Without, right now, dwelling on the right or wrong of the City Council’s 45-day ban on pot clubs, I had to roll my eyes over one aspect of ABC7’s coverage of the issue.
Reporter Terry McSweeney, who may be a nice, very professional guy, nonetheless seemed to take breathless delight in the idea that a pot club was opening up in Walnut Creek. Perhaps, to this San Francisco-based reporter, suburban Walnut Creek equates to the political and cultural hinterlands. And the arrival of a pot club is akin to some unruly, sex-and-rock-obsessed 1950s motorcycle gang—a la Marlon Brando’s The Wild Ones—rolling into a small, bucolic town and stirring up social disorder.
“In fairly conservative Walnut Creek,” McSweeney began his report. “You would think that a pot dispensing operation would be met with skepticism by City Council members. …”
“Conservative?” Or, okay, “fairly conservative?” Well, I guess compared to San Francisco or the People’s Republic of Berkeley, Walnut Creek leans more to the right. The San Francisco-based blog, SFist, also seemed to fall in step with the ABC7 approach, and probably enjoyed blasting this headline “Walnut Creek Freaking Out Over First Pot Club Permit.”
More eye-rolling as I confront more urbanite stereotyping about suburbia and Walnut Creek—stereotypes that are actually, IMHO, a bit narrow-minded and not terribly well informed. Gee, I thought urbanites (which I was for a number of years, including in San Francisco) liked to pride themselves on being open-minded and well-informed.
The thing is, if you equate “conservative” with being on the “right”—or Republican—end of the political spectrum, the numbers for Walnut Creek, and the rest of Contra Costa, don’t add up that way.
Quite the contrary.
In Walnut Creek and in Contra Costa County, Democrats outnumber Republicans these days. Also, the majority of those in Walnut Creek and in the county voting on contentious political issues went to the “left,” including on the last presidential race, Proposition 8, and the question of legalizing medical marijuana. That’s right, we locals voted “liberal” on some political issues. Gasp, I used the L-word!
According to the California Secretary of State’s October 2008 voter registration records, Walnut Creek’s 42,824 registered voters were 45 percent Democrat and 33 percent Republican.
County-wide, 50 percent of Contra Costa’s 527,145 registered voters (263,853) identified themselves as Democrats; 26 percent (140,864) as Republican.
In the most recent presidential race, 67 percent (24,625) of Walnut Creek residents voting chose Barack Obama, while 33 percent (12,388) chose John McCain. County wide, 68 percent of voters (306,983) voted for Barack Obama; just 30 percent for John McCain.
As for Proposition 8, the ban on same-sex marriage that was on last November’s ballot, 61 percent of Walnut Creek voters said “no”; 38 percent said “yes.” County-wide, 67 percent (282,371) said “no”; just 33 percent (141,738) said “yes.”
So, we wanted the elite-college-educated African-American Democrat to become president, not the older, white Republican war hero. (The majority of us probably also didn’t want that scary, moose-hunting, can’t-name-a-newspaper-she-reads nut job Sarah Palin anywhere near national office).
And, we in Walnut Creek apparently also have (L-word alert!) liberal attitudes about gay rights. But then is that so surprising? As demonstrated by two recent downtown protests, Walnut Creek has become an epicenter for the East Bay’s youth gay rights movement.
As for our attitudes about medical marijuana: that remains to be seen where we belong on the left/right, pro/con spectrum. With this new Oakland Boulevard dispensary, called the C-3 Collective, we could have an interesting, contentious debate on our hands.
By the way, I couldn’t find any numbers for which way Walnut Creek voters went on Proposition 215 back in 1996. Proposition 215 was designed to protect from arrest and prosecution patients and caregivers who have a doctor’s prescription to possess or cultivate marijuana for medical purposes.
Still, I don’t think it would be surprising to find out that a fair number of people in Walnut Creek favor allowing, say, cancer, AIDS, or chronic pain patients to use marijuana to alleviate pain, nausea and other debilitating symptoms. I also don’t think it’s surprising to find at least one person with a favorable view of medical marijuana on the City Council.
With regard to their 45-day ban on the opening of a pot club, council members, aside from Bob Simmons, were not expressing pro- or anti-medical marijuana viewpoints. They were just voting on a ban that they hope will give them the time to look at whether such an establishment is appropriate, zoning- or otherwise, in town.
On the other hand, I wonder if Walnut Creek residents will ultimately want a pot club in town, despite their liberal leanings on other issues and even if it turns out that a majority favor allowing patients to use marijuana for medical purposes. Many Walnut Creek residents might support the idea of medical marijuana in principle—as long as the dispensary isn’t near their neighborhood. They might worry, as Walnut Creek planners expressed in their report, about increased crime around the dispensary—whether or not those concerns pan out in other cities.
They might also wonder if more marijuana will flow into the community—specifically into the hands of their kids—if a local shop sells it. Perhaps other Walnut Creek residents have heard some of the things I’ve heard from some cop and drug treatment sources: that pot from clubs over the hills in Oakland or in San Francisco have become popular sources of the weed that local teens are smoking. Kids get it from older friends or “associates” who con their way into a medical marijuana prescription. … Then again, it seems, local teens and other pot smokers have always been able to find ways to get their hands on marijuana, even before medical marijuana dispensaries become legal.
Oh, I’m not saying that the C-3 Collective, or its owner, Complimentary Alternative Medicine Corp., doesn’t run a professional, law-abiding organization or would sell to anyone who doesn’t deserve it. BTW, I am hoping to talk to its owner in the near future.
Also, I’m not saying whether I agree or disagree with having a pot club in town. I just expect that the debate could prove interesting. I look forward to seeing how it unfolds, especially in noting whether it reflects current political and social attitudes of Walnut Creek residents—whether it shows how “conservative” or “liberal” we, in fact, are.