Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Yes We Cannabis

Yes We Cannabis

            It’s a hot day, 93 degrees and James Olsen is taking a quick sip of water.  This will probably be the only break he gets in what has otherwise been a long day for him.  As he sees a couple of people walk out of the grocery store where he is stationed, Olsen scurries to them and asks them for a signature.  A signature that proves their support toward his cause.  A cause that will one day allow  Marijuana dispensaries to operate with a license.
 A proposed ordinance is seeking to lift the ban of medical marijuana dispensaries in the city of Santa Ana as early as next year.  Activists of this new initiative are taking action by collecting signatures all over the city.   Enough signatures would create a new ballot measure that would institute a registration system for these cannabis dispensaries. 

Photo By: Cesar
  James Olsen has been supporting medical marijuana use for 21 years. “I’ve known cancer patients where marijuana is their only form of pain relief after their chemotherapy” he says. Typically, a person suffering from certain ailments could be evaluated by a licensed physician who determines if medical marijuana would be a viable option to help with pain.    
            According to the OC register, the city has issued 273 fines and has closed 66 dispensaries since the ban initiated in 2007.   “It’s really just political rhetoric” says Jason White, manager of the Club Meds Wellness Center.  “The city deemed collectives to be a nuisance to the public but it’s unconstitutional when you think about it.”
             Most of the dispensaries are shut down because they are operating without the proper licenses or they are commiting some zoning infractions, like being too close to a school or neighborhood.   Under the new Medical Cannabis and Limitations Initiative, dispensaries would be able to attain a business license but certain restrictions would have to be implemented.  If the initiative passes, these collectives would not be allowed in residential areas or within 600 feet of any K-12 school.  Also a collective must have been open prior to December of 2011 to qualify and you would have to be 21 years or older to be a patient.  According to documents on the proposed act, any person involved in a cannabis business shall be taxed 2 percent.  That is, 20 dollars for every 1,000 dollars grossed.  “It benefits us both,” says White “we get our business license and the city will be able collect taxes from it.” 
            William Gonzales supports the idea and thinks that it greatly benefits him.  “I work the graveyard shift and I just have trouble sleeping when I get home” he said as he signed the petition.  “People just assume that it’s a bunch of potheads bsing just so they can get high, but it’s not the case, there actually people like me out there, who use marijuana for medicinal purposes.”
            “Like alcohol or any other drug, there are going to be people that abuse it” says Olsen.  “I just feel that the people who use it as a form of healing outweighs anything else.”
            Jose Orozco who has been living in Santa Ana for 26 years on the other hand believes that the city has come too far to be taking a step back now.  “When I was here all those years ago the city was bad, with the big turnaround it has made, there is no need for this.”
            Not only do residents complain of odor and suspicious activity happening around these places but the fact that several dispensaries have been robed races a red flag.  Authorities however won’t use these reasons to shut down the dispensaries.  Instead, they look at some violations like operating without a business license or being too close to a school as a means to shut them down.  They use warrants to enter the establishment, determines all the violations, and either chose a heavy fine to warn them or just close them altogether.
            Supporters of this initiative have until late January of next year to either submit 1,000 signatures to qualify for 2014 or 16,000 for a special election that could take place next year. 
            “Don’t get me wrong the benefits from a business standpoint would be nice,” says White “But, we also provide a service here, we are an outlet for pain relief, we have real patients with real pain coming to us for help and it would be nice to be recognized by the city for that.”

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