Despite that upheld cities’ bans of medical marijuana dispensaries, around 30 cannabis advocates turned out last night at The Diamond in Lake Elsinore in support of a movement that’s seeking to bring the drug to the city.
Organized by Lake Elsinore resident Wayne Williams, founder of We The People and the Compassionate & Wellness Center Cooperative, the two-hour event held inside the Diamond Club restaurant was billed as a kickoff to a campaign that hopes to get a medical marijuana initiative on the 2012 ballot for Lake Elsinore.
Williams said he sent out nearly 50 certified letters personally inviting local collectives to Wednesday’s meeting. “Collectives” or “cooperatives” are member-based marijuana operations that are legal under state law.
Williams said the key to success is in working within the framework of the law. While he admits the recent federal threat ordering marijuana operations to shut down is scary, he contends cannabis supporters have to start somewhere: a city ordinance hammered out with input from advocates, the community and local leaders.
“We have to create regulation,” he said.
Among the points Williams said he would like to see included in an ordinance are taxes on the drug to fund local community programs, forbidding those under 21 from entering a marijuana facility, limiting the number of facilities allowed in the city, and restricting facilities from opening near schools or churches.
In order to make it happen, Williams is rallying interested parties to help gather petition signatures, raise funds, educate the public on medical marijuana laws, and get out the vote.
He urged the crowd to join him in the effort and to be good representatives in the community.
“Attend city council meetings, introduce yourself to officials,” he said.
Williams has been a vocal advocate for medical marijuana since 1995 when he first opened a head shop just outside the city limits.
In 2010, he and a handful of supporters collected enough petition signatures to force a special election in Lake Elsinore and put the medical marijuana issue to the residents, but the county Registrar of Voters disqualified many of the signatures.
“We didn’t have the resources to fight it,” Williams said. “That won’t happen this time. We will have the resources.”
Medical marijuana advocate Joe Grumbine was at Wednesday’s meeting. He lives near Perris and heads the medical marijuana advocacy, The Human Solution.
Currently, Grumbine is being tried in Long Beach Superior Court on marijuana possession and sales charges after two cooperatives he operated in Long Beach and Garden Grove were raided in December 2009. The case has garnered media attention because the courthouse steps have been lined with supporters who’ve stood vigil for Grumbine.
“I did nothing wrong,” he said, explaining that he refuses to take a plea deal. “I was following state law.”
Grumbine told for the crowd at The Diamond about his arrest and numerous courtroom appearances.
"If this doesn’t put a chill in your blood, it should," he said.
“We have to figure out a way to stand together,” he added. “This is not about pot, it’s about our rights.”
MORE ON THE LEGAL TANGLE SURROUNDING MEDICAL MARIJUANA
Under California's Compassionate Use Act of 1996, qualified patients and their primary caregivers are permitted "to use, possess and cultivate marijuana for medical purposes without criminal prosecution."
In 2003 the Medical Marijuana Program was also enacted in the state. The program established, among other things, a voluntary registration of qualified medical marijuana patients and their primary caregivers through a statewide identification card system.
Marijuana is illegal under federal law.
As a result of the federal action, Americans for Safe Access (ASA), the country's largest medical marijuana advocacy organization, challenging the Obama Administration's attempt to subvert local and state medical marijuana laws in California. The lawsuit seeks declaratory and injunctive relief.