One of the frustrating things about being a medical marijuana patient and activist is having to deal with those on my side who seem to be doing everything they can to strip my medicine of its dignity. The patients at the dispensary in Sandy Banks’ L.A. Times opinion piece are a case in point:
When Brent Poer moved into his quaint Los Feliz home a year ago, he knew the boxy green building at the corner of his cul-de-sac was a marijuana dispensary.
He figured coexisting with Hyperion Healing would be easy. “I honestly thought that potheads would be really cool and laid-back,” said Poer, a 42-year-old advertising executive.
Instead, he said, he wound up confronting strangers who blocked his driveway, left trash on the street, parked outside his neighbors’ homes blasting music and smoking weed. He ticks off a list of crimes —garages burglarized, car windows broken, thefts from homes — that neighbors blame on dispensary visitors.
While I’m sure all of those crimes weren’t committed by “dispensary visitors,” it disturbs me that medical patients can’t be bothered to pick up their trash or park legally. It would also help if the patients at this dispensary acted like medical patients:
“I get the compassionate thing,” said Poer. “But when you see people park on your street, carrying McDonald’s bags and an X-box 360, walking down to the dispensary to hang out … that’s a clubhouse, not a pharmacy.”
The responsibility for this lies with the dispensary. Most of the dispensaries I have seen have their members sign a “good neighbor clause,” stating the member at the very least won’t loiter around the premises, make lots of noise or medicate in the surrounding neighborhood. These clauses are in place because many communities fear the criminal element that they associate, rightly or wrongly, with marijuana. (I’ll be the first to admit that, thanks to the co-existence of a black and a white market in marijuana, there are unfortunately still criminal elements on the medical side.) I’ve never had any problem with these clauses, because I can put myself in the position of someone who lives in that neighborhood; and I wouldn’t want the customers of any business blocking my driveway or trashing my street.
Hyperion Healing deserves to be fined for allowing such behavior by its members. More importantly, all of us in the medical marijuana community and the broader anti-prohibition movement need to remember that the rest of society is judging us more by what we do and how we act than by what we say. All the logical arguments in the world won’t sway someone who sees medical marijuana patients trash his neighborhood every day. Medical marijuana patients have fought long and hard for legitimacy and acceptance by society, and we still have a long way to go. Acting like the stoner criminals many of our critics believe us to be only sets us back.