By Patrick Kertz
Arcata’s largest medical marijuana dispensary is buzzing with patients waiting in line to choose their medicine on a Friday afternoon. This dispensary averages about 150 visits per day, and is open six days a week.
However, according to Bryan Willkomm, the supervisor at Humboldt Patient Resource Center (HPRC), the lack of dispensary locations makes it difficult for some patients to attain medicine in Humboldt County.
“Crescent City is a perfect example, ailing patients have to drive an hour and a half to obtain their medicine [which] is unfortunate,” Willkomm said.
A concern of patients and collective owners is getting medicine to patients in hospice care suffering from terminally ill conditions in the large and rural landscape of Humboldt County.
Mariellen Jurkovich, director of the HPRC, believes involvement with city officials is vital in creating agreeable and sensible guidelines for the county.
“The whole idea of collectives is to take care of patients,” Jurkovich said. “We’re not doing that by shortening the leash [of] how many we can have. I’m not saying we should have tons either, and I think them putting guidelines together is a good thing.”
For nearly 15 years the HPRC used the current marijuana legislation, Prop 215, to help those who need medical marijuana for their physical and mental ailments. According to Willkomm the dispensary worked with Humboldt State to assemble a program which currently allows the dispensary to give away a percentage of their medicine.
“We give away 30-35 percent,” Willkomm said. “Fluctuation unfortunately occurs with the passing of some of the ailing patients on the program.”
In January the Board of Supervisors for Humboldt County voted to ban any new medical marijuana dispensaries in the county. From December 2011 until December 2013 the Board of Supervisors enacted a moratorium, an authorized period of delay, on building new dispensaries in Humboldt County. City and county officials were warned by the federal government that they could face legal action or arrest if they decided to allow more permits for dispensaries.
Kevin Jodrey, cultivation director of Garberville Grass, is confident city officials will be cautious to rewrite any legislation until the issue becomes regulated by the state.
“What the real problem is with creating any ordinances is that unless there is a state regulation the federal government has the right to intercede with your politics,” Jodrey said. “I think the pace [of creating a new ordinance] will coincide with legalization.”
Willkomm acknowledges the indecision of the city officials and local voters to implement change.
“We only have 14,000 people in our town with three dispensaries,” Willkomm said. “I would understand their hesitation to expand without having empirical data to support more infrastructures around medical marijuana.”
This November three marijuana legalization initiatives may possibly be on the ballot: California Cannabis Hemp Initiative, Marijuana Control Legalization & Revenue Act, and Control Policy Reform Act. If passed each initiative could make marijuana legal to consume for recreational and medicinal purposes for adults over the age of 21 in the state.
Dr. Joshua Meisel, of the Humboldt Institute for Interdisciplinary Marijuana Research at HSU, said there is also the community’s stance on legalization and expansion of dispensaries within Humboldt County.
“Local concerns regarding cannabis cultivation are somewhat different than those shared by the feds. There seems to be more concern in the Emerald Triangle with land use issues and environmental harms,” Meisel said. “Not just in terms of where a medical marijuana dispensary might be sited, but also the local environmental consequences of large scale cannabis cultivation.”
Until the federal law corresponds with state law, medical marijuana patients in Humboldt County will have limited options for purchasing medicine through a safe and legal environment at a dispensary.
“We have to think about the patients at the end of the day,” Willkomm said.