Law enforcement rhetoric around closing down medical marijuana dispensaries reeks of intellectual dishonesty. Consider one of reasons the Fed’s gave for cracking down Berkeley Patient’s Group: the dispensary is dangerous.
But before we get into that, here’s a little background. Berkeley Patient’s Group was founded in 1999 and by all accounts has been a pretty good citizen, according to a story by California Watch.
“The dispensary enjoys widespread support among local officials,” California Watch reported. “In 2009, the Berkeley City Council proclaimed a special day to honor the group.”
But the dispensary is within 1000 feet of two schools and so became a target of Melinda Haag, the U.S. attorney for Northern California. Haag told California Watch she’s made it a priority to go after dispensaries near schools.
Fair enough, I thought. Regardless of your opinion of legalized marijuana, most people can agree that you don’t want a bunch of stoners smoking reefer in front of your kid’s school or on the street when students walk by.
But that wasn’t the reason Haag gave. Her reason: it’s dangerous.
“Marijuana dispensaries are full of cash and they’re full of marijuana, and everybody knows that," Haag said in an interview with California Watch. "They are at risk of being robbed, and many of them are robbed.”
By this logic, banks shouldn’t be near schools, right? And those armored trucks that move money, they shouldn’t be allowed within 1,000 feet of schools either because they’re regular victims of robbery. (Tangentially, a police officer once told me that if I pull into a into a parking lot with an armored cash truck stay in the car and wait for it to leave. It’s the same advice he gave his wife and daughter, he said.)
As it turns out, California Watch couldn’t find any neighbors who had serious issues with Berkeley Patient’s Group. And one of the schools in the neighborhood spoke out in support of the dispensary.
Jill Ellis, executive director of the Center for Early Intervention on Deafness, told California Watch. “They really have been caring, supportive neighbors, concerned neighbors, clearly very interested in our mission, our families."
"Their security provides a great asset and enhancement to our community,” Ellis went on to say. “We've never had any incidents at all."
Crime was the reason police officers gave in Los Angeles, when that city was grappling with the explosion of medical marijuana dispensaries. The subtext was that the dispensary attracted patients who committed crimes or that the folks running it were dodgy. And for a long time, reporters took them at face value.
But when reporters drilled down, the same reason was often given: they get robbed a lot.
Whether marijuana should be legal is a worthy debate. So too is regulating where dispensaries can be located (i.e. not next to schools). But to target marijuana dispensaries because their victims of crime? It seems to me that a more honest law enforcement stand would be to go after the perps.