E-Mail Forum
  More Responses to E-FORUM on Marijuana in Richmond
July 26, 2010

This is everything to date, both pro and con:

  • Dr. Ritterman
    Council Member - Richmond


Cc:      Mayor and members of the Council

Dr. Ritterman:

Thanks for the reference to pubmed.  I have an open mind to new information and am always interested in new sources of information.  I hope you are as well.

As to my bias and falsehoods, I’ll stand by everything I said.  I have thirty years experience living with two drug addicted stepchildren, plus thirteen years and thousands of hours working with and studying under the best in the business.

Your assertion that marijuana is not addictive, and that there are no withdrawal symptoms, is frankly shocking, particularly coming from a Doctor.  There are endless referrals to show you are wrong, but to quote Dr. Nora Volkow, Director of the National Institute of Drug Abuse: “…There is no question marijuana can be addictive.  The argument is over.  The important thing right now is to understand the vulnerability of young, developing brains due to the increased concentrations of cannabis.”

According to the California Society for Addictive Medicine:

1)      “The normal brain relies on the same cannabinoid chemistry found in marijuana to regulate much of the body’s physiology.  Marijuana mimics our brain’s natural molecules and frequent use significantly disrupts the brain’s delicate chemical balance.

  • Marijuana is addicting to approximately 9% of people who begin smoking it at 18 years or older.  Withdrawal symptoms are subtle (irritability, anxiety, sleep disturbance), but are real and do contribute to relapse….


  • Because the brains of adolescents are still undergoing significant structural development, onset of marijuana smoking earlier than 18 results in increasingly higher rates of addiction (up to 17% within 2 years) and disruption to an individual’s life.  The younger the use, the greater the risk.”

I didn’t say marijuana had no therapeutic value.  Based on all credible medical organizations and the FDA, to whom we have turned for 106 years to determine what is and is not a medicine, pot doesn’t medicate anything and it has never passed the rigors of scientific testing for safety and efficacy as a medicine. 

As a doctor you must agree that medicines have to have known ingredients, dosage and potency.  Aside from smoke and vapors, pot shops are selling marijuana in edible form, or as butter, salve and additives for tea.  But it is still not possible to know what the ingredients are, the potency or dosage.  Or have I missed something?

Since ID card holders can buy from multiple dispensaries, they will … and market the product to kids and others.  We can’t afford the cost or loss of talent for any more young people.

As to marijuana vs alcohol, the attached OAS Report called A Day in the Life of American Adolescents (SAMHSA publication) indicates in 2008 there were 141,683 admissions for treatment for adolescents aged 12 to 17.  On an average day 263 were admitted where the primary substance of abuse was marijuana, compared to only 76 for alcohol.  Of 169,600 ED visits, on an average day 151 involved alcohol and no other drug, followed closely by 129 involving marijuana. 

Unless there is some burning necessity to make an immediate decision on the ordinance, I would strongly suggest that the Council delay the decision on the ordinance for 6 to 8 weeks and have your staff do a thorough evaluation of the facts.  We can help by supplying a list of resources. 

The Council’s decision will have serious implications for public health and safety, particularly for young people, in addition to significant economic impacts to the city of Richmond. If it affects the life or well being of even one young person, it behooves you to do it right.  In reality, it will affect the lives of many.


  • Mayor Gayle McLaughlin

City of Richmond
440 Civic Center Dr.
Richmond, Calif. 84804

Council Member National Bates
Council Member Tom Butt
Council Member Ludmyrna Lopez
Council Member Jeff Ritterman
Council Member Maria Viramontes
Council Member Jim Rogers

Re:      Marijuana Dispensary Ordinance

Honorable Mayor McLaughlin and Members of the City Council;

You recent decision to approve unlimited marijuana dispensaries in Richmond is of concern.  Our coalition consists of 215 people and organizations up and down the state, and we have considerable experience combating dispensaries.  Without knowing your motives for taking such an action, I would like to share with you reasons why you may want to revisit your decision.

