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Manteca’s move to force medical pot growers indoors

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POSTED April 17, 2010 2:26 a.m.
Is it reasonable to require those who are legally growing marijuana for legitimate medicinal purposes to do so inside a closed structure or face prosecution?

Not according to some detractors who believe the proposal before the Manteca City Council Tuesday is against court decisions and Proposition 215. They contend it is infringing on their freedom.

For starters, municipalities are empowered by Senate Bill 420 that passed in the aftermath of Proposition 215 to adopt such restrictions. Proposition 215 wasn’t a free-for-all nor did it actually allow for pot dispensaries where you could go purchase marijuana. It was broadly written. Senate Bill 420 was adopted by the California Legislature to clear up confusion as Proposition 215 did not specify how qualified medical patients that couldn’t cultivate their own would obtain pot nor did it say how much pot could be grown for medicinal purposes. The subsequent law set a ceiling of six mature plants for anyone with a legitimate doctor’s note for the use of marijuana or to have at any time as much as eight ounces of weed that could be obtained from a patients’ cooperative or collective. A subsequent court ruling said such limits weren’t legal due to voters not specifying any in Proposition 215. That since has been challenged by the state.

The City of Manteca is operating under authority it has been given by Senate Bill 420 to restrict medicinal marijuana.

Manteca Police Chief Dave Bricker wasn’t having a “Sheriff John Brown” moment from the Eric Clapton rock ballad “I shot the Sheriff” as in “Every time that I plant a seed, He said ‘Kill it before it grows.’”

Instead, Bricker is acting out of a legitimate concern for public safety.

Manteca officers have been dealing with a rash of burglaries where people are breaking into yards to steal marijuana plants. There have been some confrontations. And in case those who think such a measure to limit legal cultivation of pot to indoors are too draconian, most of the incidents with the marijuana plant thefts involve teens.

It’s open to debate by those with dealings with Manteca Police, but overall they appear to be respecting the intent of Proposition 215 and the actual letter of the law as codified by Senate Bill 420.

The same can’t be said of the people who opened the pot dispensary downtown by essentially representing it as a retail pharmacy when they applied for a business license. The final say on whether it is splitting hairs or was a ruse on the part of the same folks who got bounced out of Stockton for opening a pot dispensary will be settled in a few weeks when a San Joaquin County judge decides whether to make the temporary injunction to cease operations permanent against the Manteca pot dispensary that was opened near Library Park.

It will be interesting to see how the crowd that wants to legalize marijuana for all adults to use reacts to the proposal before the council this Tuesday.

If they are indignant about the city’s proposal to require medicinal marijuana be grown inside an enclosed building and bristle about treating pot collectives as an adult business by restricting where they can locate, then those who are wavering on whether to support the ballot measure in November need to give the issue some serious thinking.

There are legitimate concerns that marijuana could - if the measure passes - be sold in main stream pharmacies or wherever off-sale liquor is sold. It creates a host of compliance problems just as liquor being sold illegally to minors.

This obviously is a much bigger step that simply legalizing marijuana for medicinal purposes.

Given how the “doctor’s note” requirement has often been a joke and virtually impossible to police one has to be cautious of the Pandora’s Box that a much broader marijuana use law will bring to the table.

Proponents are right in noting there is hypocrisy at work here given the legalization of hard liquor. That, however, doesn’t justify the argument against it given the truth in the cliché that two wrongs don’t make a right.

To argue tax resources are wasted combating drug abuse involving marijuana means those using that line would have to logically say the same thing about fighting drunken driving and cigarette smoking. As a society we’re spending tons of money and resources combating problems associated with those two legal substances being used in excess. Why create another problem?

It is a multi-faceted debate that offers many different stances. To simply justify legalizing it so the state can have more money to put in its pocket is as disingenuous as organized crime - whether it is the mob or a gang - arguing legalizing prostitution should be justified as it would be a great way to generate more taxes to pay for government services.

We should not be willing to sell our collective moral soul so the government can simply have more money.
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