Like many local medical marijuana dispensaries, the Berkeley Patients Group officially closed its doors last week under pressure from U.S. Attorney General Melinda Haag. For Haag, who's been on a bit of a rampage sending threatening letters as of late, the concern was that dispensaries are often the target of violent crime and armed robberies, and that closing BPG would make the neighborhood safer. It's an argument that has been heard plenty of times, but for Tamar Todd, a staff attorney for the Drug Policy Alliance whose three kids attend a nearby elementary school, the dispensary's security is the least of her worries. As she writes in an opinion piece for Berkeleyside:
"Banks and pharmacies are also targets of armed robberies and there are a number of them located in West Berkeley. Like Berkeley Patients Group, they have security. There is no evidence to suggest, and I have never felt, that it is dangerous to send my children to a school that happened to be near a bank, or a pharmacy."
While West Berkeley is not exactly crime-free, Mrs. Todd explains that the shootings that have occurred near her kids' school are more likely connected to the illicit drug trafficking that goes on in the neighborhood — something which Haag and the feds have done little to combat and will likely get worse now that a safe resource has been shuttered.
And the gun violence isn't even the most offensive part! To Todd, that would be "the notion that legal access to medical marijuana sends the wrong message to kids." Like any good Berkeley mom (and to be fair, she sounds like the coolest), Todd knows how to keep her kids informed in the way she feels is appropriate. What she tells her kids, and what you can tell yours when you gather them around the brunch table at the Claremont Hotel this Sunday:
"Research and science matter. The opinions of medical professionals matter. We should have compassion for those who are very sick, and even for those who are just a little sick... (even if it goes against the conventional wisdom or drug war ideology)."
There's a lot going on here: crime in West Berkeley, drug wars killing thousands in Mexico, medical marijuana patients being forced to buy their medicine in local parks — but it being Mother's Day time, it's nice that someone's thinking of the kids out there.