First and foremost, the two most important responsibilities of all elected officials are to protect people, and intelligently mange tax dollars.  Neither is possible by proliferating  the use of marijuana, for any purpose.  Most local communities have simply banned dispensaries, as there is no legal imperative to allow them; and based on Government Code 37,100 they are illegal.  Those that do exist have proven to be nothing more that retail pot shops, which elevate the demand for all public services, which in most cases are already overburdened due to the economic crisis.

Here are some facts about “medical marijuana” for your consideration:

  • Marijuana is not medicine.  The term “medical marijuana” was coined by Keith Stroup of NORML in 1979 as a red herring to give marijuana a good name as a first step towards legalization for recreational use. Passage of Prop 215 in 1996 was the result of a heavily financed propaganda campaign by three out of state billionaires, with George Soros at the helm.  SB420, introduced by Senators Vasconcellos and Leno, two Soros lackeys, was stage two in the assault on California, which made “medical hoax marijuana” available for any purported illness.  Today only about 2% of those who hold medical ID cards are those for whom Prop 215 were intended.  


  • Marijuana is a schedule I drug because it is harmful, addictive and has no accepted medicinal value.  Real medicines must be approved by the FDA and have known ingredients, known dosage and known potency.  That is not possible with smoke.in any case, but much of the pot being sold in California is laden with pesticides and fungus, and the THC content ranges from 10% to 21% (at Harborview in Oakland), and as high as 37%.   Compared to pot 30 years ago when the THC content was .05% to 3%, its like grain alcohol compared to near beer, and there is no way of knowing what is in it.

In one test in Long Beach, they discovered pesticide levels 1400 times the allowable limit for food or medications.

  • Marijuana has some therapeutic value, but any medicinal value lies in the isolated components, the cannabinoids, and never in the entire crude plant.  For most users, the harms can vastly outweigh the benefits.  For those who really seek relief, such as those for whom Prop 215 was approved, Marinol and other legal medicines are available in pill form and other medications, such as Sativex, a spray, is undergoing the FDA process now and should be available shortly. Marijuana has never passed the rigorous scientific evaluation by the FDA for use as a medicine.


  • Marijuana with a potency range of 12% to 18% (called Skunk) was declassified in the UK in 2004, and after so many emergency room episodes and new cases of mental illness, the government reclassified it as a dangerous drug two years later with an apology. In the UK, Skunk is considered as dangerous and addictive as heroin.
  • In decades past, scientists thought the human brain was fully developed by age 10.  Recent brain science has revealed that the brain is not fully developed until the mid twenties, or later. “Adolescents and young adults who are heavy users of marijuana are more likely than non-users to have disrupted brain development …. Researchers found abnormalities in areas of the brain that interconnect brain regions involved in memory, attention, decision-making, language and executive functioning skills.  The finds are of particular concern because adolescence is a critical period for brain development and maturation.”  (Manzar Ashtari, Ph.D.)[i][i]


  • Until it is fully developed, it is much more vulnerable to harm and addiction, particularly during adolescence (age 14 to 16 particularly), when the brain is developing gray and white matter. “Our studies have shown that frequent marijuana use in adolescence is linked to poorer memory and attention, abornormal brain activation, and poorer integrity of white matter in the brain even after 28 days of abstinence.”  (Susan Tapert, MD, UCSD)[ii][ii]
  • “There is now evidence that cannibis may affect the adolescent brain (permanently altering) its developmental trajectory.   … Until we can identify who is particularly vulnerable, using cannabis during adolescence may be like playing Russian roulette.  We need to warn young people about the risks they take when using cannabis.”  (Dr. McGrath after studying 228 pairs of siblisngs.)[iii][iii]


  • Having unlimited dispensaries in your community will increase the use by young people.  Irrespective of the 21 or older rule, the reality is that because of loose regulations, an ID card holder can get a prescription for up to one years supply of marijuana, then shop at multiple dispensaries, in turn selling to a black market of young people.
  • The age groups with the highest consumption of pot are (1) 18 to 25; (2) 12 to 17 , a ll of whom are below the threshold where their brains are fully developed.


