Last week we featured a story on an annual Inland Empire survey that revealed surprising optimism for San Bernardino’s new civic leadership. I join those residents who believe the new leadership in San Bernardino is moving in the right direction.
It was recently brought to my attention that Gary Saenz, the new city attorney, is presenting a proposal to the city council on August 19th to allow for the opening of medical marijuana dispensaries in the city of San Bernardino. Currently medical marijuana outlets are prohibited there. According to local media sources, city officials are looking at communities like Palm Springs whose medical marijuana sales are contributing to the city’s bottom line as models for San Bernardino’s future. San Bernardino, however, is far from Palm Springs, which is primarily a retirement community.
Many cities in the Inland Empire, like Riverside and Murietta, have chosen to prohibit the outlets within their city limits citing increased crime and violence as one of the reasons they were against the dispensaries. While researchers with the UCLA based Marijuana Policy Project have found that the centers do not appear to have any impact on the urban landscape and there were no observed associations between the density of dispensaries and either violent or property crime rates, there is another problem. A problem that comes with a proliferation of dispensaries that San Bernardino doesn’t need, and the small tax benefit to the city isn’t worth… marijuana misuse. These same UCLA researchers have found that the more dispensaries and mobile delivery services a city has, the more its residents use marijuana regardless of whether or not they have a medical reason.
I’m not a gambling woman, but I’d bet all the cash I have in my purse that many of them are young recreational users. And that is a problem. According to a white paper issued by the American Society of Addiction Medicine, the largest association of physicians specializing in addiction, not only can the substance produce serious dependency, there is evidence that young people are more vulnerable to its adverse effects. Young people who smoke heavily have impaired neural connections that interfere with the functioning of their brains.
A recent New York Times opinion on what science says about marijuana, while supporting legalization, cautions that it is not a harmless substance and calls for restrictions for both minors and adults.
San Bernardino should take note. A second New York Times opinion piece on rules for the marijuana market outlines how policy makers have so little experience regulating the market for the drug, it makes sense for state governments – and I would add local – to proceed with caution. While San Bernardino’s leaders are gaining the trust of the residents who recently voted them into office, they should reconsider this idea as a way to gain more tax dollars. There must be other options to increase revenue while raising the standard of living that doesn’t make it easier for the larger population to get high in the process.
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