SANTA BARBARA – Los Angeles has become the latest big city in California to ban medical marijuana dispensaries. Now concern is mounting that those who need medical cannabis to treat legitimate ailments will be forced back to the black market and the danger that goes with it.
Medical marijuana advocates on the Central Coast are warning of the law of unintended consequences in the ongoing crackdown of dispensaries in California.
They say the proposed benefit law enforcement is advocating in shutting down the pot shops will ultimately do more harm than good to our communities.
At the Santa Barbara offices of Canamed, which evaluates patients with a variety of ailments and prescribes medical marijuana as part of a treatment, the decision by the L.A. City Council to ban pot dispensaries is being called troubling.
"If the dispensary business was better regulated that it can be done safely", says Dr. Bernard Smyle of Canamed in Santa Barbara, "it can be done within the confines of maintaining safety for the city and the surroundings, and yet providing patients with the medications that not only improves their health but provides treatment for a lot of patients in dire need."
Santa Barbara Police say pounds of freshly grown marijuana was destined for the L.A. area when officers intercepted it during a search warrant and traffic stop on a suspect they'd been investigating in a joint operation with the County Sheriff's Department.
31 year old Walter Seth Stanley was arrested on charges of growing and selling marijuana illegally and for being a felon in possession of ammunition.
"Where he sold every bit of it might be difficult to trace", says Santa Barbara Police Lieutenant Paul McCaffrey, "but our investigation did lead us to believe he was specifically supplying some of the marijuana distribution centers in the Los Angeles area."
Now that the L.A. City Council has voted to shut dispensaries within its city limits, concerned medical practitioners like Dr. Bernard Smyle say his patients will have to resort to the more dangerous black market.
"Unfortunately driving the whole trade underground", Dr. Smyle says, "making patients with legitimate needs seeking potentially unsavory sources to get treatment that really helps them."
I'm told all of the medical marijuana dispensaries in Santa Barbara were closed earlier this year under threat of federal property forfeiture laws related to illegal marijuana search and seizures.
With more and more dispensaries closing, Central Coast News has learned there are several well known and popular delivery services that link local medical marijuana patients with dispensaries either in the L.A.-area or elsewhere that operate legally with little or no additional fee.