  • Pot is a mind altering narcotic that will cause irreparable harm to many of these young people, cap their potential in life, and exacerbate the high school drop out rate which averages 24.2% in California and costs taxpayers $392,000 per drop out.  (UC Santa Barbara)  We cannot afford to lose the potential of any young person if we want to retain our competitive standing in the world.
  • Multiple dispensaries will overwhelm your police force.  In Los Angeles, crime data near clinics showed a 200% increase in robberies, 52.2% increase in burglaries, 57.1% rise in aggravated assaults, 130.8% rise in burglaries from autos near cannabis clinics.  The clinics were using gang members as armed “security guards.”


  • Increased marijuana use will increase the demand for addictive treatment,  rehabilitation and more mental health facilities.  Because of the high potency of today’s pot, there are more people in treatment in the U.S. for marijuana than for all other drugs and alcohol combined and now well over 300,000 emergency room visits related to marijuana.
  • Traffic deaths in California related to marijuana have doubled since 2004, from 631 the previous five years to 1240 since SB 420 in 2004.[iv][iv]  More marijuana use will increase the death rate proportionally.


In short, you can’t expand the availability and use of marijuana without putting the general population at greater risk (particularly young people) and overburdening your own public facilities for law enforcement, mental health, education, welfare and traffic safety.   Since the pot and those who consume it won’t stay within the borders of Richmond, on behalf of all Californians we would ask you to consider limiting the number of dispensaries, or preferably, joining other communities in issuing an outright ban.

I have recently completed a great deal of research and am planning to publish a book, part of which is entitled Legalizing Marijuana For Any Use Is A Bad Idea..  While not available for wide distribution, I would be happy to provide each of you with am advance copy as I feel it would help you in making the right decision for your constituents, and for all in Californians.

Thank you for your consideration. 



Roger D. Morgan
Executive Director


[1][i] Manzar Astari, PhD, Director of Diffusion Image Analysis and Brain Morphometry Laboratory in the Radiology Department of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.  Journal reference Manzar Ashtari, Kelly Cervellione, John Cottone, Babk A. Ardekani, Sanjiv Kumra, Diffusion abnormalities in adolescents and young adults with a history of heavy cannabis use.  Journal of Psychiatric Research 2009, 43(3), 189-204 DOI: 10,1016) psychies.2008. 12.002.

[1][ii] Susan F. Tapert, Ph.D., Professor of Psychiatry, UCSD, Associate Chief, Psychology Service, VASDHS, Director, Substance Abuse Mental Illness  stapert@ucsd.edu

[1][iii] Dr. McGrath and Dr. Chose at the University of Queensland. Studied 228 pairs of siblings which were drawn from a birth cohort of 3801 adults was published in the May, 2010  issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry.

[1][iv] Al Crancer Study May 2010.  Crancer is located in Moraga and previously a Highway Traffic Safety research employee.

  • Tom,

I note your rebuke to some of your Council-mates re accepting the "health benefits" of ganga vs their opposition to tobacco usage!  The below info is extracted from an encyclopedia resource, which is cited at the end (of the presentation).  Just an addition to your grist....

I have never had much interest in ganga; alcohol is my 'burden'.......and, I can find equally remonstrative entries (in my encyclopedic reference) about the consumption of that 'demon substance'.  So, seems that we 'users' are, always, quite adept at turning a deaf ear!

  • Tom:  You are on the right track.  The dope ‘clinics’ are not just filling medical prescriptions.  Please!   I went to CAL.

This area is not one that Richmond should be ‘a leader’ in.  Congratulations.


  • Council Members,

I encourage you to closely regulate marijuana dispensaries. Here are my

--Pot, no matter what one's personal feelings about it, is currently illegal. The potential for illegal behavior around these businesses is very high. Loitering at all hours, stoned people hanging out on the street, and other illegal activities are a high probability. Quite simply, we do not want to encourage any further illegal activity in Richmond. We already live under the shadow of a 'homicide capital'

reputation. We don't want to add 'pot haven' to the mix.

