SLO County cities should not ban patients from growing medical marijuana

The Associated Press

California’s effort to regulate the cultivation and sale of medical marijuana could wind up making it even harder for patients to obtain the drug in some parts of San Luis Obispo County. That’s a shame, and it’s not at all what Gov. Jerry Brown intended when he signed a trio of bills to increase oversight of medical pot.

“This new structure will make sure patients have access to medical marijuana, while ensuring a robust tracking system,” Brown wrote in October, when he signed what was heralded as landmark legislation allowing for the licensing, taxation and regulation of marijuana sales.

Among other provisions, it specifies that cities and counties that don’t have local ordinances governing cultivation will come under the umbrella of the state Department of Food and Agriculture. That’s led local agencies to rush to put their own regulations in place.

Several California cities are banning the cultivation of even a small amount of medical marijuana for personal use, which will have the effect of turning sick people and their caregivers into criminals if they choose to grow a couple of plants. Others are banning only commercial cultivation.

The city of Pismo Beach is among those proposing a complete ban — something the police chief advocates because he says it would be too difficult to enforce a law that would allow even limited cultivation.

“Permissive regulatory actions that we take would be much more difficult depending on what we do, whether it is the amount of plants that can be grown, square footage, is it cubic or square feet, what can be seen or not seen, where it can be grown ... So it becomes much more tedious and much more resource-draining, depending on how we enforce that,” police Chief Jake Miller said.

We find it hard to believe the city could not draft an easily understood, enforceable ordinance that would allow a small number of plants to be cultivated indoors, for personal use by patients who have legitimately been prescribed the drug.

We’re disappointed that Pismo Beach is again taking such a hard line on the issue.

Remember, it was only last February when the City Council voted to ban mobile dispensaries — only to reverse the decision a month later following pleas from several constituents. One said medical marijuana was the only drug that could alleviate the extreme anxiety experienced by her 94-year-old mother, a dementia patient.

Patients living in Pismo Beach would still be able to purchase pot legally from mobile dispensaries, but if the cultivation ban passes, it would take away an option from those who prefer growing it themselves.

The Grover Beach City Council, on the other hand, directed its staff to move forward with a cultivation ban that would exempt patients and caregivers who grow medical pot for personal use, as allowed by the voter-approved Compassionate Use Act of 1996.

We find that to be a far more palatable approach. We commend the Grover Beach City Council for its empathy, and for respecting the wishes of voters.

We urge the Pismo Beach City Council — and any other local governments contemplating an all-inclusive ban on cultivation — to reconsider.

Please, do not turn sick people into criminals.