Concord City Council to discuss Marijuana Controversy

concord-ca, back yard grow, marijuana cultivation, marijuana possession, reefer_madnessSmoking Marijuana is more fun than drinking beer, but a friend of ours was captured and they gave him 30 years.” ~ Phil Ochs 1964.

It was indeed a surprise to find marijuana cultivation to be an issue discussed at a recent Concord City Council meeting. Apparently, there is a dispute between approved medical growers of the herb versus neighbors who dislike the strong smell and are worried about criminals trespassing to steal the mature plants.

My, have times changed since getting busted” for procession of a small amount of weed was a serious matter that could get you jail time as opposed to widespread acceptance of pot that exists today. Since I was a teenager (living near the Haight Ashbury) we have come from a “Reefer Madness” world to one where Cheech and Chong are almost considered to be respectable citizens.

Which brings us to Concord where the City Council is faced with difficult choices that are not likely to please many of their constituents. Keeping in mind that possession of marijuana is in violation of Federal law, the City Council has the “Hobson’s Choice” of allowing cultivation or arresting those who do it. Whatever happened to “benign neglect” when you need it?

According to sources familiar with City Council process, here is an outline of the steps planned to agendize the discussion of marijuana cultivation and possession in Concord. After the Council’s notice to Staff to develop an ordinance the following is a rough outline:

1. Staff will take up direction to draft a proposed ordinance along the various lines as suggested by Council, namely to restrict outdoor growing and whatever else was kicked around as noted.
2. Staff will submit a draft to the Planning Commission (In January?)
3. Planning Commission will put it on the agenda and then take public comment
4. Any suggested changes will be made and voted on by the Planning Commission
5. That ordinance will then come to the City council for a public hearing and an initial vote (earliest Feb most likely March)
6. The Council may make some changes and will vote on it after public input.
7. As early as 2 weeks later there will be a second reading of the approved ordinance on a Consent Calendar motion and maybe some more public comment.
8. If the Council elects not to overturn the ordinance at the second reading then it goes into affect 30 days from then = May effective date, most likely.

Since the topic is on the agenda, perhaps it is time to take a realistic assessment of marijuana use and deal with its proper place in society. Without the use of scientific data, I put together a table (listed below) comparing the use of alcohol, tobacco, and weed with 10 being the worse effects and 1 being the least.

With regard to medical problems on a long term basis, tobacco is the worst of the three with cancer and heart problems ending people’s lives prematurely. Alcohol abuse is not too far behind as booze seems to negatively affect vital organs not to mention mental difficulties for those who overindulge. Marijuana, on the other hand, does not seem to have such a dismal long-term record of hurting people’s health. Of course critics will argue not enough studies have been made but it does not appear smoking dope has turned most baby boomers into worthless degenerates.

Short term medical effects are another matter. Tobacco use among has a cumulative effect so if new smokers quit within a few years, the habit is less likely to hurt their long-term health. Pot falls generally in this same group although short-term memory loss is never good; especially for students. I thought the same about teenage drinking until a counselor for the Salvation Army pointed out that “drinking often leads to fighting and serious automobile accidents.” A good point worth considering.

social-impact-drug-alcohol-tobacco

Along with violence and vehicle mishaps, heavy drinking has been a major factor in the majority of domestic violence beefs. Although country and western singers often lament “drinking too many beers” and being “sorry for what I done”, excessive consumption of liquor continues despite efforts by the government and AA to moderate its use.

In contrast to abuser’s of “Bud Light”, dopers are seldom violent and tend to be docile by comparison. There seem to be few cases of armed robberies occurring after a joint is smoked. The closest we come to crime is the theft of Twinkies from the nearest 7-11, as hunger often accompanies marijuana consumption. Of the “Big 3″ tobacco has the least implications for law enforcement. Other than under age kids smoking, there is little correlation between tobacco and crime. While this is a signficant factor, it does not figure to be a strong endorsement to light up a Marlboro.

Now we come to the controversial area of underage youth experimenting with tobacco, booze, and dope All are potentially dangerous but the reality of life is that most kids at least try these “forbidden fruits” Unfortunately, the DARE approach of condemning consumption of anything stronger than root beer, by and large did not work. It is normally up to parents to discuss use of tobacco, marijuana and alcohol with their kids especially with respect to operating and driving motor vehicles.

In dealing with these subjects we come to the controversial area of “gateway drugs” According to a common perceptions, consumption of tobacco, marijuana, and alcohol, leads to younger people getting hooked on stronger stuff such as crank, heroin, and cocaine, While it is true, most addicts graduate from using less harmful substances to the dark side drugs, it is also understood that the majority of young people end up drinking and smoking in moderation much like their parents.

Back in college, my political science professors constantly emphasized that any polling data can always be interpreted in a multitude of ways. Trying to analyze how to best regulate and deal the “forbidden fruits” is a poster child for this theory. The one major difference with how tobacco and liquor versus Marijuana is that the later is not completely legal except in Colorado, Washington, and Jamaica.

Were Alexis de Tocqueville analyzing American culture today, he would probably be at a loss to explain how Marijuana is still against law while the two other sin substances are highly taxed and are important components in funding government services. With the “noble experiment” of prohibition behind us, marijuana use will be dealt within the coming years by all levels of government. We can expect “sin taxes” not being far behind in this process.

Even though there is strong opposition to marijuana use, its use both medically and recreationally appear to be here to stay. Despite this fact, what to do with cannabis is a divisive subject that brings emotional arguments from al, sides. The Concord City Council is no exception. With regards to the growing of medical marijuana, they hope by putting the issue in the hands of the Planning Commission, it will somehow disappear.

Don’t count on it.

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