By Pebbles Trippet  

The California Supreme Court ruled unanimously May 6 in the case of Riverside vs. Inland Empire Wellness Center that cities and counties can use zoning laws to restrict or ban medical marijana dispensaries. Some localities will look to the future and decline to ban, instead helping integrate medical cannabis with revenue & rules into the society as a whole, benefiting government in the process. This is not the first time something we are doing is not working. Let’s look back and assess what we have done to arrive here & figure out how to improve the situation for the cannabis community. 

1) Under conditions of marijuana prohibition, on the whole we have been laying low hoping to get by under the radar of fear, discrimination, intimidation, prosecution, prison. Laying low has proven not to work to pull us out of the prohibition hole.

2) Ballot initiatives are an objective gauge of where movement energy is going. Our track record is sketchy. We went to the ballot in 1972 with the CMI, calling for legalization of personal use. We were ecstatic to see 1/3 of California voters on our side–33% Yes, for removing criminal penalties for personal use. Instead of pursuing this new avenue–the popular vote–we deferred to the Legislature, which passed a major reform bill in 1975, making us misdemeanants instead of felons for possession of up to an ounce. Had we won the fruits of 1972, there’d have been no crime, no penalty at all. That reform was enough to quell our dissent for a generation until 1996, 20 years later, when we went back to the ballot with Prop 215 and won the popular vote for medical marijuana by 56%! Then in 2010, Richard Lee took some form of marijuana legalization proposal to the voters & came close with 47%. That opened up the nationwide debate that has been widening ever since. 

3) Politicians in general and the CA Legislature in particular have had decades to take on the unjust marijuana laws but have done virtually nothing to advance our cause, including avowed liberals. When Rose Bird was in the powerful position of Supreme Court Chief Justice, she did nothing. Barbara Boxer did not endorse Prop 215, like all the other state level politicians. Seven years after the voters said Yes on medical, in 2003, Sen. Vasconcellos put forward SB420 to clarify and expand 215 & became the outstanding exception who went to bat for us. We’ve relied on the Legislature and politicians in general too long.