Jason Walsh: Has Sonoma come around on medical pot?
Riiingg! Hello, Sonoma? This is Jason. Hey, you wanna go see 'Jerry MacGuire' tonight? Siskel and Ebert gave it two thumbs up. Oh, you'd rather stay in and catch 'The X Files? OK, and I'll bring those Creed CDs you wanted to burn.
For those of you who attended the Sonoma City Council's cannabis workshop on Monday, you can be excused for wondering if you'd wandered into some sort of time-altering wormhole back to 1996 – when the only stain upon the U.S. presidency was 10cc's on a blue dress, and whether legal medical marijuana was something still open to debate in California.
Or, as fibromyalgia sufferer and medical marijuana advocate Sarah Schrader observed at the Sept. 11 council meeting: 'I have to say… you guys are behind the times.'
That certainly was the impression left that evening as Sonoma residents and city officials met at the Community Meeting Room to solicit feedback on issues facing the city following last November's passage of Prop. 64, which legalized recreational marijuana in California. However, while some residents and council members did address the fact that more than 60 percent of Sonoma voters have approved 'party pot' – and that the purpose of the meeting was to map out a plan of action for rolling legal cannabis into the city fabric – it still seemed like the Sonoma was fighting a medical-marijuana battle much of the state had called a truce over more than 20 years ago.
The good news is that Sonoma's medical marijuana Maginot Line appears to have broken, and a mandate for pain-relief pot seems to have earned a wide consensus, even among the City Council -- as admitted 'skunk' skeptics Gary Edwards and Madolyn Agrimonti joined the rest of the council in voicing support for potential cannabis delivery services to city residents for medical purposes.
The majority of the public commenters at the meeting called for an end to the city's current moratorium on cannabis activities in town – with their most passionate pleas invariably involving patient care.
Former city council member Ken Brown asked city officials to keep those patients 'in the front of your mind.'
'(There's been) a lot of statistics and a lot of talking,' said Brown. 'But there are patients in Sonoma who are terminal and need service now. Not six months from now, not when you get it all nailed down.'
Sonoma Valley Health Care District board member Bill Boerum read from a personal statement, saying, 'There are people in our city suffering from chronic and terminal conditions which can benefit from the curative and palliative attributes of medicinal cannabis.'
While Sonoma resident Chris Petlock boiled it down to, 'really what we're talking about here is compassion for the sick and those who cannot provide for themselves.'
And to the City of Sonoma's credit – though admittedly many years late – it's got a council that seems to finally agree.
As to whether the council will adhere to the changing times – not to mention the will of Sonoma voters – and allow for a recreational dispensary (and its accompanying estimated $45,000 to $135,000 in tax revenue) remains to be seen – and we'll save our browbeating over that for the fall when those decisions draws closer.
In the meantime, while city officials hammer out details of a revised marijuana ordinance – which could take months – we suggest council members heed Mayor Rachel Hundley's advice and approve an interim resolution lifting any prohibitions toward home delivery of medical marijuana. If Sonoma is serious about helping alleviate local patients' pain and suffering through medical cannabis, then it should proceed immediately.
Until then, we'll leave off with the medical marijuana observations of Councilmember Amy Harrington, who knows of what she speaks:
'About six years ago I had advanced cancer and had 27 days of chemotherapy,' the mother of two young girls told meeting attendees. 'And during that time was a medical marijuana patient and it really was a godsend.'
But, she said, 'it was difficult to get,' describing trips to San Francisco for a medical card and the stigmas around visits to dispensaries.
'And so I have firsthand, true compassion for people who really need to be able to get cannabis… it is an absolute essential that people have access to things that make them feel better during the hardest times in their life.'
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