LA Supervisors Fumble

November 23, 2010 | Don Duncan
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Los Angeles County Supervisors voted 4-1 today to ban medical cannabis collectives in the unincorporated communities of the county, overturning a 2006 ordinance regulating safe access. The vote was in response to concerns about public safety following high-profile violence in the City of Los Angeles and the proliferation of un-permitted collectives in the county. Today’s vote should be a wakeup call for patients and advocates all over California. Bad press and public perception can roll back progress on medical cannabis.



Supervisor Michael Antonovich, a long-time medical cannabis opponent, started the push to ban collectives in June, after media coverage about multiple shootings at collectives in the City of Los Angeles stoked community concerns about safety. It should have been a short debate. Supervisors Zev Yaroslavsky, Gloria Molina, and Don Knabe all supported the regulations in 2006; and newly-elected Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas voted to support patients’ rights as a state Assemblymember in 2008. But much of that goodwill evaporated as Supervisors watched neighborhood concerns(and media coverage) rise along with the number of illegal collectives in cities and unincorporated areas.

Patients and advocates must be vigilant for turning tides of public opinion. Long term trends are towards greater acceptance and support for medical cannabis. But opponents like Supervisor Antonovich will continue to seize on short comings and neighborhood ambivalence to push back whenever they can. Antonovich did not have to prove a correlation between collectives and violence. He only had to raise the issue and let the media zeitgeist carry the day.

The facts are on our side. Research conducted by Americans for Safe Access (ASA) and the experience of the last fourteen years prove that sensible regulations reduce crime and complaints. In fact, collectives can make a neighborhood safer. Even Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck told reporters in January that the idea that collectives attract crime “doesn’t really bear out.” It is too bad for patients in Los Angeles County that Supervisors just were not listening.

Los Angeles County Supervisors fumbled today when they banned medical cannabis collectives. The ban will prevent law-abiding patients from operating collectives, but do little to close the un-permitted collectives causing so much hand-wringing in the county. In casting this unfortunate vote, the majority ignored input from a small, but dedicated, segment of community that fought the ban for the last five months. We can only hope cooler heads prevail after headlines celebrating the crackdown have faded, Supervisors claim victory, and advocates start the hard work of changing this bad policy.
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