Measure ‘T’hreatens Marijuana Dispensers

If passed by the residents of Santa Barbara on Nov. 2, Measure T would shut down the operations of all medical marijuana dispensaries in the city and prevent any more from opening.

[media-credit name=”WikiMedia Commons” align=”alignleft” width=”250″][/media-credit]Community discussion on the measure grew heated earlier this month when, according to a Santa Barbara Police Dept. press release, two political signs supporting Measure T were set aflame on the property of Mari Mender, a spokesperson for the proposition. The number “420” was also spray painted on Mender’s curb.

Measure T appears on the ballot for residents of Santa Barbara at the same time that state Prop 19 — which would legalize the possession, cultivation, use and transportation of marijuana — hangs tentatively in the balance for votes, according to recent polls. Santa Barbara City Council member Dale Francisco said a “yes” vote for Measure T would still prevent vendors from distributing marijuana in the city, effective even if Prop 19 were to pass.

“Prop 19 puts all the power to regulate marijuana within the local jurisdiction,” Francisco said. “If Prop 19 and Measure T both pass we would have no problem at all, retail sales could still be illegal.”

However, Santa Barbara City Council member Das Williams said any possible contradiction between Measure T and Prop 19 would be dealt with by the judiciary should both become law.

The city’s current zoning ordinance allows a limited number of storefront medicinal marijuana dispensaries to sell cannabis after acquiring specific permits. If voters pass Measure T, the three dispensaries currently operating within Santa Barbara will be shut down.

According to Francisco, the measure would stop dispensaries that manipulate the system in order to make a profit.

“Most of these operations are selling 90 percent of their product for recreational use, and maybe 10 percent, at most, for medicinal use.” Francisco said. “I am sure that some people do receive relief, but this tiny minority is being used as a shield by the dispensary owners who want to say that this is all about compassion and medicine when it is really about profit. I don’t have anything against people making a profit, but if it is illegal, we as a city should not be sanctioning it.”

Williams, on the other hand, said he is firmly against the proposition. He said passing Measure T would drive pot sales underground where it is less regulated and, thus, more dangerous.

“According to state law, you can either have these storefront dispensers where you can do criminal background checks, audit records and make sure they sell to the right people, or you can have delivery services that you can’t regulate at all,” Williams said. “Right now, there is a share of the market that is now in the hands of legal, reputable businesses and if Measure T passes, the market is either going to go into the hands of delivery services, which are less accountable, or into criminal gangs.”

Wayne Myers, an employee of the local dispensary Sacred Mountain Medicine, said he is also against the measure. Myers, who noted he did not speak on behalf of his employer, said he thinks cannabis is a relatively harmless substance compared to alcohol.

“Every year people die as a result of alcohol — from livers that rot away to horrible car wrecks that ruin families,” Myers said. “Marijuana is an innocuous little plant that doesn’t cause much trouble and is far better for us socially; it doesn’t make much sense that society would choose alcohol over marijuana. Why should I have any allegiance to these motherfuckers out here that are selling everybody alcohol?”