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Thursday, May 27, 2010

Will State Bill Criminalize AIDS Patients' Pot Closets?

Posted By on Thu, May 27, 2010 at 2:20 PM

click to enlarge 'Get the pot out of the closet! Get it out now!'
  • 'Get the pot out of the closet! Get it out now!'
"Unintended consequences" is a well-worn phrase for folks familiar with the legislative process. It's one that certainly applies to Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan (D-Alamo), author of a bill that would create statewide restrictions on keeping medical cannabis dispensaries away from schools.

And while it probably wasn't Buchanan's intended consequence to prohibit San Francisco AIDS and cancer patients from growing their medicine in their closets, that's what can happen when lawmakers let law enforcement lobbies write their bills for them.

The brainchild of the powerful Peace Officers Research Association of California (PORAC), the lobbying arm of law enforcement unions, Buchanan's AB 2650 amends California's Compassionate Use Act (aka Prop 215). The first "Save The Children!" iteration was hopelessly restrictive, prohibiting a host of marijuana uses -- including home cultivation -- within 1,000 feet of places where children congregate, such as parks, schools, day care facilities and many more. In addition to potentially launching a host of lawsuits, it would also create an enforcement nightmare for law enforcement officers, according to the Office of the Legislative Analyst.

AB 2650 has gone through several makeovers, and could go through another on Friday, according to Michelle Henry, Buchanan's chief of staff. The 1,000-foot No-Grow-Zone has been trimmed down to 600 feet, and it's within 600 feet of schools only. And only dispensaries with a storefront will be banned within 600 feet of a place of learning, meaning delivery services and legal pot farms can still buzz on within spitting distance of a high school gymnasium.

click to enlarge You see, Joan? No pot here! - HTTP://WWW.JOANBUCHANAN.COM/
  • You see, Joan? No pot here!
But that's only if the Appropriations Committee accepts the amendments. If not, the current version goes forward -- and it's bad medicine indeed, according to a staffer for Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco). The patron saint of pot legalization vehemently opposed the bill when it was heard in the Public Safety Committee, which Ammiano chairs.

"It's bad legislation and it's unneeded," Ammiano staffer Quintin Mecke told SF Weekly. "Nobody needs this bill -- there's no groundswell for this. It's a political thing for Buchanan so she can say she's tough on medical marijuana, while also being just supportive enough."

Of course, why this is an issue for Buchanan at all is less clear. While her district borders Oakland and Berkeley, the Fighting 15th isn't exactly rife with marijuana clubs. In fact, it's rather the opposite: On May 14, the San Ramon City Council imposed a moratorium on pot clubs to allow time for it to create local controls, mirroring the Danville Town Council's similar move last fall.

So, it would seem as if Buchanan's constituents have a handle on regulating marijuana -- as in keeping it far, far away. In fact, SF Weekly asked Henry, are there even any marijuana dispensaries in the 15th Assembly District, at all?

A pause. "That's a good question," she said.

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About The Author

Chris Roberts

Chris Roberts has spent most of his adult life working in San Francisco news media, which is to say he's still a teenager in Middle American years. He has covered marijuana, drug policy, and politics for SF Weekly since 2009.


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