Commentary: Regulate medical marijuana? What a pipe dream

Regulating marijuana.

It's the oxymoron of choice these days. How do you regulate a weed with laws that only stoners understand?

The city of Sacramento soon will find out.

Quite earnestly, Sacramento officials are wading into the business of regulating the marijuana dispensaries popping up like fresh buds in a Humboldt County meadow.

There are nearly 40 registered dispensaries within the city limits. Heaven knows how many more the city doesn't know about.

Now mind you, all pot peddlers in Sacramento are technically operating in violation of city zoning laws, according to Gus Vina, Sacramento's interim city manager. More accurately, there are no zoning laws in place to regulate them, so they can't legitimately operate.

Yet there they sit, open for business.

Don't worry if that doesn't make sense, because very little related to marijuana regulation makes sense, if you define sense by logic, specificity and clarity.

For example, the Sacramento City Council is looking to grab hold of the dispensary issue here by capping the number in the city at a dozen and imposing strict requirements for their operations. The motivation for allowing them: helping medical marijuana patients.

OK. How many legitimate medical marijuana patients are there?

"Obviously, we have no idea how many patients are being served or will be served," Vina said.

No one has any idea because the truth is, there is no consensus on how medical marijuana should be used.

In preliminary findings from a University of California, San Diego, study, researchers drew a distinction between using medical marijuana and getting stoned. Medical pot was found to be just as effective in low doses for treating neuropathic pain – relief without the buzz. Can you imagine? Low-dose pot that doesn't get you high. Where is the fun in that?

Precisely. Pot dispensaries are flourishing because pot makes you high and because California law does not define or restrict who should use medical pot and why.

And when cities try to regulate it – they get sued.

Los Angeles is under siege. Across the Sacramento River, West Sacramento looked at regulating pot until threats of lawsuits forced it to simply maintain its moratorium.

"There isn't a good way to do this," said West Sacramento Mayor Christopher Cabaldon. "In our zeal to do something reasonable, we underestimated the barriers between state (medical marijuana laws) and federal laws (where all pot is illegal)."

If dispensaries really are legitimate medical operations, they should have no problem working within city laws. Other businesses do.

But that's the rub: For all the talk about medicine, dispensaries want to make money, and people really, really want to get high.