest close to 3,000 marijuana cigarettes to have a 50% chance to die.
Fact #3: 25 – 30% of all crimes in the United States are done under the influence of alcohol. These statistics, provided by the US Department of Justice, reveal that close to 5 MILLION crimes a year are associated with alcohol. Marijuana numbers pale in comparison.
Fact #4: Marijuana does NOT increase your chance of lung cancer. THC actually has properties that work AGAINST cancer and help most cancer patients in a variety of ways. Pain relief is an easy (and comedic) method, but also provides a natural, organic method to give an increase in appetite, sedation, and relaxation for the patient.
Fact #5: It makes the roads safer. Government data showed a reduction in fatal car wrecks in EVERY state that medicalized the drug. It also decreased the amount of alcohol influenced car wrecks as well. That’s right: it decreased the deaths associated by drunk driving.
Despite these incontrovertible facts, law makers, politicians, and general members of the populace keep the myth of marijuana, the gateway killer drug, alive. I am not saying it is without flaws. But no drug is flawless. Alcohol has been discussed. Opiates, a favorite of the 19th century, led to the ruin of many lives, and in the 20th century led to an addiction in users to oxycotin and methadone (legal drugs, somehow) in an attempt to be drug free. Cocaine is not only addictive but trickles down through society as crack, a drug notorious for plaguing and destroying low income areas worldwide. And methamphetamines, well, destroy lives faster than all these combined.
Los Angeles is a perfect laboratory for this democratic policy. A massive population means a massive hospital population, and there are more than enough patients to test the policy. Even the most liberal of prescriptions (“I have back pain,” “Carpal tunnel is acting up,” “I have anxiety”) are based in reality, as marijuana, believe it or not, can be more beneficial for people in these situations than ibuprofen or tylenol. A city as broke as Los Angeles could make a pretty penny taxing this source, especially the liberally prescribed. In this city, the supply met the demand. As it stands, marijuana dispensaries outnumber Starbucks in Los Angeles by at least 2 to 1, which proves two things: Starbucks is overrated and the citizens here have some taste. The quality and variety of marijuana available here is like going to Belgium for beer, Bordeaux for wine, or Japan for sake. The intense varietals, seasonal blends, whole new strains, and quite frankly, could change the way you look at “dope” forever.
Huizar and Beck get this wrong by looking at the effect and not the cause. Yes, crimes exist around dispensaries. But taking an entire industry and forcing it into the black market plays entirely into the hands of the Cartels. Crime will flourish and California will turn into Sinaloa North, as a ready and willing black market will simply pour their dollars out the border. Indeed, serious patients – those afflicted by cerebral palsy, cancer, and AIDS – have a legitimate bone to pick as a medicine that works is being removed from their use. And yes, drugs and money always attract crime. So let’s look at pharmaceutical companies, with their armies of lobbyists and human testing, who routinely push synthetic drugs with advertising on our populace, unaware of the long term effects of their drugs.
I cannot disagree: there are negative effects to having too many dispensaries in our city. That is certain. Yet too much of ANY industry is bad for a city. The same way too many Starbucks, too many McDonalds, too many liquor stores, and too many drugstores is problematic. To vilify a controlled substance for almost eighty years is one thing. But to remove a harmless medicine from the hands of the terminally ill is an injustice against society. To prevent people from using a substance that is both less addictive than tobacco and less dangerous than alcohol, just to propagate the myth is not only self serving but straight up wrong, can only be for political gain.
If there is to be any progress in the city, the Councilmen must not stick to 1930s style politics. Rhetoric is great to stimulate other rhetoric. But this is the United States, a country of progress. And this is California, our Manifest Destiny. And this is Los Angeles, where dreams go to be born, die, and reborn out of the embers. Why burn this one to the ground based on a misinformation?
Anonymous is a concerned Los Angeles citizen who had to say what many are thinking: this dispensary ban is silly.