The following survey was posted for about six weeks, and it got more responses from outside Fresno County than from Fresno-area residents. Excluding those answers and those from unidentified networks, here are the results:
If you’re a Proposition 215 patient who counts on Fresno dispensaries for safe access to medical cannabis, you already know that things are not looking good. Dispensaries in Fresno County are operating on borrowed time, with a county ban that takes effect in March and the ongoing threat of federal raids.
COLLECTIVE MEMBERS AND OPERATORS: March 8 or March 9 is the drop-dead date for those “nonconforming uses” still open. Although it’s a zoning ordinance and they could start by handing out tickets, the sheriff’s department is the lead enforcement agency, and that’s not usually how they roll. Heads up, people …
That threat isn’t theoretical. Five dispensaries were raided in June, and the DEA followed up by taking down Buds 4 Life’s two locations in October. Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims has shared her opinion that there’s no such thing as a legal dispensary under state law, and she testified in a recent Senate hearing about illegal cannabis cultivation on the valley floor. In large part due to her efforts, the county passed a ban on dispensaries and outdoor cultivation in August.
The outlook isn’t any brighter for personal or collective cultivation in the City of Fresno, which passed an emergency moratorium on outdoor growing in mid-December in addition to its existing dispensary ban. In addition to restrictive local ordinances and bans, the changing legal landscape and the federal enforcement blitz against dispensaries require coordinated action by medical cannabis patients and collective-dispensary operators.
The challenges ahead are hard to discuss in a time of heightened concerns about federal and local law enforcement. Yet talk we must: To stay informed, to develop new networks and strategies, to hear concerns from stakeholders and non-users of medical cannabis, and to explore new models of legal, collective cultivation and distribution of medical cannabis among qualified patients in Fresno County.
In the weeks ahead, FresnoCannabis.org will change its form and function to become an online platform for education, advocacy and reform of Fresno County’s medical cannabis laws. The success of that effort will be proportional to the interest and support shown by local medical cannabis patients and caregivers, but Fresno can be a punishing place for the outspoken. If you weren’t on the downlow before as a law-abiding Prop. 215 patient and/or cultivator, the mindset shown by most local politicians and law enforcement dictates an abundance of caution.