FAIRFAX (KPIX 5) — Three years ago, Californians voted for Proposition 64, which legalized recreational marijuana. Now, in an odd twist, the rules that allow people to use cannabis for fun may be shutting out people who need it to survive.
Michael Cassavant is in almost constant pain because of degenerative disc disease. He uses cannabis daily to fight the pain and give him enough appetite to go on.
“How important is food? How important is being able to stand up straight … to stand up, you know? It’s quality of life and without it I don’t have great quality of life, frankly,” said Cassavant.
He gets his cannabis from the Marin Alliance for Medical Marijuana in Fairfax, the sole, medical-only dispensary in Marin County.
Founder Lynnette Shaw fought for decades to legitimize medicinal pot and was pleased when Prop 64 passed by a large margin.
“I had great hope, I really did. I supported, I went public for 64,” said Shaw.
But there was a devil in the details.
Medical cannabis had been protected by state law, but Prop 64 allowed local governments to regulate all pot and cities have been reluctant to grant permits to growers.
With a lot fewer suppliers, Shaw’s costs have doubled and many of the products used most by medical patients are disappearing.
“Forty-five growers that I’ve used for 20 years didn’t get a license,” she said. “The creams went away, the tinctures went away … everything went away.”
The rules and high taxes that have accompanied recreational pot are destroying the medicinal cannabis market. An AP analysis shows of the 400 medical-only dispensaries that used to operate in Oregon, only two have survived.
“They cannot stay alive on medical-only for very long,” Shaw said. “It’s a crime. It’s terrible. This is what we fought for in the first place, but the end result is not positive for the patients.”
Ironically, this is happening at a time when medicinal cannabis is rising in popularity across the country. Thirty-three states have now legalized it, including conservative states like Oklahoma and Utah.
Shaw says she will fight to keep her dispensary open. But many others will either close or switch to serve recreational users which will only make it less available for those like Michael Cassavant who actually need it.