Medical marijuana issue inflames council

Cannabis Seedling Marijuana, courtesy

Cannabis Seedling Marijuana, courtesy

Put the words “marijuana” and “wasted” in the same sentence and the path usually leads to a state of inebriation. At Tuesday’s Santa Barbara City Council meeting, however, it led in the opposite direction — at least for some — to a state of frustration about wasted time, as the council heard a presentation from community activist Bruce Rittenhouse on the implementation of Proposition 215, which deals with medicinal marijuana.

Given that the state of California already passed legislation legalizing medicinal marijuana, and that when it takes effect in January, the County Health Department will be responsible for its implementation, some of the council members responded as though Rittenhouse was bogarting their precious time in bringing this issue before the council.

Councilman Gregg Hart responded to Rittenhouse with, “I do not understand what we’re doing here when the problem has been resolved. … I think, frankly, there must be some political agenda here at play.”

Rittenhouse, who first brought this issue before the council in June 2000 and frequently mentioned it as a priority during his recent failed attempt to win a seat on the council, unsuccessfully urged the council to send the matter to the Ordinance Committee.

Calling it an “issue of the milk of human kindness or lack thereof,” councilman-elect Brian Barnwell also advocated for the Ordinance Committee.

Recent council candidate Bob Cawley also spoke in support of action as he recalled his brother’s terminal cancer diagnosis 10 years ago. “If you’ve ever had a loved one who was critically ill … you’d do anything you can to make them more comfortable.”

Also voicing public support for taking action on the measure was Janet Benner, whose son died of AIDS in 1993.

Despite some obvious compassion for the cause, particularly as voiced by councilwoman Iya Falcone, the council ultimately agreed to let the State and Federal governments deal with it, despite Rittenhouse’s contention that “I doubt seriously that on January 1 this (the law going into effect) is really going to happen.”

Originally published in South Coast Beacon on November 20, 2003.

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