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Wyoming's Medical Marijuana Decision Spawns Threat of City Council Recall Effort

Daily Dose 2010-12-07 0 comments

By Matt Vande Bunte, published in The Grand Rapids Press

Many elected officials, like the City Council members from Long Beach, have declared war on patients that will have their jobs threatened if they continue to exemplify un-compassionate behavior in the face of a medical mandate by the will of the people. (Photo credit: Sam Sabzehzar)

Marijuana advocates want to kick the entire City Council out of office for enacting a ban on the drug that state law permits for medicinal use.

The council Monday reaffirmed a November vote, giving the ban a second and final reading that makes medical marijuana illegal within city limits.

Mayor Jack Poll, a pharmacist, and his peers said the voter-approved state law is dangerous because it does not regulate distribution of marijuana through typical medical channels.

Now Wyoming voters may be asked to choose which they stand behind: The 2008 statewide marijuana proposal or the elected seven-member council?

A lawyer who has sued the city now also plans a campaign to recall all seven elected officials: Sam Bolt, Dan Burrill, Kent Vanderwood, William Ver Hulst, Joanne Voorhees, Richard Pastoor and Poll.

John Ter Beek said he was scheduled to meet today (12-7) with the American Civil Liberties Union to pursue an injunction on Wyoming’s ban. He also is recruiting volunteers to circulate recall petitions.

“If I have to be recalled because I vote on preserving safety in our community, then so be it. Move somebody else into my chair,” Pastoor said. “The only way to handle (medical marijuana) is like we handle any other drug.”

In line with statewide results, voters in 27 of 28 Wyoming precincts supported the marijuana proposal in 2008.

“They went against the will of the voters,” Ter Beek said of the council’s actions on Monday.

Lynette Brunink, manager of Grand Rapids Alternative Care, a Grand Rapids Township clinic that certifies a patient’s medical need for marijuana, said the ban “is just like taking insulin from a diabetic.”

Dan Van Dussen, a marijuana patient from Holland, feared the decision may set precedent for other communities exploring regulation of medical marijuana.

“They’re making a knee-jerk reaction from a pharmacist’s point of view,” Van Dussen said. “What they do here, Holland is going to look at it and say ‘Wyoming did this.’”

The medical marijuana law permits licensed caregivers to grow up to 60 plants and distribute the drug to as many as five licensed patients, who can possess up to 2.5 ounces at a given time.

Ver Hulst said the medical marijuana proposal “sounded good (in 2008), just like apple pie and motherhood.” But “I guess I assumed it would be properly controlled by medical dispensaries,” he said.

He and his colleagues said medical marijuana should be dispensed through pharmacies. There’s also concern that enforcing the state law would burden city police at a time when Wyoming’s budget is strapped.

Jazmin Valencia, a recovering alcoholic, agreed with city leaders, saying odor from a marijuana patient who lives in her Wyoming apartment building creates unwanted temptation to break her sobriety.

“I feel I should be safe at home and I don’t feel that I am,” Valencia said. “We should push for more regulations. There is a better way to do it.”

Poll said he is “not at all” fearful of being recalled because the 2008 marijuana proposal was passed “without full knowledge of the ramifications.” Voters would not endorse the same proposal today, he said.

“I have a major problem with the way this is being dispensed,” Poll said. “This is not a vote against the people that need this medication. This is a vote against the way it’s being dispensed.”