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Smoking the vote 

Fifth District candidates get fired up over medical pot

Editor’s note: In their lead-up to the June 3 SLO County Board of Supervisors election, two seemingly mild-mannered 5th District candidates—Supervisor Jim Patterson and former legislative aide and rancher Debbie Arnold—have been exchanging some punchy letters. Here’s one recent exchange over the issue of medical marijuana dispensaries in the county.

Patterson voted for pot

click to enlarge opinion-smoke_the_vote0.jpg
Dear Voters,

I was shocked to read Supervisor Patterson’s misleading and untrue attacks against me. Perhaps worse, instead of debating our real differences over this issue, he’s stooped to name calling—like a schoolyard bully who thinks he can intimidate anyone who opposes him.

Let’s be perfectly clear: I said that Jim Patterson supported allowing marijuana dispensaries in San Luis Obispo County—because that is exactly what he did.

Not only did his appointee to the Planning Commission support marijuana dispensaries, but so did Jim—he even made the motion to allow marijuana dispensaries in the county! It was during the same meeting when he voted for a plan to give needles to drug users.

Now—in an election year—Patterson voted against a specific location, but that doesn’t change the fact that he voted to allow marijuana dispensaries here in the first place.

Don’t just take my word for it—I’ve placed the official minutes from the Board of Supervisors meeting on my website— Or, you can get them from the County’s official website. And while you’re on the computer, Google “marijuana” and “Patterson”—you’ll be surprised what you find. I guess Jim forgot about the interviews he gave to the Cannabis News and Associated Press after voting to allow marijuana dispensaries in the county.

Call Jim Patterson at (805) 462-9482 and tell him to end the name-calling and bully tactics and start talking about real differences and real ideas for helping keep families safe. I’ll continue to share my plans and my ideas—and the differences in our positions. But I’ll do it in a respectful way, and I’ll never stoop to bullying or name-calling.


Debbie Arnold


Process was required by law

Dear Debbie,

I was shown a copy of your letter dated April 21 that was sent to voters and I was saddened and disappointed by your continued misrepresentations about the county ordinance allowing medical marijuana dispensaries and my vote to enact it.

While I assume the letter was crafted by your political consultant, you are responsible for the accuracy of its content. Let me clarify a few points in the letter as well as postings on your website that you reference in your letter.

On July 18, 2006, the Board of Supervisors directed staff to develop a process to properly site a medical marijuana dispensary in the unincorporated area of the county with restrictions and the involvement of law enforcement. I made the motion and it was adopted by the Board. Subsequently on February 6, 2007, Supervisor Achadjian made the motion to adopt the resulting ordinance. This ordinance establishes the legally required guidelines for allowing a medical marijuana dispensary in the county.

Allow me to share some facts as to why this ordinance was absolutely necessary for the county.

In 1996, 5.3 million California voters (55.6% of those voting) approved the statewide Medical Marijuana “Compassionate Use” Initiative. Thereafter, our state legislature passed a bill to legalize that voter referendum, codifying it as Section 11362.5 of the California Health and Safety Code.

California Health and Safety Code Section 11362.5 mandates that “seriously ill residents of the state, who have the oral or written approval or recommendation of a physician, can use marijuana for medical purposes without fear of criminal liability.”

At Code Section 11362.7(h), the law identifies a “serious medical condition” to include cancer, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, or other chronic or persistent medical conditions or symptoms that, if not alleviated, would cause serious harm to the patient’s safety or physical or mental health.

At Sections 11362.74(a) and 11362.745(a), the law requires county health departments to approve an application for an identification card allowing an individual access to medical marijuana absent fraud by the applicant. If the county denies an application for any other reason, it is appealable to California’s court system as a violation
of state law.

Further, the law must be “uniformly and consistently applied among the counties within the state.” In other words, every California county is legally obligated to grant qualified patients access to medical marijuana when recommended by their physicians.

Finally, the only method by which a county or city may regulate the use of marijuana for medical purposes is to “retain or enact medical marijuana guidelines” concerning its distribution and use.


Jim Patterson


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