--Along those lines we want to model good and wholesome behaviors for our children. "Clean and sober" is not what comes to mind with pot dispensaries.

--Imagine you had one on your street. I certainly can. I can tell you, if I wake in the middle of the night and see a car full of people in front of my house smoking pot or individuals smoking pot on the street, I'm going to call the police. Do we really want our police force distracted by busting people for recreational smoking of pot? Of course not.

Will I follow up with all my energy? Yes, I will.  Our neighbors have two children, and I don't want them subjected to this.  I also don't want bottles, butts, etc., dropped in my yard. Stoned people are not known for being good citizens.

--Business licenses are an important source of revenue for the city.
Without strict regulation, these businesses will be under-reporting and not paying their fair share to the city. We need the business tax revenue that strict regulation will provide.

Sometimes, it seems like a never-ending assault against Richmond and the vision of a future where the city is a community that is green, a place where young families and people of all ages flock to.

This is another assault. Being lax on the marijuana dispensaries is a dark thing to do and continues to push us into lawlessness, violence, corruption, and despair. Don't do that. Please don't do that.


  • Well, it looks like you got the public feedback you were after.


  • Mayor McLaughlin and Councilmembers:

We agree entirely with Chief Magnus and the points he made in his letter. This issue is very important for the City and we respectively request that you consider the long-term interests of the entire City, come to your senses and reverse the decision the majority recently made.


  • Hi Tom-

    I had sent a note a couple months back when the prospect of developing an ordinance for medical marijuana first came up. I continue to be of the opinion that if a someone has procured a business license under false pretenses, it should be revoked, no matter what the ultimate purpose of the business.

    The dispensaries' position is that absent an ordinance banning dispensaries, then dispensaries are ok, and it's not nice to boot out a business that wasn't legally banned.  I would suggest that the dispensaries are 50 steps ahead of the City of Richmond in the matter of municipal medical marijuana ordinances.  Politically, they are well organized, and on the whole have had lots of practice in opening dispensaries in towns lacking specific ordinances, and then shaping/influencing the ordinances that their surreptitious activities have driven.

    Richmond is coming from behind on this issue, and the rush to implement an ordinance is disturbing. Chief Magnus' comments that once the cat is out of the bag, it is mighty hard to rein in - are spot on. Many municipalities that adopted 'liberal' medical marijuana ordinances are now scurrying to alter their original ordinances.  The city of Los Angelese is an object lesson in this, having recently altered their ordinance from unlimited dispensaries (there were 184 in the city) to a handful - and it hasn't been a comfortable transition.  The area of expertise in the city of Richmond most knowledgeable about the marijuana distribution supply chain, both via the dispensary channel and the 'illegal' channel lies in the police department, not city staff.

    Slowly but surely the medical marijuana dispensary supply chain is becoming a major if not the major player in marijuana distribution in urban environments.  Over 90% (some estimate 98%) of their wares go to casual, i.e. non-medical users.   There have been large indoor grows going on in Richmond for some time, and the ties to Oakland, its dispensaries and distributors, are not inconsequential.  Oakland just passed the mega grow ordinance.  Let's see what the impact of that move is before making any decisions in Richmond.  Oakland of course is not necessarily a model of great municipal governance and copy-catting their legislative agenda may not be the brightest idea.

    We've heard the impassioned pleas from patients, oddly many from towns quite far from Richmond, and the impassioned pleas from the dispensary operators and compassionate attorneys.  We have not heard from the residents and voters of Richmond.  Allowing for dispensaries in Richmond will re-define the city in large measure, and the residents and voters of Richmond should have an opportunity to consider all sides of the many arguments and all views of the consequences, not just the views provided by the dispensaries and patients.

