Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Lake Elsinore town hall meeting on medical marijuana packed a full house

A standing-room-only crowd of more than 170 jammed the Lake Elsinore
Cultural Center Monday evening for a town hall meeting that addressed
the topic of medical marijuana.

Hosted by Wildomar resident Wayne Williams, who heads We The People, a
local pro-cannabis organization, the meeting included seven guest
speakers whose backgrounds included law, business, medicine, government
and activism.

Williams said his goal in holding the town hall meeting was to bring the
community together to find a “sensible solution†to the
concerns related to medical marijuana, and said his organization sent
emails invitations to Lake Elsinore registered voters, encouraging them
to “join the dialogue†Monday evening.

He is also pushing to get a city ordinance passed that would legalize
medical marijuana, which is on Lake Elsinore’s council agenda
Tuesday. City council will decide whether or not to extend a moratorium
banning all marijuana manufacturing activities in the city.

In December, council approved an urgency ordinance that immediately
established a 45-day moratorium prohibiting the manufacturing operations
that grow the drug for medical purposes.

If the ordinance extension is passed during Tuesday’s council
meeting, it will go into effect immediately and could last as long as 10

While Wildomar councilmember Sheryl Ade was in the audience during
Monday’s meeting, Williams said none of the Lake Elsinore city
council members were in attendance despite his assertion that he
personally invited all of them to the event.

During Monday’s get-together, the seven guest speakers addressed
issues ranging from cannabis regulation and medicinal benefits to how to
obtain medical marijuana I.D. cards.

Guest speaker Charles Monson, a businessman and quadriplegic who founded
the non-profit Wheels of Mercy, an organization that collects used wheel
chairs for those who can’t afford them, said he supports
legalization and pleaded with the audience to help those who need the
drug for health reasons.

Monson cited problems with prescription drugs for pain relief, and said
cannabis is a safer alternative.

“There has never been a fatal marijuana overdose,†he
said. “Medical marijuana is a health issue, not a law enforcement

Guest speaker Cha Hanna from Americans for Safe Access’s, the
grassroots organization working to legalize marijuana, encouraged
pro-cannabis audience members to take action, by telling them, they
“can affect change.â€

Christopher Glenn Fichtner, M.D., spoke about his research on the
medicinal benefits of cannabis. The Chicago-based psychiatrist said he
has studied the issue of America’s policy on illegal drugs,
specifically marijuana. He concluded that cannabis has medicinal merits
and should be legalized.

“As a psychiatrist, I don’t recommend cannabis for
treatment, but I do have patients who use it and report
benefits,†he said. “I think it’s important that,
as doctors, we listen to these people. There’s a lot more work to
be done and we need to do research.â€

Guest speaker James Gray, a retired Orange County trial judge who
presided over drug courts during his time on the bench, said U.S. law on
drug prohibition is “the largest failed policy next to slavery.
What we’re doing isn’t working.â€

Gray said illegal drugs are available to those who want them.

“Nobody is hanging out near the schools trying to sell our kids
Jim Beam,†he said.

Instead, Gray said drug pushers are peddling illegal drugs to kids.

“This is caused by our prohibition on drugs,†he said.
“We glamorize marijuana by making it illegal.â€

Ed Rosenthal, a pro-cannabis advocate who writes about marijuana, said
the majority of Americans favor legalization and that criminalization
creates a police state.

“We are the majority,†he said, “not

Rosenthal said that when comparing cannabis to legal drugs such as
alcohol, tobacco and some prescription drugs, marijuana is much safer.

“People make the decision to use it and it’s not
addictive,†he said. “People use marijuana to enhance
their lives. Just like people use Viagra to enhance their lives.â€

Among the speakers was also former Norco mayor, Herb Higgins who said
it’s been his duty to “uphold citizens’
wishes.†During his council tenure, he voted to allow collectives
in Norco.

Higgins said he was not familiar with all the issues surrounding medical
marijuana in Lake Elsinore, but that council members are not
“change agents.â€

“If you disagree with what council members say, don’t sit
at home,†he said. “Do something about your cause. I
don’t use marijuana. I never have and probably never will. But it
doesn’t stop me from saying, ‘it’s your right to do

Carolyn Lieber, who heads Riverside County Department of Health’s
Medical Marijuana Identification Card Program said, “I
don’t have a soapbox to stand on.â€

Instead, Lieber provided information on the county’s medical
marijuana card program.

Tuesday’s council meeting will be held at 7 p.m. at the Cultural
Center, 183 N. Main Street.

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