Sacramento County marijuana counterpunch

Grassroots effort aims to legalize pot clubs once again

Ngaio Bealum is a comedian and cannabis activist.

Remember last summer? There were at least 80 medical-cannabis-dispensing collectives in Sacramento County—maybe more. The board of supervisors was working on a regulatory plan. People had jobs, patients had medicine—the overall industry seemed to be doing great.

Then came the county’s plan to shut down its clubs. And later, the federal crackdown on medical cannabis. And after that, the county’s decision to finally pass a de facto ban on all cannabis collectives.

All of a sudden, gone.

Kimberly Cargile and Mickey Martin want to change this.

The duo, two longtime cannabis activists, is looking to pass a ballot measure that would bring cannabis dispensaries back to Sacramento County.

“This initiative is a way for Sac County MMJ patients and citizens to demand that local government follow state law,” explained Cargile, who’s worked for Americans for Safe Access.

She added that the new initiative will increase ways for Sacramentans to safely and legally obtain medical cannabis, “a right patients were given under [Proposition] 215 many years ago.”

Cargile says her first choice was to work with the county to craft an ordinance, as was planned. But “they have turned their backs on us,” she said, “and we have no other choice but to stand up for our rights, and take matters into our own hands.”

The Patient Access to Regulated Medical Cannabis Act of 2012 would aim to bring cannabis clubs back to Sacramento County, albeit on a smaller scale. The details include:

1. Allowing cannabis dispensaries in the county at the rate of one club per every 25,000 residents. This would create 20 to 25 new dispensaries, as opposed to the 80 to 100 clubs that existed before.

2. Tax all cannabis sales at 4 percent. This tax is comparable to the tax on cannabis levied by the city of Sacramento.

3. Place limits on the types of advertising cannabis dispensaries can use. No more monster-sized pot leaves or cartoons or pinup girls.

4. Mandate that all medical-cannabis dispensaries in the county be at least 1,000 feet from all schools, parks or youth-oriented facilities.

Cargile and Martin—working together as the Committee for Safe Patient Access to Regulated Cannabis—have a website ( and have already filed the initiative and are now awaiting county approval to begin gathering signatures.

“We are looking to gather 80,000 signatures, although we only need 57,000,” Martin said. “We did our best to make this initiative very reasonable.”

Gathering signatures may be difficult. As a grassroots movement, CSPARC doesn’t have much money and will be relying on a team of volunteers to obtain the necessary signatures.

“We hope to find 80 dedicated people who will gather an average of 1,000 signatures each,” Martin explained. “We may have an award of some sort for the person who gathers the most signatures, but this is all still in development with the board.”

And, even if they make it to the ballot, there is no guarantee this initiative will pass.

Way back in 1996, the voters of Sacramento County passed Proposition 215, the initiative legalizing medical marijuana in California, with 53.8 percent of the vote.

More recently, however, 2010’s Proposition 19, which would have legalized cannabis for all uses, failed in the county by a wide margin, with 58 percent voting against.

The cannabis community thinks there should be few, if any, problems getting voters to approve this measure.

“I think it will definitely pass,” said Amir Daliri of The California Cannabis Association. “They should have great support from the voters.”

He did concede that there could be “push back” from political forces, however, especially because, he says, “the county board of supervisors were the ones that called in the Feds back in October.”

Don Duncan, California director with medical-cannabis advocacy group Americans for Safe Access, said he hadn’t seen a copy of the initiative, but that “ASA supports local communities in their efforts to ensure safe access for medical cannabis patients.”

Martin is confident. “It will pass, because people do not think patients should have to leave their community to find medicine,” he argued. “And they believe the county should receive the benefits of the taxes imposed, which are currently leaving their community.

“In a time when we are cutting budgets for infrastructure, education and health care, people understand that a reasonable dispensary system that can provide added resources will be a positive for the community.”