Sept. 22 2010 10:21 AM

What can be done to stop this awful condition?

Kevin Faulconer, poster child for paranoia-induced overkill
This week, we’d like to talk about a serious condition known as “paranoia-induced overkill” (PIO). That’s when, for example, a politician might exploit public fears to score political points with the electorate, like, say, when Jessica’s Law was passed, including an overkill provision: Convicted sex offenders can’t live with 2,000 feet of schools and parks. That restricted where people could live so severely that it’s led to widespread homelessness among sex offenders—homelessness creates instability, which contributes to bad behavior, which endangers the public.

There was an outbreak of PIO on Monday night, when the City Council fell one vote short of passing an ordinance that would locate the annual winter emergency homeless shelter on a parcel in East Village. The vote came after a parade of NIMBYs expressed their opposition to the location because it’s next to the NewSchool of Architecture & Design, and sometimes young female students come and go at night. Young women probably shouldn’t be coming and going alone at night whether or not there’s a homeless shelter in the vicinity, but “homeless” doesn’t mean “criminal,” and there are laws on the books prohibiting assault against young women, or whatever they’re afraid of. Denying innocent poor people cold-weather shelter because someone else might commit a crime is a sure case of PIO.

But, perhaps surprisingly, this editorial isn’t about sex offenders or homeless people—or homeless sex offenders, for that matter. It’s about the PIO surrounding a set of proposed regulations governing medicinal-marijuana dispensaries.

The Medical Marijuana Task Force, created by the San Diego City Council, experienced its own bout with PIO, recommending that pot dispensaries not be allowed “within a 1,000-foot radius of schools, playgrounds, libraries, child care facilities, and youth facilities, including but not limited to youth hostels, youth camps, youth clubs, etc., and other similar uses.” The task force also endorsed a rule banning dispensaries within 500 feet of another dispensary.

The City Council’s Land Use & Housing Committee caught PIO from the task force back in March, and its case was much worse. The committee added parks and places of worship to the 1,000-foot rule, increased the allowable distance between dispensaries to 1,000 feet and recommended further restrictions for where dispensaries can be located, in terms of zoning designations. When PIO reached the full City Council last week, the strain was slightly more mild—a bid by severely stricken Councilmembers Kevin Faulconer (a chronic sufferer), Carl DeMaio and Ben Hueso to add colleges and universities to the distance separation fell two votes short.

With rules like these, it’s likely that the only places where marijuana collectives will be able to operate will be out in the boonies. Maybe we’ll have little enclaves far, far away, where medicinal-pot users, sex offenders and homeless people live and take their medicine in perfect harmony, free from our scorn.

First of all, the aim of regulating pot dispensaries is to, finally, create a legal means for complying with the spirit of Prop. 215, which allows sick people to use marijuana to alleviate their symptoms. Therefore, the reason we’re going through this process is so that sick people can gain access to the drug. But the City Council appears dead-set on putting dispensaries as far out of reach as possible. Lots of people who use marijuana to lessen discomfort don’t drive—they walk or ride the bus.

Secondly, if you insist on banning marijuana dispensaries within 1,000 feet of anywhere kids congregate, you’re effectively saying that sick people and the pot collectives that seek to help them pose a danger to children.

It couldn’t be that you’re concerned about drug dealers trying to turn your kids into customers, because there’s already a law against that—selling weed for profit or for non-medicinal reasons is not legal (at least until November, when California voters might make it legal).

Heck, maybe marijuana can ameliorate the symptoms of paranoia-induced overkill. The problem is, the people who are at the highest risk for PIO tend also to be people who are most opposed to smoking the reefer.

In any case, when it comes time to finalize the regulations, we hope the members of the City Council remember why they’re doing it and whom they’re trying to help.

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