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Date: 2022-12-01 22:21:41
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Six years after legalization, Californians continue to face obstacles in accessing cannabis. The latest example: is the City of Hesperia, where local officials are steadfastly working to kill the city’s commercial cannabis program, prohibiting the renewal of any existing delivery permits and drafting ordinances to shut down the local marketplace entirely.
Once passed, these laws will phase out cannabis operations in the city by November 2024. At that point, every shop will be out of business, preventing patients and veterans from accessing their medicine and sending them to the illicit market.
In passing an Oct 18 resolution plotting their course, city council members falsely justified their decision by claiming the cannabis industry does not generate enough revenue to cover the city’s administrative overhead. In making this erroneous claim, proponents looked only at tax revenue and ignored the audit, licensing, and operating fees each business pays to cover enforcement expenses.
Hesperia’s cannabis program is anemic by design, prohibiting all retail licensure except for medical delivery. It’s no small wonder that tax revenues aren’t breaking any records. Hesperia should be expanding business opportunities, not eradicating them.
More than 60% of Hesperia residents approved Measure T in 2018, allowing the city to tax cannabis businesses, with funding to be used for public safety services and public works improvements, among other expenses. So why are city officials willing to rob constituents of these public investments? It remains unclear.
What is clear, however, is that these officials’ backward attitudes will prevent Hesperia residents from accessing local medical cannabis, put people out of business and drive patients and veterans to the dangerous illicit market for unsafe, untested products.
Californians cannot purchase cannabis in 61% of cities and counties across the state. As a Californian and a veteran who depends on access to medical cannabis for personal health and well-being, I know how dangerous these local bans can be. Access to cannabis can be a matter of life and death. Veterans are often prescribed addictive opioids to treat various physical and mental symptoms, which put their lives at risk. Medical cannabis, by contrast, is a safe and effective alternative that allows veterans to manage symptoms that can lead to depression and suicide. At the national level, the proportion of those who use medical cannabis is more than double of veterans compared to the general population.
Local access is critical. A recent University of California, Davis study found counties with a greater number of cannabis dispensaries experience fewer opioid-related deaths than those without. Hesperia politicians need to listen to science.
An estimated 4,030 veterans reside in Hesperia. City officials want to deny them, and countless other patients who rely on medical cannabis, their medicine. This is regressive - and potentially illegal. SB 1186 (Wiener), known as the Medicinal Cannabis Patients’ Right of Access Act, was signed into law by Governor Newsom. It prohibits a local jurisdiction from adopting or enforcing any regulation that bans the retail sale by delivery of medicinal cannabis to patients or caregivers. That law goes into effect in January 2024. While the state is moving to ensure patients can access their medicine, Hesperia’s local officials are moving in the opposite direction at the expense of veterans and patients.
Sean Kiernan is the executive director of the veteran advocacy group, the Weed for Warriors Project (WFW). WFW is a grassroots organization established in 2014 to advocate for veterans’ access to cannabis, viewed as a principal tool to combat the devastating toll of opioid addiction among veterans. Today, WFW activities support safe cannabis access, veteran rehabilitation programs, community engagement, continuing education, and political advocacy.