The debate on cannabis comes home

By Edi Birsan on September 17, 2018

On Saturday Sept. 8, I experienced a forum on cannabis. There were expert speakers and presentation on the various aspects of the products including a political panel with the Mayor of Walnut Creek, three candidates for the Concord and Walnut Creek city councils as well as myself, Mayor of Concord.

They presented facts and ideas around all the objections in allowing dispensaries, production and assorted related cannabis facilities.

Unfortunately, it was not attended by those who opposed cannabis in the in the six- hour long meeting in June where there were about 20 speakers that touched on the negative or opposition the topic of cannabis. At that time, I was struck by the scope of the arguments and the depth of commitment to each side’s cause. The top issues on non-medical use fell into these topics where there were some back up attached, including crime, addiction or non-contagion based on geographic location to different people, impact on youth, health, cost and traffic accidents.

For the first time the scope of the use in Concord was addressed with the concept of about 10,000 to 18,000 people taking deliveries and more getting from other sources. Think about the fears and put it in perspective that for decades about one in seven of your neighbors have been using cannabis.

If the “facts” as presented were proven to be false, there would have been NO change in people’s position. If crime was shown to actually go down it would not make a difference and when confronted the people would refuse to either accept even the POSSIBILITY of such a thing and would knee jerk attack the source and the individual. The same thing would happen with teen use. Recently the East Bay Times local edition had a story that data showed that since the passage of Prop 64 to legalize sale and adult use, teenage use was going DOWN.

When it comes to what is basically an emotional not factual based position, there is no point in go over facts. What is best done is simply ask the person who thinks cannabis is immoral, what would it take to change their position and then not to fall for the trap line of: “Like what?” You cannot enter into their mind and only they can provide the path to change. For the Mayor of Walnut Creek who, like his council, was opposed to Prop 64 (the only city council to take a negative stand on legalization), the fact that every precinct in the city voted for legalization and all over 60 percent, made him change his mind and say, “give the people what they want.” He now is in support of dispensaries but is a minority on the council that is still opposed.

The two basic arguments that I like best and are at the core of my likewise emotional position so far is:

1. We should have dominion over our own bodies. What we put in them is our business.

2. I do not want anyone in my city going to another city to buy a legal commercial consumer product.

About 30 years ago the people of this city, with the backing of the political establishment including the then-mayor, voted in an election to directly allow discrimination against gays. The arguments were:

1. It was immoral.

2. It would lead to crime as pedophiles would be haunting the parks.

3. It was a safety issue because everyone knew that AIDS was epidemic in ‘those people.”

4. It would destroy the image of Concord as family friendly place if we allowed gays here, after all do we want men walking down our streets holding hands?

On June 1, the Rainbow Flag was raised at City Hall, as a reminder that we need to live in concordance with one another with respect, and neighborliness. We start our council meetings with the reminder that we are to be “…indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” It took us 30 years to live up to it on that issue. This issue started in the last century. Is it not time to face it now? If not, what will it take for you to change your mind?

Email questions and comments to Mayor Birsan at EdiBirsan@gmail.com

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