In the States medical cannabis is a massive issue (far more politically potent than its marginal status in the UK), being entwined with a raft of other political and cultural battles; the bigger recreational cannabis issue, tensions between federal and state power, various medical prescribing politics and more besides. It can all get quite rather confused and often real issues about the future of drug policy seem to get lost in the mix as emotions run high on both sides of the various debates. Personally I have mixed feelings about the issue, in particular a concern that conflating the medical and recreational debates potentially threatens to undermine progress on both. That said, I certainly don't want to see medical users criminalised*.
None of this, however, should get in the way straight reporting of facts and the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) , the most ferocious opponent of medical cannabis, or 'medical cannabis' as they like to mockingly call it, has made some bold and seemingly inaccurate claims about San Francisco dispensaries in its latest blog post. I say 'blog' despite it not really warranting the moniker, being one of those prohibitionist 'blogs' that does not publish comments, presumably afraid of the roasting they would get if they opened themselves up to that strange concept of democratic engagement and free debate (to my knowledge there are no official prohibitionist blogs that publish comments, and many, like Costas Corner, don't even let you make them) .
Anyway, the latest ONDCP blog claims that
"As we've noted previously, state "medical" marijuana laws breed confusion, abuse, and violence in neighborhoods and communities.
Here's our latest analysis of this phenomenon. In downtown San Francisco alone, there are 98 marijuana dispensaries, compared to 71 Starbucks Coffee shops"
And then there's a map of their analysis to prove it.
One of 'less than 30' cannabis dispensaries in Down town San Franscisco
This response was posted on the ONDCP 'blog' by a representative of NORML (not that you will be able to read it because ...democracy...etc.) ;
This is total bunkum. The number of cannabis clubs in SF is limited by city ordinance and has never exceeded 40. A listing of currently active clubs may be found at our website http://www.canorml.org/prop/cbclist.html#sf. It shows 22 clubs and 5 delivery services. There is also one other unlisted club registered with the city. By contrast, there are 3,500 licensed liquor outlets in SF.
Dale Gieringer, Director, California NORML, Co-sponsor,
California Compassionate Use Act of 1996
Caren Woodson, from Americans for Safe Access, noted similarly that:
The information contained in the Czar's blog is not even close to resembling truth...in fact SF Gate (the e-version of the Chronicle) noted in a recent article (Aug 27) about the AG guidelines that SF only has about 26 MCDs currently in operation. Even at the height of 'unregulated' access in SF, there was no where near that many MCDs!and a local medical cannabis group that:
The local ASA chapter is tracking MCD permits in SF with painstaking attention to detail. At present, 28 collectives have submitted applications for permits. A few have been denied and there are 4 collectives that have permits to operate under local law. There are another 20 or so collectives in operation, and these collectives have until Jan 19, 2009 to acquire their permits (part of the grandfather provision we included in the legislation). Obviously not all collectives will survive the permit process, and a few of these collectives are in the process of sorting out some legal battles. But, with absolute confidence, I can tell you that there is no where near 100 collectives operating in SF.
And, finally, not to beat a dead horse, but some of the locations of the info provided on the Drug Czars so-called "map" includes places where dispensaries are absolutely prohibited by local land-use law from operating. The map below, is the current map that details "green-zones" or those places where MCDs may be permitted by the SF government to operate once they have obtained a permit http://www.sfgov.org/site/uploadedfiles/planning/Applications/MCD_Map.pdf
As far as we know, there are now a little fewer than 30 dispensariesI'm happy to be corrected on this (comments welcome here - all published un-moderated), but if, as the above information would suggests the ONDCP's claim is substantially non-congruent with reality (less than a third does not constitute 'more than') and has been playing silly statistical propaganda games again, let's hope they are similarly willing to publish a correction.
or so, so this is more misinformation from the drug czar.
*note: Transform have largely steered clear of the medical cannabis issue, but there it is briefly touched on it our latest report 'Tools for the Debate' in the 'talking about cannabis' section. Release are campaigning actively on medical cannabis issues.