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Thursday, November 5,2009

Boulder targets medical marijuana — and heads should roll

By Paul Danish
Heads should roll. And for once, let us state whose: David Driskell, executive director of community planning and sustainability.

Charles Ferro, acting land use review manager. Brian Holmes, zoning administrator. Jane Brautigan, Boulder city manager.

Messrs. Driskell, Ferro, and Holmes are the City of Boulder bureaucratic cobblers who wrote the 16-page memo on how to deal with medical marijuana dispensaries. Ms. Brautigan is the one responsible for bum’s rushing it to the Planning Board — the hearing is tonight at 6 p.m. at City Hall — and then on to the City Council, where I’m told it’s tentatively scheduled for consideration at next Tuesday’s meeting.

The memo is a long list of, what are the words we’re looking for here, ah yes, “options” for “regulating” the dispensaries — or more plainly, for demonizing, delegitimizing, and driving them out of business, up to and including an outright ban.

The last would be accomplished by amending Boulder’s sales-tax licensing process to require that all businesses be legal at the local, state and federal levels. Since medical marijuana is still illegal at the federal level (it was legalized nine years ago in Colorado by the passage of a ballot initiative called Amendment 20) it would effectively ban the dispensaries or the growers who supply them in Boulder. Clever. Or more accurately, cunning.

That, however, is hardly the only “option” proposed. According to the story on the memo in Tuesday’s Daily Camera:

“The restrictions could include rules for how close dispensaries can operate to schools, parks, day-care centers and residences; requiring security systems in dispensaries; requiring background checks on all employees; prohibiting the sale of marijuana at locations that also sell liquor; requiring dispensaries to keep a list of all patients to determine whether their quantity complies with the law; and requiring dispensaries to report any criminal activity to police.

“The city also could choose to prohibit people from using medical marijuana inside the dispensaries; prohibit the hanging of signs for dispensaries; and require all patients to be notified that the use of medical marijuana is a violation of federal law and that smoking or ingesting the drug impairs a person’s ability to drive or operate machinery.”

If some of these “options” sound vaguely familiar, it may be because a lot of them have been used by anti-abortion activists to ban abortion or by gun control activists to ban guns — under the guise of adopting “reasonable” or “commonsense” regulations, of course. Of course.

So what prompted this memo and the rush to action?

Well, at the end of the last city council meeting Councilman Ken Wilson asked the city staff to look into regulating the medical marijuana.

Wilson says he asked the staff to look into regulating the dispensaries because he has been approached by some Boulder businessmen who were concerned about having dispensaries as their neighbors.

He added that he voted for medical marijuana nine years ago and doesn’t want to ban the dispensaries, but just wants to regulate them. I have no reason to doubt him.

He also said he thought the Camera blew the issue all out of proportion.

I don’t think so. Heath Urie, the Camera reporter who wrote the story, is an experienced reporter. I read the original memo, and my reading of it is essentially the same as his. It’s a memo with agendas, and they aren’t hidden.

So what prompted this burst of bureaucratic busybodyism? Fears of violence, robberies, sales of marijuana to minors, among other things.

Stop the presses! This is a Boulder Weekly News Alert! This just in!

An exhaustive investigation has revealed that a number of legitimate Boulder businesses are engaged in the sale of narcotics, amphetamines and a number of other dangerous drugs. Some of this drug activity occurs near schools, parks and day-care centers. Some of stores stay open 24/7, and brazenly and openly conclude drug deals in the presence ofminors.

A review of police records reveals there have been repeated instances of burglaries and armed robberies at the stores by persons trying to get drugs. A partial list of the offending businesses include: Walgreens, Pharmaca, Safeway and King Soopers.

The point is that the reasons the city memo presents for effectively re-criminalizing medical marijuana are things that can be problems for ordinary drug stores — and they are easily dealt with.

Violence, eh? If 70 years of experience with pot prohibition has shown anything, it’s that virtually all of the violence and crime related to marijuana flows from the prohibition, not the drug.

The assertion by the city staff that the city must act to prevent violence — followed by a list of “options” that, if adopted, are almost guaranteed to worsen it by resurrecting the sort of prohibition that Amendment 20 was intended to prevent — betrays the corruption and dishonesty of the exercise.

Should medical marijuana dispensaries be regulated? Of course they should.

But the objectives of the regulatory scheme should be essentially the same objectives as the regulations surrounding conventional pharmacies. And the process of creating a regulatory scheme should be the same that Boulder generally uses with controversial issues — one that involves all the stakeholders, including dispensary operators, growers, consumers and property owners, among others.

Chances are the city staff will claim it has to act quickly to regulate medical marijuana because dispensaries are starting to open in Boulder.

Really now? Amendment 20 was passed nine freaking years ago. Both the city staff and city councils have had nine years to consider their “options” for regulating medical marijuana — but have deliberately chosen to avoid the issue like the plague. They have a lot of nerve.

There is so much hypocrisy in city government regarding marijuana generally and medical marijuana in particular that City Hall should be declared a Super Fund site.

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