Medical Marijuana Patients, Advocates React to Bans on Dispensaries

May 22, 2005

, Free Liberal

State-wide moratoriums on California medical marijuana (cannabis) dispensaries have caused an uproar in communities dependent on receiving medical marijuana from these locations. In 1996, California voters passed Proposition 215, which legalized the use of marijuana for medicinal use. Since then, dispensaries have opened throughout the state to distribute the medicine to patients who provide a doctor’s recommendation.

Most medical marijuana patients rely on these dispensaries to obtain their medication and while there is no fully legal means available to buy marijuana, dispensaries are the only viable option for a majority of patients, many of whom are elderly or disabled. 

An increasing number of city and county residents have complained of the presence of dispensaries in their neighborhoods, however, and city officials are not happy with the little to no regulation, spurring the recent moratoriums. Medical marijuana patients responded that they fear closing the dispensaries would drive legitimate patients to the black market, causing an increase in crime.

From Alameda to Sutter counties, 40 cities and counties in California have imposed permanent and temporary bans on the operation of dispensaries. Americans for Safe Access (ASA) have filed a lawsuit to challenge Fresno's permanent ban on medical marijuana dispensaries. ASA contends that patients need to be able to consume the medicine on the premises for immediate relief and to avoid charges brought against them for use in their residence. ASA would also like city officials to create an oversight and arbitration committee with representatives of city agencies, patient groups, neighborhood groups and dispensaries to address grievances from area residents.

Many dispensaries provide more than marijuana to patients; alternative health services such as yoga, massage, harm reduction, chiropractic care, veteran support groups, educational health forums and low-income women’s services are also available to people suffering from painful illnesses.

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