Smoke ’em if you got ’em if the law allows it

July 30, 2009

no-smoking-2-circle

In the 1960s, California was the beacon of the peace movement. As a transplant here myself, I regularly meet people who flocked to the West Coast during the Sixties and Seventies in typical Woodstock-ish fashion: load up the VW van, drive cross country, see America, and maybe smoke a little something to enlighten the senses.

It kind of seems surprising that years later, the stigma surrounding most drugs — including that devil reefer marijuana — hasn’t been lifted. In fact, it’s worse than ever.

This week alone, just south of the Ventura County line, Westlake Village officials were the target of a lawsuit because they barred a medical marijuana dispensary from operating.

Ventura said it would “consider” (read: put on the back burner) allowing a similar dispensary within city limits. From the low priority sounds of it, we know that won’t happen anytime soon. Though it’s worth noting that at least one-half of the council seems open to the idea of letting dispensaries operate here.

It would be pretty groundbreaking if it did in this rigid area. There’s been enough dissension against the idea of legal pot, in medicinal form, that the county’s main advocate for allowing medical marijuana dispensaries told me personally a few months back that he decided to stop trying because of the discouragement.

Of course, with the discouragement also comes a whole lot of interest on behalf of disabled patients of all kinds who have written letters to the editor in support of having a dispensary in their neighborhood.

The decades-long backlash against pot seems surprising to me because A. The effects of marijuana use have not been proven as sinister as the effects of tobacco, and B. Cigarette smoking is now seeing limited prohibitions across the country.

Calabasas was the progenitor, last year banning smoking just about everywhere that’s a public place. Thousand Oaks recently enacted lighter, though no less stringent guidelines, for tobacco users, and Camarillo has hinted at considering similar restrictions on smoking.

There’s been more outcry in Ventura County over the lag in allowing pot altogether than there’s been over the slow, disallowing of cigarette smoking. The paradigm, in many ways, is shifting … yet cigarette smoking and marijuana use (medical, mind you) seem to get in the way of one another.

Should we ban smoking cigarettes altogether? This columnist seems to think so:

http://www.cnn.com/2009/CRIME/07/30/newman.tobacco.ban/index.html

If we did that, we wouldn’t have any more sales tax revenue from cigarettes … but then we wouldn’t be spending tax dollars on health care for people afflicted with smoking-related illnesses (because the illnesses wouldn’t happen). The ones who are ill could safely obtain medical marijuana, and presumably, the drug would still be illegal for recreational consumption. Considering the numerous ways medical MJ can be ingested, most patients probably wouldn’t even be smoking it.

It might be a pipe dream at this point, but if that pipe ever gets put to use, at least we wouldn’t have to deal with a big plume of cigarette smoke to cloud the medical marijuana debate in Ventura County.

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