San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed is out of central casting for the role of Eliot Ness, the famed Chicago lawman who battled the likes of Al Capone. Now Reed is a no-nonsense, humorless public official out to protect the public from the “evil” purveyors of cannabis in his city—not unlike Ness in the bootleg era of the 1920’s. But like Chicago of the 1920s, this is a losing battle.
The majority of people know prohibition is a failure. Further, unlike alcohol, there is actually science-based research to support the proposition that marijuana had therapeutic effects. Moreover, the care providers of cannabis are not gangsters; they are legitimate entities who provide a needed service, pay taxes and alleviate pain.
Reed’s attempt to shut down these healthcare advocates who provide medicine to their patients through an onerous and unworkable regulation scheme is about to see a huge backlash from the public. A referendum is currently on the street that will challenge both the leader and his professed solution.
It didn’t have to be this way. Reasonable people can agree that some regulation must occur. The current reputable members of the healthcare profession understand that appropriate regulation is a positive step forward for the issue. But prohibition in the form of regulation is untenable and it is a fraud upon the citizens of San Jose.
Consider the consequences of the proposed ordinance; patients forced to use illegal methods to obtain medicine prescribed by doctors, an immediate loss of $3.5 million in revenue to the city, the loss of 1,500 jobs in the midst of recession, economic impacts including buildings going vacant and increased crime as real drug pushers take to the streets.
Reed is a smart guy. But it appears he sees this issue as more a nuisance than an opportunity. San Jose could create a model ordinance that protects patient rights, insures safe access, provides real revenue to a cash-strapped city and allows law enforcement to go after the real bad actors in the business. That’s what a model regulation should do.
But, so far, like the rigid Elliot Ness of television lore, he perceives all patient provider collectives like the “Hotsy Totsy Club”. But he should understand he is on the wrong side of history and—if he chooses—provide the leadership necessary to show San Jose is the place of innovation and solutions not only in technology, but in progressive patient care.
In any case, his first attempt to shut down the industry is about to come crashing down with a referendum, which does not make him, his council or the city look very good. This mayor has, so far, been able to avoid the arrogant public mistakes of some of his predecessors. How he handles this defeat may well define his ability to lead on other issues.
The community is ready, willing and able to work with this city once the referendum is qualified. We hope the mayor will see the benefit in cooperation and not confrontation. Then he will go down in city history not as an infamous, rigid lawman on the wrong side of history, but as the progressive force who solved real problems, increased the city coffers, provided work in a time of recession and, most of all, help heal those people who are among the most in pain. It’s his call.
Richard Robinson is a principal in Robinson Communications, a political consulting firm working to collect signatures for a ballot referendum repealing the council’s medical marijuana regulation ordinance.