Guest View: Clearing the air on medical marijuana

Canisters of marijuana are marked for medical use only at Purple Cross Rx in 2010. The dispensary shut down after the county and city outlawed the operations.

In response to Marty Richman’s guest view: Marijuana Ordinance Should Wait (Sept. 2 Free Lance) I offer this response:

Mr. Richman is factually incorrect with his interpretation of Prop. 64, which leads him to erroneously conclude that the Hollister City Council should wait for the Nov. 8 election in support of his anti-marijuana ideology.

Richman must be or should be aware that about 58% of San Benito County voters approved Prop. 215 twenty years ago, a demonstrated local voter mandate in support of the state law.

Meanwhile, the city council ponders the political expediency of whether or not sick and dying patients in our community deserve safe and legal access to medical marijuana products as is their right pursuant to Prop. 215—the Compassionate Use act of 1996.

Readers interested in actually reading the Prop. 64 ballot language may do so here:

With respect to Richman’s claim that “If Prop. 64 passes, it eliminates the use tax on medical marijuana…money the city planned to use to fund administrative control and code enforcement for those operations.” That statement is completely false.

According to California NORML, its legal analysis of Prop. 64 states the following:

“Due to its extraordinary length and complexity, AUMA contains a number of glitches and inconsistencies that will have to be ironed out by the courts or the legislature. It also includes… a 15% + tax increase on medical marijuana.”

Richman has gone on record overtly opposing Hollister revising bans on medical marijuana dispensaries in its jurisdiction, which is fine, but his representations of the facts in support of his argument should be truthful and accurate.

Those of us who have survived cancer or other injuries/illnesses or may be terminally ill are entitled to the consideration and respect of elected officials to hear our side of the story. Sadly, most of us have accepted the status quo position of the local ordinances and have adjusted to either obtaining medicine out of town or purchasing it “illegally” from the four mobile medical marijuana dispensaries who service Hollister. (Readers can look them up on

The truth is that most really sick and dying people aren’t going to show up at Hollister City Council meetings to lobby for their rights and appeal to angry fellow community members for their compassion. And Marty Richman is completely content that the sick and dying among us should pack up their wheelchairs, I.V. drips and gurneys and drive or be driven 40 or 50 miles away so that the threat of a medical marijuana dispensary won’t exist and tarnish—in his words—”the character of the city.”

There is something of a compromise to be had. The Hollister City Council should permit one local medical marijuana dispensary to legally operate in its jurisdiction for a year or two and monitor its operation, job creation potential and tax revenue capacity while meeting state and local laws ordinances.

But more importantly, the Hollister City Council would be attempting to meet the needs of the estimated 1,000 or so Prop. 215 patients they represent and who live in our community. That would be the correct thing to do.

Michael Smith is from Hollister.