Editor’s note: The Town Crier continues to solicit opinions, pro and con, on legalizing medical marijuana dispensaries in Idyllwild.
Last week’s article “Marijuana dispensaries closed down” elicited reader response with some supporting and others opposing medical-marijuana dispensaries in Idyllwild.
One reader and user of medical marijuana, Marcia Harlan, spoke to the Town Crier about severe medical conditions that were alleviated by use of medical marijuana following a crash diet that mandated gall-bladder surgery. Harlan explained the surgery traumatized her body, removed any appetite for food and left her in chronic pain.
“I’m a retired state employee and have never been arrested, and this was the only thing that gave me an appetite and alleviated my pain.” She described how marijuana soothes the mind and physiology, and takes one’s attention off the pain. Relief of chronic pain is one of the medical conditions for which medical marijuana use is authorized by the Compassionate Use Act. Her gastroenterologist, cardiologist and psychologist all recommended medical marijuana use for Harlan.
One reader, Amy Hawley, thought the Town Crier’s article stated an inaccurate assumption as to the way the community feels about medical-marijuana dispensaries in Idyllwild. “I find both your assumption that the town wants these businesses out [is] unfounded and the way you’re sensationalizing something [is] so unnecessary, “she said. “Why assume that people of this town are either potheads or looking to get rid of the pot-heads?
“I’m guessing [Supervisor Chuck] Washington only had one appointment on his upcoming docket because most people truly do not care. If you are giving out phone numbers for people to anonymously voice their concern, wouldn’t it be right to give people an outlet to voice their support? When the time comes, I absolutely hope we have a recreational marijuana shop in Idyllwild. It’s worked for Colorado’s economy, why not beef ours up too?”
In an opposing point of view, three board officers of the Pine Cove Property Owners Association, Marlene Pierce, Gisela Stearns and Sherry Edwards, filed formal online complaints on Saturday, August 5, with Riverside County Code Enforcement Officer Marr Christian regarding the medical marijuana dispensaries in Idyllwild. All three PCPOA members also are members of the Mountain Community Patrol that works under the aegis of the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department. The three scheduled appointments and met with Washington at his Thursday, August 10, meeting. Forest Lumber owners Mr. and Mrs. Dennis DeJarnette were also present and stated views in opposition to the local dispensaries.
Local businessman Chris Johnston logged in about the apparent inequitable nature of how Code Enforcement operates. He questioned how these two, possibly three, medical marijuana dispensaries were able to open and get completely operational in a couple of days when it took him 51 weeks and $13,000 in fees to get through county planning to open his business, Middle Ridge Winery Tasting Gallery.
Under California law, medical marijuana dispensaries are legal in governmental entities that opt to legalize them. Legal medical marijuana dispensaries can be found off the Hill in the Hemet/Temecula area and in some desert incorporated municipalities. But they are not legal at this time in the unincorporated areas of Riverside County, including Idyllwild, nor is their operation “licensed” by the county.
The issue at present is not framed as to whether there is a need for medical marijuana. It is legal under 1996’s Proposition 215, the CUA, under specific guidelines.
Currently at issue in Riverside County’s unincorporated areas is where it can be legally obtained, aside from growing one’s own legally defined supply as specified in the act.
The CUA permits non-profit medical marijuana dispensaries under strict state requirements regarding their operation. But it does not preempt city or county ordinances to regulate or prohibit them.
The CUA protected patients and defined caregivers from criminal laws when use is recommended by a physician.
Under 215, one can use medical marijuana legally if so recommended by a licensed physician for treatment of a serious medical condition. The law defines “serious medical condition” as AIDS, anorexia, arthritis, wasting syndrome, cancer, chronic pain, glaucoma, migraine, persistent muscle spasms, seizures, severe nausea and “any other chronic or persistent medical symptom that either substantially limits one’s ability to conduct major life activities as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act or, if not alleviated, may cause serious harms to the patient’s safety or physical or mental health.”
A medical marijuana card is not needed to qualify for use under the CUA, but if possessed, will prevent arrest by authorities for possessing, cultivating or transporting marijuana within prescribed limits. One can legally possess up to 8 ounces of dried marijuana, grow up to six mature or 12 immature marijuana plants or “with a doctor’s recommendation, possess or grow a greater amount consistent with the patient’s reasonable needs.”
Arrests for possession may still occur, but users can use the CUA as a defense if the patient has evidence to show their legal right to use and possess. Marijuana, even medical marijuana, is still illegal under the federal Controlled Substances Act.
After passage in 2016 of Prop 64, state and local authorities are scrambling to decide if and how to legalize, license or regulate medical-marijuana dispensaries, as well as recreational marijuana shops. Regulations should begin to be in place in January 2018.
But regardless of California law, federal law continues in opposition to marijuana use and possession, and is enforced according to guidelines from the federal administration in power.
The recent temporary closures of two local dispensaries is part of an ongoing civil action against the dispensaries as long as they remain illegal under county civil law ordinances. Criminal prosecution could occur if undercover operations discover criminal activity, according to the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department and Hemet Station Commander Capt. Leonard Purvis.