Signatures collected to support medical pot dispensaries

May 06, 2011

Louise Esola, North County Times

A small group of volunteers with the San Diego chapter of Americans for Safe Access spent their Saturday asking passersby in downtown Oceanside to sign a letter addressed to city officials voicing support for medical marijuana access in Oceanside.

It's part of an effort to target municipalities such as Oceanside that are fighting to keep medical marijuana dispensaries out of the city, said Eugene Davidovich, a coordinator with the San Diego group.

Within four hours, Davidovich and seven others had collected 163 signed letters supporting "reasonable regulations for medical cannabis facilities and safe access for patients in the City of Oceanside."

It's only the beginning, they said. Davidovich is organizing a second signature-gathering event later this month in Oceanside.

"We want (city officials) to know that there is support from residents of Oceanside," he said. "In the past (city officials) have said there is no support for medical marijuana in Oceanside. Hopefully, these letters will get them on the right path. People shouldn't have to go to the streets for their medicine."

California passed a voter-approved law in 1996 allowing for the use of marijuana among those who required it medically. Counties such as San Diego have challenged the law, arguing that it violates federal laws banning marijuana. Meanwhile, municipalities have dealt with dispensaries in ways they see fit.

Officials in Oceanside in 2009 issued a moratorium on dispensaries and, pending the expiration of that moratorium, are now weighing a possible ban.

The news captured the attention of the San Diego chapter of Americans for Safe Access, which is making efforts to collect support in municipalities where the safe access of medical marijuana is at stake, Davidovich said.

People walking on the sidewalks near the Oceanside Municipal Pier on Saturday either ignored the volunteers with clipboards, waved their hands in refusal, or stopped to sign. The effort, aimed only at collecting signatures from Oceanside residents, attracted a variety of people. Eighteen-year-old Lucy Westhius of Oceanside approached the group after overhearing the word "marijuana." She said her father's best friend has cancer and relies on the drug for pain relief.

"I know a lot of people who smoke it because they need it," she said. "It has helped a lot of people."

Farshid Fotoohi of Oceanside also stopped to sign the letter. The older gentleman said he suffered hip problems for much of his life and in the past, marijuana was the only thing that helped.

"It's far better than the Vicodins, the Oxycontin, all the poisons doctors push on people, things people have overdosed on and died from," he said. "I can come up with 1,000 reasons why people should be able to (gain access to marijuana)."

Volunteer James Stacy, whose Vista dispensary was raided by police and subsequently closed, said lawmakers are ignoring the "will of the voters" by targeting medical marijuana use.

"These cities are breaking state law," he added.

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