Editorial: Keep an open mind about a Nipomo pot dispensary

Medical marijuana dispensaries have a checkered history in California, and we can understand why local communities would be reluctant to allow them.

Yet a blanket “just say no” attitude does a disservice to sick and disabled residents of our area who are denied local access to the drug.

In San Luis Obispo County, all seven cities have banned dispensaries, either through permanent or temporary moratoriums. While the businesses are theoretically allowed in the unincorporated areas, well, good luck with that happening.

Latest case in point: Nipomo.

An application for a dispensary is in the very early stage — it goes to the local advisory council Monday night — and already, a group of Nipomo residents is actively opposing it.

Among other objections, they worry a dispensary will bring in an unsavory element from surrounding communities as far north as San Simeon and as far south as Lompoc.

We aren’t going to weigh in on whether this particular application in Nipomo should be approved or rejected. At this early stage, we don’t know enough about the proposal — or the applicant — to make an informed decision one way or the other.

We would, however, like to see decision-makers keep an open mind and judge every application based on whether it meets conditions already set forth in a county ordinance.

Among those requirements:

Dispensaries cannot be located in a downtown business area or within 1,000 feet of a school, library, playground, park or youth recreation facility.

Applicants must apply for a special business license.

All employees of the dispensary must be at least 21.

No cultivation of marijuana is allowed on site.

If an application doesn’t meet the criteria, then it should be denied.

But don’t base a decision on the experiences of other jurisdictions — such as Los Angeles — that have little in common with our communities.

While it is true that urban communities have seen a troubling proliferation of dispensaries, we don’t believe that would be the case here; there simply isn’t the population base to support a dispensary on every block.

And yes, some doctors are too ready to write prescriptions based on cursory examinations of patients, leading to abuse of the system.

However, that ignores the fact that there are legitimately ill people in our own county whose symptoms are alleviated by the drug. Denying them access because some people abuse the system is grossly unfair.

We believe they deserve access to a local dispensary, operating under strictly controlled conditions. We want to try to avoid a repeat of what occurred in Morro Bay, where a dispensary was raided and the owner prosecuted.

We urge applicants who are looking to open a dispensary here to do their homework; make sure you meet the criteria of our county ordinance before you apply. Also, be prepared to undergo intense scrutiny of your personal character; if you don’t think you’ll pass muster, don’t count on one iota of local support.

Again, we aren’t sure if Nipomo is the right spot for a dispensary. We’d like to see a county staff analysis, which is not yet available, before we draw any conclusions.

In the meantime, we urge residents of Nipomo — along with county officials — to consider that a majority of Californians made it clear that they want medical marijuana available to those who are suffering debilitating illnesses. Keep them in mind as you weigh the pros and cons of the application.