El Centro Council Revisits Medical Marijuana Allowance


Cannabis leaf

EL CENTRO ‑ The El Centro City Council has chosen to decide one way or the other on the Medical Marijuana Ordinance by the moratorium’s expiration date of July 1, 2015, an ordinance (13-25) held in moratorium for the last five years. The issue was first discussed by the city council in 2010, when the council voted to allow up to two, non-profit dispensaries for medicinal purposes having limited locations within the city.

On Thursday, March 12, the Community Development Department held the first of two scheduled meetings in the city council chambers to gather community input before reporting to the city council for amending the existing ordinance.

A second meeting will be held Wednesday, March 18, at 5:00 p.m. in the council chambers. Adriana Nava, a member of the Community Development Department said that notification was placed on Facebook, and that fliers were sent to churches and schools. The City online site included the calendar for March 12 and 18 , but did not list the meeting.

Twenty-five individuals were present including two reporters from local papers, one photographer, and four members of the Community development’s office. The clear majority in the audience were in support of opening dispensaries. Norma Villicana, Community Development Director, directed the discussion. Participants were polite and talkative.

Villicana pointed out that in 1996, Proposition 215 passed that allows primary physicians to prescribe cannabis for medicinal purposes. More recently, Proposition 9 (SB420) allows for individuals in the state of California to possess eight ounces of marijuana. She pointed out that marijuana use is legal at the state level, but not at the federal level. One citizen pointed out that the federal government has de facto legalized it.

  • Medical cannabis may be legally used & cultivated by qualified patients in California under Prop. 215, provided they have a recommendation from a licensed physician .
  • State law (SB 420) establishes voluntary state ID card program, plus Prop. 215 gives guidelines for possession and cultivation effective Jan 1, 2004. State limit set at 6 mature or 12 immature plants and 8 ounces marijuana, except where physician declares more is needed, or where local governments authorize more.

The City’s Ordinance of 2011 approved these restricted locations for possible dispensaries: Ocotillo Drive to Ross Road, Lincoln Avenue to the city limits, Interstate 8 to Ross Road, and Heil Road to Olive Road. Pat Preece noted that a church was on the corner of Ross and Ocotillo Road.

Another asked, “Why is religion dealing with my medicines?”

Zackery Forrester stated that the matter should not be a political, or religious, issue, but “a public health” issue. He said, “The big issue is that it competes with the big pharmaceuticals and doctors who get a lot of money from prescribing medicines.” Forrester spoke of his own struggles with prescribed medicines for an inflamed knee. “We don’t know what’s in these drugs. We do know what’s inside this plant.” He credited medicinal marijuana for easing knee pain, and curing his alcohol addiction.

Questions were asked in relation to marijuana use in Colorado. Supporters pointed out that Colorado had two laws: recreational and medicinal. This reporter asked how the plant would be packaged so as not to entice young children, problems Colorado was facing. A twenty-two year old young man provided a description of “unique zip lock bags that would be heat-sealed.”

This gentleman spoke a number of times on the potential of new financial opportunities for the Valley as marijuana has far more uses than just medicinal: clothes, shoes, ropes etc. We needed to get away from just a “medicinal needs mentality,” he suggested. Others pointed out that money is brought into a community with dispensaries through advertising, etc.

The Community Development Department members seemed to have a number of questions themselves, seeming to still be in “square one” on the matter despite it being on the table of discussion for some five years.

Barry Willis, a peer facilitator at the Veteran’s Hospital in San Diego who works with vets who use medicinal marijuana, asked if anyone on the city department had visited the Veterans’ Hospital. Many who have been using the drug for years, Villacana reported, had visited dispensaries in the Palm Springs area.

Dr. Figurora, who has an office on South Imperial Avenue in El Centro and who owns some ten clinics along the border in Mexico, spoke. She is working to have medicinal marijuana legalized in Mexico.

Raphael, a gentleman from Sinaloa Mexico who just opened a non-profit dispensary in Mexicali, spoke with translations made by Villacana. He claimed that some 150,000 lives have been lost because of the inability for people to obtain marijuana for medicinal use. He believed that its use would prolong life, pointing out that hundreds of years ago the plant was used and people lived to be 135 years old.