Officials take pot (road) trip
July 14, 2006
Michael Fitzgerald, Columnist, Stockton Record
The mayor, vice mayor and a police lieutenant visited a medical
marijuana dispensary in Sacramento recently. Afterward, the vice
mayor sprang for Junior Mints.
Seriously, afterward, they grappled with the idea of a medical
marijuana dispensary in Stockton.
Their struggle with this issue is, to put it kindly, protracted.
California voters approved the Compassionate Use Act in 1996.
Certainly, it's a ticklish issue; yet communities all around Stockton
have responsibly faced this challenge.
The most recent is Ripon. Hardly a hotbed of hippies, Ripon's council
introduced a medical pot ordinance earlier this week. The final vote
on it is Tuesday.
The visit by Stockton officials suggests city leaders are finally
seriously researching pot clubs before deciding whether to permit one
to open in Stockton.
Mayor Ed Chavez, Vice Mayor Gary Giovanetti and Lt. Dennis Smallie
visited the River City Patient Center in Sacramento.
Besides its appropriate location in a semi-industrial area, the club
boasts an armed guard, strict requirements to show a medical marijuana
card and a whole lot of pot.
"It just seemed weird to be seeing them pull out drawers of little
canisters of marijuana," said Giovanetti, fascinated. "It's such a
taboo kind of thing."
The vice mayor added the club sells marijuana in canisters, brownies,
cookies and liquid form.
But to get to the point, "It didn't seem like it's a rogue, criminal
enterprise," Giovanetti said. "All the customers looked pretty normal."
Smallie agreed. "It seemed like it was a very well-run facility."
The Stockton contingent also met with Sacramento narcotics officers
who said they tried to sting the club but found it operated legally,
as far as they can tell.
Giovanetti still has concerns. What if a corrupt Stockton doctor
writes prescriptions to all comers?
There are several good answers to that. Corrupt doctors falsely
certify healthy workers eligible for workers' compensation, too.
Worker's comp remains legitimate.
And numerous Stockton doctors, including oncologists with reputations
above reproach, are quietly writing medical marijuana prescriptions to
It bears repeating that the National Academy of Science studied
marijuana in 1999 and found it had legitimate medical uses.
Besides, what if some potheads do manage to buy their pot from a well-
managed pot club instead of through pushers? Weakening pushers, the
modern equivalent of Prohibition gangsters, doesn't sound like such a
Chavez, who was formerly Stockton's police chief, said the trip eased
his qualms somewhat.
"I think we can definitely say that it increased an openness toward -
I'm looking at other issues - but certainly being more open toward
it," said Chavez.
The mayor said he's asked city staff to answer his lingering
questions. Within a couple of weeks, he hopes to have enough
information to make a decision.
"Personally, I'm not at the point where I'm yea or nay on it," Chavez
Kudos to those who made this fact-finding trip. Facts, scientific and
legal, not politics and prejudice, are the way to find the right
policy on a Stockton dispensary.
The politics are there, though.
California voters approved Proposition 215 statewide, but conservative
San Joaquin County voted it down.
On the other hand, District Attorney James Willett released a position
paper saying he'll allow a medical marijuana dispensary, as long as
His sensible recommendations for investigating cultivation and
possession of marijuana cases also instructs officers to lay off
Proposition 215 growers and users - as long as they can show their ID
cards and prescriptions, and don't have too much pot.
The date of this memo's release also shows the district attorney has a
sense of humor. He released it on April 20, 2006 - 4/20. 420 is a
widely known code word for pot.
Contact columnist Michael Fitzgerald at (209) 546-8270 or
firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit his blog at