Earlier this week NYC's special narcotics prosecutor Bridget Brennan (website: SPECNARC.org!) fired off a letter to state legislators considering a bill that would legalize marijuana for medical purposes. Among her concerns, she feels that the bill would create a situation similar to LA, where pot dispensaries supposedly outnumber Starbucks. That's what we call Utopia, but it's Brennan's nightmare, and she thinks the New York bill is "far too loosely drawn, and offers no safeguards to protect the health of those who use it, and the safety of the communities where marijuana dispensaries would be located."
Brennan also argues that "dispensaries have proven to be public nuisances and magnets for crime," and criticizes the bill for not requiring a doctor in "good standing" to meet with a patient in person before writing a pot prescription. For counterpoint, we turn to Mike Meno, Director of Communications for the Marijuana Policy Project. He tells us, "Bridget Brennan’s fears are way off mark. New York’s medical marijuana bill is specifically crafted to safeguard against abuse through regulation—one of the many reasons it has garnered support from the likes of former Manhattan D.A. Robert Morgenthau and state Sen. Eric Adams, a former New York City police captain.
"Brennan believes, wrongly, that the bill would allow “an unlimited number of ‘unregulated’ marijuana dispensaries, which could be near schools or in high-crime neighborhoods.” In reality, New York’s dispensaries will be licensed, tightly regulated and subject to intense scrutiny. The bill allows only state-licensed establishments to distribute medical marijuana, and the state health department will be able to deny a license to anyone it finds is not 'of good moral character.' Dispensaries would also be subject to local zoning laws."
Meno's riposte continues below, concluding that Brennan's comparisons to LA are not specifically too apt:
It’s also misleading to compare New York’s bill to the medical marijuana law California passed in 1996. The reason Los Angeles became home to more dispensaries than Starbucks (which may no longer be the case after the L.A. City Council regulated the city’s dispensaries 14 years after the fact) is because California did not impose statewide regulations on its program. New York’s law would provide regulation from the onset, and therefore more closely resemble the tightly controlled medical marijuana program in place in New Mexico.
Lastly, there is very little evidence to back Brennan’s claim that “dispensaries have proven to be public nuisances and magnets for crime.” In fact, a recent study in Denver showed that dispensaries are less likely to attract crime than banks and liquor stories. That same study showed they are as likely to be robbed as pharmacies—which, like medical marijuana dispensaries, exist to provide people with safe access to legitimate medical treatment options.