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Santa Clara County Bans Pot Providers, for Now

Officials in Santa Clara County are moving to ban medical weed providers in unincorporated areas.

The county Board of Supervisors voted unanimously June 24 to impose an immediate moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries and other providers. It could be the precursor to a permanent ban.

Santa Clara County Seal“The immediate moratorium allows us time to create a permanent ordinance, and at the same time fully analyze the impact on medical access to marijuana for compassionate use,” said Board President Mike Wasserman.

The move was in response to a decision by city leaders in San Jose to tightly restrict medical weed. The new rules there require that providers grow their pot in the city, in unincorporated Santa Clara County, or in a neighboring county.

The moratorium was designed to prevent that happening in unincorporated parts of the county. Officials wanted to stop new gardens and pot shops before the supervisors go on recess in July.

Ban Is Driven by Ideology

The vote in Santa Clara County was as at least as much a matter of anti-pot drug war ideology as it was a practical approach to problems sometimes associated with medical marijuana.

Cannabis should only be available legally to “those 1 percent to 2 percent of Californians who have a serious illness, such as glaucoma, HIV, or cancer,” said Sylvia Gallegos, the deputy county executive.

None of the county’s supervisors have indicated what they would do if recreational weed were legalized, as is likely to happen in 2016. Their attempts to hold off the advance of marijuana will be wasted if voters make pot legal for all purposes.

There are no licensed dispensaries or grow operations anywhere in the county outside incorporated cities such as San Jose. Officials wanted to be sure that wouldn’t change anytime soon.

Supervisors Claim Weed Is Hurting Kids

As typically happens in such votes, the supervisors relied on one of the oldest and most despicable tricks in the book, in essence pleading, Marijuana Dispensary“Won’t somebody please think of the children?” Supervisors pointed to research indicating marijuana use may cause structural brain changes and other problems for adolescents.

But they didn’t provide any evidence of an uptick in toking by youths beyond a sharp increase in drug-related suspensions at East Side Union High School. In fact, underage consumption of cannabis hasn’t increased at all in states that allow medical or recreational weed.

What’s more, supervisors offered no proof the increase was actually caused by greater cannabis use. It’s also possible the school has stepped up its enforcement on the unfounded suspicion that dispensaries hurt kids.

Supervisors also complained about the presence of gang and cartel members in the industry. They may have failed to consider that this type of weed typically ends up in the black market, not legal pot shops. And they offered no proof the problem is any worse in Santa Clara County than elsewhere in California.

In essence, county officials lashed out at pot because they don’t like it and don’t believe other people should be allowed to like it either. This is happening increasingly across the state as aggressive, conservative local leaders try to wipe medical marijuana from the books.

About Matt Brooks

Based in San Francisco, Matt is a journalist who has specialized in marijuana policy for more than five years. He provides regular news coverage on marijuanaandthelaw.com and californiamarijuanamarket.com.

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