Lemon Grove voters will be asked Tuesday to decide whether medical marijuana dispensaries should operate in the city and, if so, how to best regulate the businesses.
Voters will find two measures on the local ballot.
Proposition T is authored by the medical marijuana campaign group Citizens for Patients Rights, and was placed on the ballot following a petition drive.
In response, the city offered Proposition Q, which seeks further regulations and gives the city additional controls over the businesses.
[To read the full text of both propositions, click on the pdfs in the media box.]
And while the measures are similar in nature, opinions about them couldn’t be farther apart.
Backers say storefront dispensaries allow seriously ill people and that Lemon Grove has already shown its support by placing Proposition T on the ballot.
Opponents say the businesses are illegal, an invitation to crime, and are used by recreational marijuana users.
An Oct. 18 community forum organized by local pastors to air concerns about the businesses operating in Lemon Grove was dismissed as “reefer madness propaganda” by San Diego Americans for Safe Access.
About two dozen people, including seven proponents of medical marijuana, attended the forum hosted by the Lemon Grove Clergy Association. Supporters were angered that they were not invited to present their viewpoint.
“It’s a farce, it’s ridiculous,” Cynara Velazquez said about the panel discussion. “It’s obviously biased and one-sided.”
Pastor Mark Stapleton of Cornerstone Community Church said the local clergy organized the forum to discuss potential impacts the business could have on the city.
“We feel like there are some real-life issues associated with the presence of medical marijuana dispensaries,” he said.
Velazquez, campaign coordinator for Citizens for Patient Rights, criticized panelists for not knowing details about the measure’s safeguards. She was frustrated that some of the talk focused on minors and marijuana.
“Nobody’s goal is to allow access to youth,” she said.
Opponents aren't just worried about use among young people, but perception.
“I’m very concerned about the impact that normalizing drug use has on our kids,” said panelist Rebecca Hernandez.
Steve Browne, owner of Courtesy TV on Broadway, said he doesn’t think storefront dispensaries will be good for downtown.
“The city needs to work on what’s going to bring businesses in,” he said. “As a business owner, I would not want to be next door [to a dispensary].”
Critics also point to the measure as being part of a well-funded campaign brought to town by paid signature gatherers, not a hometown effort.
Lemon Grove is among five local municipalities that were targeted by the organization’s expansion effort in the wake of a massive federal crackdown that closed commercial cooperatives in the county last year.
California voters approved the use of marijuana for medical purposes in 1996, but possession or sale of the drug remains a federal crime. In question is whether the state’s medical marijuana industry is at odds with the federal Controlled Substances Act, which prohibits the sale and distribution of cannabis.
“It is important to note that for-profit, commercial marijuana operations are illegal not only under federal law, but also under California law,” said Andre Birotte Jr, the U.S. Attorney in Los Angeles, following the 2011 crackdown. “While California law permits collective cultivation of marijuana in limited circumstances, it does not allow commercial distribution through the storefront model we see across California.”