Aug 092011

Marijuana cultivation is out of control in Fresno County. When men in gun turrets protect plots, medical marijuana plants are diverted to street sales and residents complain that dispensaries foul their neighborhoods, the county has a problem.

Criminals and a poorly written medical marijuana law passed by California voters bear the blame, writes Fresno Bee columnist Bill McEwen. So, too, does a Fresno County Board of Supervisors that refused to confront the reality of what voters approved in 1996.

Instead of adopting regulations that protected neighborhoods while allowing people that need marijuana for medical reasons to get it, the board did what it often does – nothing.

This approach worked for more than a decade until medical marijuana growers, sellers and outlaws recognized a potential gold mine in wide-open Fresno County.

Now that they’ve woken from their slumber, the supervisors predictably are reacting with a proposed ordinance that for practical purposes bans medical marijuana.

It’s a terrible proposal that likely will lead to lawsuits and drive medical marijuana patients to buy from illegal peddlers.

It’s so insane, in fact, that someone with a medical marijuana card wouldn’t be allowed to grow a single plant in the backyard for personal use.

Reasonable people can come up with laws that ban 50-acre dope farms and for-profit dispensaries catering to recreational tokers. Reasonable people also can see to it that people with cancer and glaucoma can legally buy marijuana for pain relief.

But we’re talking about the Board of Supervisors, where reason is buried beneath political posturing and where the perks include ignoring state law. We’re talking about a board intent on punishing law-abiding citizens for the sins of law-breakers.

The board and Sheriff Margaret Mims claim that the medical marijuana dispensaries have created a crime wave. There have been robberies, true. Residents near some dispensaries don’t like them, true. But I doubt that the dispensaries are bigger crime and blight magnets than some liquor stores. I haven’t heard the board say a peep about restricting the operating hours of pharmacies because of drug thefts. And speaking of robberies, what about banks and convenience stores?

What we have here are politicians playing games. Bluntly put, they don’t care about sick people who hurt a little less when they use medical marijuana. To the board, everyone growing marijuana is the same – whether they tend to one plant or 10,000 plants. If the supervisors thought otherwise, they wouldn’t have given preliminary approval to this sham of an ordinance.

The board’s sole goal is to show that it’s tough on marijuana, and it has decided to go the prohibition route. Prohibition didn’t work with alcohol and it won’t work with medical marijuana. But it will pay off handsomely for organized crime.

You can be assured that street hustlers are cheering on the board to officially adopt the medical marijuana ordinance today. With the county lacking staff to keep nonviolent law-breakers in jail for more than a couple hours, it’ll be a win-win for the dope dealers.

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