E-Mail Forum
  Different Shades of Green - City Council Fails to Pass Sustainable Medical Marijuana Ordinance
September 17, 2011

I got a couple of critical responses to my E-FORUM “Different Shades of Green - City council fails to pass sustainable medical marijuana ordinance.”


I'm seriously disappointed in your moralistic and snarky attitude about medical marijuana. I have a personal interest AND knowledge about this issue, since my wife has been a chronic pain patient for 37 years now. Maybe you don't know anyone personally who actually needs this particular medicine, so you think it's justifiable to work against it. You're not fooling anyone with your fake support for cannabis. It's passive aggressive to present these cleverly faked energy consumption figures, and coupled with your use of terms like stoner, and your snarky comment that it's unreasonable to have a dispensary per 26,000 customers, I get the impression that you are more than willing to sacrifice legitimate pain patients to your Calvinistic morality about who should enjoy their life and how. I appreciate that you're a type A who thrives on struggle and achievement, and I think the world needs a certain proportion of people like you, but you err if you think your achievements and lifestyle justify your denunciations of those who don't achieve or strive as you do. Please come visit us at _____________ and let us explain to you, away from the public gaze, how we feel and how we think about this issue.

The bitter tone in your email is unbecoming of your position as vice mayor. Referring to folks who legitimately use marijuana for medicinal purposes as "stoners" is simply offensive. I understand and would even support your position on sustainability, but your attitude is a turn off and doesn't help your cause. 


Some people just don’t have sense of humor or allow others to when it comes to discussing marijuana. Clearly, pot is serious business. So, here is my response:


Back in the late 80s, my 90-something year old long-widowed grandmother, a cancer survivor, lived alone in eastern Arkansas in a “dry” county. More than anything else, she looked forward to her daily “medicine,” two carefully measured and precisely mixed doses of which had to be taken beginning at exactly 5:00 PM. The nearest source of her particular medicine was about 30 miles away in another town in a “wet” county. Not a problem. Her physician wrote a prescription for her “medicine” (yes, that’s what she called it), which was more commonly known as 80-proof bourbon whiskey, “for medicinal uses only of course,” mixed with a little water and ice. The local pharmacist picked it up in the next county and delivered it to her home on a regular basis. For all I know Medicare paid for it.

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Now back then, there wasn’t a lot of scholarly information available to doctors about the health benefits of alcohol, although the tobacco industry had helpfully established with prodigious advertising the beneficial health benefits of smoking (she was a smoker, too), including cleverly enlisting a host of doctors to tell us about it. Today, it is pretty well established that moderate drinkers tend to have better health and live longer than those who are either abstainers or heavy drinkers. In addition to having fewer heart attacks and strokes, moderate consumers of alcoholic beverages (beer, wine and distilled spirits or liquor) are generally less likely to suffer strokes, diabetes, arthritis, enlarged prostate, dementia (including Alzheimer's disease), and several major cancers. So my grandmother and her doctor were on to something. He knew, perhaps intuitively, that alcohol was, in fact, medicine. At the ripe old age of 91, that might have been the only medicine she needed.

When I write about Richmond’s political adventures with marijuana, the subject is, like my grandmother’s “medicine,” ripe for both sarcasm and satire. Her “medicine” may have prolonged her life and improved her health; It certainly improved her mental state and quality of life. Would I make fun of my grandmother and her “medicine?” Sure I would, and most people see the humor in it. However, It’s not the legitimate medical users of marijuana I am poking fun at; it’s the other who call it medicine with a straight face and not infrequently, a tear in their eye.


Neither can I help poking fun at a situation with similarities to the marijuana culture and industry. Alcohol was illegal to buy or sell where my grandmother lived, and marijuana is illegal by federal law everywhere in the United States. People come up with creative and resourceful strategies to circumvent the law to get what they want or what they need.


Apparently, one reader took umbrage at my use of the term “stoner.” Merriam Webster defines a “stoner” as “a person who regularly takes drugs, esp. marijuana.” This particular definition does not separate out  “patients,” who use marijuana medicinally, and others who use it what, recreationally?


Just like my grandmother and her “medicine,” I have no doubt that there are people whose health and quality of life are improved by the use of marijuana. But for every one of those, there are dozens, hundreds or probably thousands for whom marijuana is no more medicine than a six-pack of beer is medicine. Again, I have never criticized any adult for smoking marijuana or drinking beer. I just don’t care. When an E-FORUM reader thinks I am “working against” marijuana because I think three stores are enough and that we should tax it, it just doesn’t pass muster.


What I do care about is hypocrisy as a basis for legislation. There are only about six conventional pharmacies in the entire City of Richmond, and you can obtain virtually any prescription drug you need at these locations. It would seem enough to have three marijuana outlets, which provide only a single drug. Now, the City Council is considering adding a fourth. What Richmond people tell me they want most are more grocery stores in their neighborhoods, not marijuana dispensaries.

The bottom line is that while marijuana may be an effective medicine for a number of people, it is just a drug for most people, and those who grow it, transport it, distribute it and sell it do it mostly for the money, lots of money – a significant amount of which finds its way into City Council campaign contributions. Let’s quit characterizing this as a wonder drug and call it a business, one that is illegal under federal law and legal but heavily regulated in California.


And if we, as a City, are going to regulate it, let’s get some revenue from it to help provide the City services that everyone uses, and let’s use our regulatory power to help reduce the greenhouse gases that are changing our climate. Maybe we could even help establish some grocery stores. What’s wrong with that?