Weed Wars

Dispatches from the California Marijuana Front

March 4, 2010
Author of key pot legislation ponders the impact

The author of California's landmark - some say infamous - marijuana distribution legislation says he never anticipated it could bring a torrent of newly-opened dispensaries to communities in the state.
Former Sen. John Vasconcellos says he was trying to set a framework for getting cannabis to medical patients when he drafted Senate Bill 420, using the numeric nickname for pot smoking.

The bill, signed by Gov. Gray Davis, allows non-profit "collectives or "cooperatives" to distribute marijuana to members who are medical users and have a physician's recommendation.

 But Vasconcellos didn't envision burgeoning pot storefronts.

"I didn't think about it," Vasconcellos said in a recent interview at a Capitol news conference on medical marijuana. "We just knew that Proposition 215," which legalized medicinal cannabis use, "directed us to create a distribution system."

Now people such as District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis in San Diego and City Attorney Carmen Trutanich in Los Angeles argue that dispensaries are operating as for-profit retail stores. The L.A. City Council is directing police to comb the books of dispensaries for allegedly excessive salaries paid pot store employees.

Vasconcellos scoffs at the crackdowns.

"I think there's a rallying cry for making people politically popular," he said. "People that run non-profits get paid."

While many pot advocates push for full legalization, Vasconcellos says the time may be ripe for the Legislature to add clarity to the still hazy environment for medical marijuana.

"It would help," he said.

About Comments

Reader comments on Sacbee.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Sacramento Bee. If you see an objectionable comment, click the "report abuse" button below it. We will delete comments containing inappropriate links, obscenities, hate speech, and personal attacks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. See more about comments here.

What You Should Know About Comments on Sacbee.com

Sacbee.com is happy to provide a forum for reader interaction, discussion, feedback and reaction to our stories. However, we reserve the right to delete inappropriate comments or ban users who can't play nice. (See our full terms of service here.)

Here are some rules of the road:

• Keep your comments civil. Don't insult one another or the subjects of our articles. If you think a comment violates our guidelines click the "report abuse" button to notify the moderators. Responding to the comment will only encourage bad behavior.

• Don't use profanities, vulgarities or hate speech. This is a general interest news site. Sometimes, there are children present. Don't say anything in a way you wouldn't want your own child to hear.

• Do not attack other users; focus your comments on issues, not individuals.

• Stay on topic. Only post comments relevant to the article at hand. If you want to discuss an issue with a specific user, click on his profile name and send him a direct message.

• Do not copy and paste outside material into the comment box.

• Don't repeat the same comment over and over. We heard you the first time.

• Do not use the commenting system for advertising. That's spam and it isn't allowed.

• Don't use all capital letters. That's akin to yelling and not appreciated by the audience.

You should also know that The Sacramento Bee does not screen comments before they are posted. You are more likely to see inappropriate comments before our staff does, so we ask that you click the "report abuse" button to submit those comments for moderator review. You also may notify us via email at feedback@sacbee.com. Note the headline on which the comment is made and tell us the profile name of the user who made the comment. Remember, comment moderation is subjective. You may find some material objectionable that we won't and vice versa.

If you submit a comment, the user name of your account will appear along with it. Users cannot remove their own comments once they have submitted them, but you may ask our staff to retract one of your comments by sending an email to feedback@sacbee.com. Again, make sure you note the headline on which the comment is made and tell us your profile name.

hide comments

On October 14, The Sacramento Bee will temporarily remove commenting from sacbee.com. While we design the upgrade, we encourage you to tell us what you like and don't like about commenting on sacbee.com and other websites. We've heard from hundreds of you already and we're listening. Please continue to add your thoughts and questions here. We also encourage you to write Letters to the Editor on this and other topics.