Weed Wars

Dispatches from the California Marijuana Front

April 13, 2010
Police 'White Paper' on pot shops fuels Placer prohibition vote

As supervisors in Placer County last week voted to prohibit marijuana dispensaries from opening in the county, they relied heavily on a "White Paper on Marijuana Dispensaries" put out by the California Police Chiefs Association.

The document, published last year, is a pretty scathing report. It argues that dispensaries are linked to marijuana crimes and violence.

That is drawing fire from medical marijuana advocates. They charge that the "White Paper" is an intentionally inflammatory document drafted in a political bid to shut down legal medical marijuana operations.

Here's a glimpse of what the document has to say:

Marijuana dispensaries are commonly large money-making enterprises that will sell marijuana to most anyone who produces a physician's written recommendation for its medical use. These recommendations can be had by paying unscrupulous physicians a fee and claiming to have most any malady, even headaches. While the dispensaries will claim to receive only donations, no marijuana will change hands without an exchange of money. These operations have been tied to organized criminal gangs, foster large grow operations, and are often multi-million-dollar profit centers.

Because they are repositories of valuable marijuana crops and large amounts of cash, several operators of dispensaries have been attacked and murdered by armed robbers both at their storefronts and homes, and such places have been regularly burglarized. Drug dealing, sales to minors, loitering, heavy vehicle and foot traffic in retail areas, increased noise, and robberies of customers just outside dispensaries are also common ancillary byproducts of their operations.

Don Duncan, California director for Americans for Safe Access, a group advocating for medical marijuana patients said the paper's "ancillary crimes" report wrongly suggests that dispensaries are to blame for off-site armed robberies and murders. One example cited in the report was the 2002 killing of two residents in a Willits home invasion targeting medical pot.

"What we're seeing in that report is that police are putting out isolated incidents of abuse or misconduct to paint the entire medical cannabis movement," Duncan said. "The vast majority of our people (operating medical pot locations) are lawful, good neighbors. When they say there are giant profit-making centers, there may be kernels of truth out there. But it is generally not true of the (dispensary) movement.

"Law enforcement has always been an opponent of medical cannabis. What you see in the report is more akin to propaganda than public education."

To read the 2009 police chiefs association report, click here.

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