Free Pot for the Poor: Berkeley Criticized Over New Medical Marijuana Law
Berkeley, California is making headlines with a new law that will require medical marijuana dispensaries to give away at least two percent of their pot to low-income residents. Supporters point out that even those who have a doctor's permission, cannot necessarily afford to pay for the pot.
The New York Times reported this week on the new program:
The City Council approved the requirement this summer — unanimously no less — with the hope of making the drug, which can sell for up to $400 an ounce at dispensaries, affordable for all residents.
But the charity cannabis mandate, which city officials believe is the first such law, provoked a swift backlash from critics who mocked it as a tie-dyed fantasy in a city already famous for liberal experiments.
“Instead of taking steps to help the most economically vulnerable residents get out of that state, the city has said, ‘Let’s just get everybody high,’ ” said John Lovell, a lobbyist for the California Narcotic Officers’ Association.
Mr. Lovell said the free marijuana would sap patients’ motivation to look for work — after all, it is not a drug known for encouraging anyone to get off the couch — and could easily be resold on the street for profit by people who are short on money.
“I don’t see anything progressive about that,” Mr. Lovell said.
Tom Bates, the mayor of Berkeley, said the city was simply trying to ensure equal access to a drug he emphasized was medicine, useful for treating cancer pain and other maladies.
“There are some truly compassionate cases that need to have medical marijuana,” Mr. Bates said. “But it’s expensive. You hear stories about people dying from cancer who don’t have the money.”
Mr. Bates, a former state legislator and football player at the University of California, Berkeley, has also championed home brewing and organic vegetables on school menus. As for medical marijuana, “it’s a novel ideal to have it available to the poor,” he said. “Berkeley is sort of known for doing new things.”
Brian Kilmeade got some reaction this morning from Bishop Ron Allen and Mason Tvert, director of communications for the Marijuana Policy Project. Allen believes the idea is "ludicrous, over-the-top madness," but Tvert countered that medical marijuana is legal in the state and has broad support from the American public.
Allen pushed back on Tvert's argument that it should be up the people of Berkeley.
"That's why we elect individuals to help make good decisions for our decisions. You have to admit that the Berkeley City Council must have been high to make this decision," said Allen, adding that this will not help poor people get out of poverty.
Tvert rejected Allen's contention that marijuana has some of the same effects as heroin and crack cocaine, telling him, it "really suggests you don't know what you're talking about."
Watch the contentious debate above and let us know where you stand on the issue.