Marjuana is the subject of debate as California is set to legalize recreational marjuana in Jan. of 2018.
Photo courtesy of Lode Van de Velde/Creative Commons
By Oscar Iriate
With the upcoming California state legalization of recreational marijuana starting at the beginning of 2018, San Luis Obispo city officials were hard at work to get input from the public and inform them about possible outcomes, expectations and address concerns the community may have about marijuana in SLO.
A public forum was held on Oct. 23 at the SLO public library that had a four member panel to discuss the community’s concerns.
The four member panel included the SLO Chief of Police Deanna Cantrell, a cannabis farmer of 20 years and President of City Boy Farms Jason Kallen, an entrepreneur named John Rozell, and Jody Belsher executive board president of Prevention of Substance Abuse for Youth.
“[If you say yes to marjuana] you say yes to the smell of weed in our communities,” Belsher said.
The meeting started with Belsher passionately declaring that her top concern was the impact that the proliferation of marijuana would have on the youth.
“If the city approves of weed in the city, you are also saying ‘yes to future users’ and ‘teachers will have to use air fresheners’ to get rid of the smell that will be all around SLO,” she said.
Belsher also said that the perception of harm would go down which will have the effect of increasing marijuana use and causing more visits to the emergency room.
“[I] was a kid. I used weed. People are going to use weed. There are some things that even if we regulate, it’s not going to do anything,” Cantrell debated.
Another question that the panel weighed in on was whether marijuana businesses should be out of site or along arterial streets in or around downtown.
“[I] would rather have them where they’re more visible,” Cantrell added.
Cantrell also debated the debated the idea of having them in or around downtown because of the volume of pedestrians and vehicles.
Congestion from pedestrians and vehicles creates difficulties for law enforcement to respond to calls in the downtown area and adding marijuana businesses to this equation would further add to the congestion.
Cantrell said that the downtown area accounts for a significant amount of police calls at 14 percent.
Furthermore, Cantrell stated that 17 percent of brick and mortar marijuana businesses in Denver, Colorado got robbed “takedown” style, so she is not a fan of having them downtown. Cantrell explained that the number one complaint in cities such as Boulder, Colorado is public use and odor.
“The reality is you stick 100 people at Mitchell park that decide to smoke out, we are not walking into that crowd and writing 100 people tickets,” Cantrell said.
SLO police cite people for smoking now, but typically, they give a warning first because a lot of people come to SLO as it is a tourist city.
“They don’t know we are a non-smoking city and so they think if they are outside they can,” Cantrell said.
Drug Abuse Resistance Education is a program designed to teach students decision making to help them live a safe and healthy lifestyle. Questions were raised about the presence of the D.A.R.E. program
“D.A.R.E lost its funding about five years ago and so we stepped in, [and created] POSAFY to get into the schools at a younger age,” Belsher said.
Rozelle reaffirmed the stance taken by Belsher.
“There is absolutely nothing right now in our schools. We have no drug programs. Kids are not able to get the education. Anybody under the age of 30 is at risk for major mental illnesses or other brain development issues. Marijuana is not toxic. No one has died from overconsumption,” Rozelle said.
Oscar Iriate produced this multimedia piece while being a student in JOUR 201A – Beginning Reporting and Writing.
This and other courses in the Journalism & Digital Communication Department offers students the opportunity to get their work published.