By MICHAEL BOWKER, published in The Daily Sound
The hopes of those who hoped to close all marijuana dispensaries in Santa Barbara went up in smoke Tuesday night. Santa Barbara voters defeated Measure T, which would have closed the three legal marijuana dispensaries in the city, by a 60/40 margin, with about 80 percent of the vote counted.
“I think it’s clear that people in Santa Barbara favor the use of medicinal marijuana,” said Richard Flacks, a prominent UCSB sociology professor. “Most of us felt the measure never had a chance.”
Measure T proved divisive for the city, with proponents arguing that legal marijuana dispensaries brought a “criminal element” into Santa Barbara. Others responded by saying that the city is rigorous in its oversight of the dispensaries and the drug is used primarily for medicinal purposes. It provided arguably, the hottest debates throughout the city. In the end, the dispensaries were supported and their opponents left to hope that the state will move to outlaw them in the future.
The measure provided perhaps the lowest point of all the elections this fall, when several pro-Measure T signs were stolen, defaced and in some cases burned. Mari Mender, who had two such signs burned in her yard, was an activist for the measure.
“I am a nurse and I have seen many times what destruction drugs can cause,” Mender said. “Many people feel the marijuana stores are badly abusing their charter and I’m afraid to see these drugs find their ways even deeper into our schools. That’s why I supported Measure T.”
Measure T became necessary when the City Council could not decide the issue. Critics said the council feared the issue was too hot to handle during an election cycle. The vote clearly indicates that Santa Barbara remains a strongly progressive community, despite the current conservative trend across the country. While Measure T did not have any visible opponents or organized opposition, it didn’t find traction among the majority of voters.
Despite the strong feelings that characterized the campaign, Mender and others were philosophical about the final result. “I feel that we achieved what we set out to do,” she said. “We brought the issue to the people and asked them what they thought. They made their decision and while it wasn’t the one we hoped for, at least people were able to make their feelings known.”