    Richmond already struggles to attract business, a critical component to the overall financial health of city. Businesses, especially businesses of any size are reluctant to operate in a location that poses safety hazards to its employees.  Richmond's current crime rate is a major impediment to attracting new business.  Were Richmond to become a dispensary mecca I believe it would add yet another reason for businesses not to consider locating in Richmond.  With dispensaries available in other nearby towns, I believe Richmond would be shooting itself in the foot at this juncture to allow for dispensaries.  I don't see the 'hardship' claimed that patients would not have local access.  Mobile dispensaries abound that can deliver right to the door of the infirm or immobile, but let those mobile dispensaries be domiciled in another community.  The fact of the matter is that the dispensaries distribute a lot of pot. A LOT of pot, and that can, and will attract crime.  Indeed one of Oakland's motivators to go to four controlled mega grow centers stems from the number of house fires, robberies, and assaults taking place at small and ad hoc growing locales.

    If the impetus from the city council to pass the ordinance as it's currently drafted comes from a belief that pot should be legalized anyway, the remedy for that does not lay in implementing an ordinance allowing an unlimited amount of, or even any dispensaries.  The remedy comes from repealing the prohibition on marijuana at the federal level. I suspect that within the next 10-15 years the prohibition will be repealed and that we will be able to find some very fine 4" pots of live purple kush in the produce section of Safeway right next to the 4" potted live basil plants and right at the end of the wine and spirits aisle.

    Let's get this issue in front of all of the neighborhood councils. Let's have a full study session with law enforcement, both Richmond law enforcement and law enforcement from other towns with dispensaries. Let's make sure that our neighborhood patrols and ONS are part of that study session.  Let's put the brakes on ramming an ordinance through and wait till November to know the results of the vote on Prop 19, and let's keep the moratorium on new dispensary permits until that time.  Let's focus corrective actions on the dispensaries that opened under false pretenses, and be a little less draconian in those corrective actions.

    Please feel free to pass this along to other council members.
  • I thought it was interesting that some were upset about a 10% tax. I would have thought a 10% tax was rather on the low side. Probably people don't realize how high the taxes are on some other products (like cigarettes) ...


  • Mind you, it is not a scientific sample, but everyone I know who has needed marijuana for bona fide medical purposes has been able to get it, and everyone I know who visits these dispensaries is just looking for an easy way to get high. Someone behind the whole concept of "legal" dispensaries must be in line to make big bucks. Could it be the To-bac-co Industry?? Anything's possible. Thanks for putting out your sensible arguments.


  • Tom,

Thanks for this great write-up of pros and cons.  I think you are right that the debate is often emotional rather than factual, and a comprehensive discussion is seldom achieved.

Here is one issue you missed.  Chevron, one of Richmond’s largest employers, does not hire people who fail drug screening tests.  I know that a very large percentage of job applicants fail right away because of this.  In a city desperate for good jobs, it would seem counter-productive to make the city a marijuana free fire zone and expect that joblessness will go down. 


  • Tom

    It is a shame that the City Council makes policy decisions based on how many people show up in favor or against a proposal vs what is good policy for Richmond!!

    As a note: when I was walking around Marina Bay, I have observed two incidents of marijuana smoking in the last month. One was two women at Lucretia Edwards Park in the afternoon who has their dog get away from them when they couldn't hang on it. Another was three young men in front of the Shores on a Friday evening. Never saw that before!! Is this the trend we will be seeing?
  • Tom,

    This issue is moving much too fast through the Council.  I have never seen an issue move so quickly thru all the political bureaucracy.  Makes me wonder that there may be a hidden agenda here.  The issue needs much greater review AND public input before passing this ordinance.   Please push to delay implementation.
  • Suggested reading:


The Medical Uses of Cannabis and Cannabinoids edited by Geoffrey W. Guy, Executive Chairman, GW Pharmaceuticals, UK; et al...2004

You will find references in this book which will cover all of your questions.  In addition, I would caution you from ever using NIDA statements as proof of scientific veracity as NIDA has a very long and troubling history of giving out misinformnation concerning cannibis.

Furthermore, there is incontrovertible evidence that alcohol, which clearly is being used as a drug in our society, has far more troubling medical and societal effects than marijuana.  I refer you to "Marijuana is Safer" by Fox et al. with a foreward by Norm Stamper, former Chief of the Seattle Police Dept.

