Medical marijuana advocates mixed on issue
Sandra Emerson, Staff Writer
Posted: 08/22/2010 09:03:20 PM PDT

Inland Empire medical marijuana advocates have mixed feelings on the proposition seeking to legalize marijuana for recreational use.

If approved by voters in November, Proposition 19, or Tax Cannabis 2010, will make it legal for adults 21 years and older to possess, cultivate or transport marijuana for personal use.

Some advocates contend the proposition will lower the cost of medical marijuana and open the door for cities to embrace the drug.

Lanny Swerdlow, president of the Inland Empire chapter of the Marijuana Anti-Prohibition project, said the only real effect the proposition may have on the medical side is price.

“The only major effect I see is in counties which allow it, it will allow for large-scale growing outdoors which should help bring the price down substantially,” said Swerdlow, a registered nurse who has visited with patients who say they cannot afford to use medical marijuana.

“I never ever want to hear a 75-year-old lady in chronic pain tell me that she has to use Vicodin because she can’t afford to buy the marijuana,” Swerdlow said.

“The only thing on the horizon that is out there that’s going to bring the price down is going to be Prop. 19, and that’s why it’s so important.”

A Survey USA poll this month found that 50 percent of likely Californian voters would vote yes on Proposition 19 and 40 percent would vote no.

Dan Newman, a spokesman for the Yes on Prop. 19 campaign, said there will be no impact on the medical marijuana industry.

“Proposition 19 will have zero, – zilch – nada impact on the current legal rights granted to patients, caregivers, doctors, collectives and cooperatives under California’s existing medical cannabis laws,” he said in an e-mail.

California’s medical marijuana laws will remain intact and unchanged, he said.

Voters approved a measure in 1996 that decriminalizes the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes if recommended by a physician. Lawmakers in 2004 made it mandatory for counties to implement a medical marijuana identification card program.

Jan Werner, an operator of the Inland Empire Patients Group in Bloomington, views the proposition to be potentially detrimental to the strides made to decriminalize medical marijuana.

He said the cost of medical marijuana is already decreasing.

“Part of the problem is the way it’s been suggested to the public,” he said. “That it’s going to make marijuana legal for everyone, and in fact it’s probably going to take about five steps backwards.”

There are an estimated $15 billion in illegal marijuana transactions in California each year, according to the proposition’s authors. The state Board of Equalization estimates taxes on marijuana could be as much as $1.4 billion.

The proposition gives city and county governments the ability to regulate and tax marijuana sales, or prohibit them entirely.

If marijuana were legalized, the government would have more control over the distribution of marijuana, which Werner said could put his cooperative out of business.

“It’s up to them who would get it, where to get it and how much to get it for. It sounds ridiculous,” he said. “It sounds like they’re trying to set it up for big corporations.”

Aaron Sandusky, president of G3 Holistic, a medical marijuana cooperative in Upland, said he recognizes several flaws in the proposition but supports its goal.

“It’s definitely a big step, but I think it’s a positive step,” he said. “The benefits outweigh the negatives, I think.”

Sandusky said some of those benefits would include lowering the price of medical marijuana, because medical-grade marijuana is difficult to grow.

“Not anybody can grow it,” Sandusky said. “Everybody will try, but it’s difficult to do, and I think the quality will increase, the prices will come down and it will make it more affordable for patients to gain access.”

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