A medical marijuana facility called the Pacific Beach Collective opened at 929A Turquoise St. on Monday , May 11 to the dismay of several neighboring business owners and community members who say the facility will attract crime and illegal drug use to the neighborhood.
While residents and businesses in north Pacific Beach protest the dispensary, they may have to grin and bear it because marijuana used for medicinal purposes is legal under state law. Federal law, however, prohibits the sale of medical marijuana.
Some neighbors are livid. “I don’t see any positive aspects to it,” said Jack Story, a 20-year resident. “It’s probably not good for business.”
Story said many older folks in north Pacific Beach fear the store will attract crime and make people afraid to patronize nearby businesses. And with Pacific Beach Elementary within walking distance, at least one parent fears the store might attract dangerous drug addicts to the area.
“There’s nothing wrong or illegal, and they’re certainly necessary, but as someone who walks around with her children – for me – that’s not the kind of business we want in our community,” said Dawna Deatrick, president of Friends of Pacific Beach Elementary School, a parent-teacher organization. “It’s a necessary evil but we just don’t want it in our backyard.”
Lenny Olsen, manager of the Pacific Beach Gardens at 910 Turquoise St., said there was no announcement about the facility. There is no public noticing requirement for starting a dispensary, according to Pacific Beach Collective store managers.
Olsen said he wants one. “If I want to have an establishment to sell alcohol, I have to notify the community, but they can open up a medical marijuana store?” Olsen said. “How come they don’t have to notify [the public]?”
Olsen added that he doesn’t want his 10-month-old son exposed to a neighborhood culture that would “normalize” marijuana drug use.
While many in the neighborhood take issue with the store, the facility is protected under California law as a result of the voter-approved Proposition 215. The Compassionate Use Act of 1996 legalized marijuana for seriously ill persons as long as they have a doctor’s recommendation, according to San Diego County Deputy District Attorney Steve Walter.
In 2004, the Medical Marijuana Program Act, Senate Bill 420, established a voluntary patient identification and registration system. While the intent of the regulations is to help patients in serious pain, many recreational drug users circumvent the law by faking a need for it.
“Most people that voted for [Prop 215] were thinking of people who were gravely ill and marijuana was something to ease their pain… it’s unfortunate that there’s people that have taken it to the extreme and are ruining it for whom the law it was intended for,” Walter said.
Robert, 36, showed up at Pacific Beach Collective for different reasons on the store’s opening day. A Pacific Beach resident, Robert asked that his last name not be published. Robert, a mixed martial arts instructor, said a series of knee operations and shoulder and other training injuries had left him in a lot of pain. Robert said doctors prescribed him pharmaceutical painkillers that had addictive side effects and made him ill. Robert registered with the Pacific Beach Collective and can now legally acquire the medicine he needs.
“Hopefully people can understand that it’s the lesser of two evils when it’s necessary,” Robert said.
Sean Grady, the dispensary’s treasurer, said he wants to dispel rumors that the store is a methadone dispensary clinic or needle exchange program. He added that a plainclothes, unarmed security guard will monitor activity inside, along with a video camera security system.
“Hopefully, the community will see how we actually handle things and embrace us,” Grady said.
While Grady hopes for community support, the County of San Diego has historically sided with the federal law on the issue. San Diego and Merced counties filed a civil court case in February of 2006 questioning the legality of dispensaries under federal law.
Later that year, federal and county law officials cooperated to shut down approximately eight beach-area dispensaries and several others throughout the county, according to published reports.
The case has been appealed and challenged all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court. Judges have sided with the California law up to this point, according to Deborah McCarthy, chief deputy counsel for the County of San Diego.
“The case is still alive,” McCarthy said. She said the county has filed a petition to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to rule on the case. The Supreme Court could make a decision to hear the case or not as early as next week. Meanwhile, a movement to legalize and tax the federally controlled substance is underway.
Assembly member Tom Ammiano (D- San Francisco) introduced Assembly Bill 390 in February to regulate and tax the plant the same way the state regulates beer and liquor. The legislation would generate up to $1.3 billion in revenue, according to Ammiano’s Web site.
Sebastian Ruiz writes for the Beach and Bay Press where this story originally appeared.
By Sebastian Ruiz, Beach & Bay Press