I can tell you that the benzodiazepines (the valium family) has much more troubling consequences than cannabis including definite withdrawal (which cannabis does not have despite your false statements to the contrary) symptoms which include grand mal seizures.  This class of medications is widely prescibed for "anxiety" a use for which medical cannibis could substitute without the troubling withdrawal consequences.  The narcotic family which cannabis has been falsely classified into includes such overused medications as vicodin (hydrocodone), codeine, oxycontin etc...Medical cannabis can also substitute for many of these meds without the withdrawal symptoms, the constipation, the dopiness etc...

So if we really want to do the very safest thing for our patients we would consider medical connabis for those using these other meds and evaluate on a case by case basis which therapy is the best for the patient.


  • That all makes good sense to me.  An test for illegal drugs should be required to sit on the council, just like law enforcement officers and firefighters. Council members are after all are charged with making decisions that will have life and death consequences for many residents.


  • Wow! You sure do get a lot feedback :-)


  • Dr. Ritterman

I can't tell you how disappointed I am about your vote allowing drug dealers to open store fronts at will in Richmond.  I am 100%
committed to honest medical marijuana that is REGULATED.  What I am NOT FOR is bunch of greed filled drug dealers opening shop like the
2 that opened in Point Richmond.  We've already seen guns and a robbery.

You obviously have never lived with or had a close family member addicted to alcohol or drugs--they destroy not only those addicted but all those who love and care about them.  And now you want to make it easier for that to happen.

 I can tell you that if you continue on this course I will never vote for you again and I'll bring many friends who respect my political opinion along with me on this NO vote.

Proposed New Signage:   RICHMOND, City Prideful of its PURPOSES--Casinos, Drug Addiction, Gangs and Crime, because we TRULY CARE!

  • Hello To All,

Tuesday evening the Richmond City Council is going to have a second reading to legalize selling Marijuana in our city against Federal law and before the public votes in November to legalize the selling in the State of California.  Even though the current President Obama has said unless there are other laws broken the Federal Government will not go after Medical Marijuana sales for the next 4 to 8 years.  Income from illegal sales including tax dollars may be confiscated by the Federal Governmentment.

If Senator Boxer, Dianne Feinstein, or Rep George Miller want to push the Federal Government to legalize Medical Marijuana, then the State, County and Cities can follow the law and collect taxes on LEGAL MEDICAL MARIJUANA.  Until then what about aiding and abetting criminals?  There has been very little discussion between our City Council and the general public.  There seems to be a push to get this through before the dispenseries open up some where else and the City Council might miss out on a new source of GREEN REVENUE.  Below is Councilmember Tom Butts e-mail on the issue.

  • Tom,


I just read your thoughtful email regarding medical marijuana dispensaries.  You brought up many interesting points that I also feel need to be discussed fully and considered before a final ordinance is adopted.  Chief Magnus' letter brought up points that I hadn't considered before and got me to rethink my support for medical marijuana dispensaries. Thank you for the information you sent in your email and good luck with getting the ordinance modified.

  • Excellent job of research . Now let's see if Tom will send this out on his email or is he too chicken or should I say Turkish.


Nat Bates

[i][i] Manzar Astari, PhD, Director of Diffusion Image Analysis and Brain Morphometry Laboratory in the Radiology Department of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.  Journal reference Manzar Ashtari, Kelly Cervellione, John Cottone, Babk A. Ardekani, Sanjiv Kumra, Diffusion abnormalities in adolescents and young adults with a history of heavy cannabis use.  Journal of Psychiatric Research 2009, 43(3), 189-204 DOI: 10,1016) psychies.2008. 12.002.

[ii][ii] Susan F. Tapert, Ph.D., Professor of Psychiatry, UCSD, Associate Chief, Psychology Service, VASDHS, Director, Substance Abuse Mental Illness  stapert@ucsd.edu

[iii][iii] Dr. McGrath and Dr. Chose at the University of Queensland. Studied 228 pairs of siblings which were drawn from a birth cohort of 3801 adults was published in the May, 2010  issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry.

[iv][iv] Al Crancer Study May 2010.  Crancer is located in Moraga and previously a Highway Traffic Safety research employee.