I’m sure some opponents of Walnut Creek allowing a medical marijuana dispensary in town are frothing at this local news: How a shooting erupted in Concord Sunday over an attempt by six suspects (er, idiots) to steal marijuana plants being legally grown in someone’s back yard.
Apparently, a man suffered a flesh wound in the leg, possibly at the hands of his own associates, after he or someone from his crew was caught in the backyard of a home where the residents had a legal right to grow marijuana for medical purposes. You can read more about the attempted pot plant theft, the attempted getaway, and the shooting at Claycord.com.
But certainly, the Reefer Madness fearmongers would say, such an incident shows that allowing a medical marijuana dispensary in Walnut Creek will attract similar robberies and other violent crime to our fair city.
And, absolutely, these fear mongers would assert, such an incident provides more evidence that marijuana is a dangerous, destructive, crime- and violence-ridden drug.
It would be silly of me to say that marijuana cultivation, sales, use, and abuse are victimless, crime-free vocations. There is this incident, and, off the top of my head, I can think of two recent homicides in the East Bay suburbs that possibly involved pot deals gone bad. They include the shooting death of 17-year-old Rylan Fuchs of Danville earlier this year and the December 2007 killing of Eric Martin, of Pittsburg, in Walnut Creek over a failed marijuana growing and distribution scheme.
But are there any other mind-altering substances, whose cultivation and/or manufacture, sales, use, and abuse attract crime, including robberies, assaults, and homicide?
The stuff of beer, wine, and Grey Goose martinis.
Once again, I’ll repeat that alcohol—mostly in the form of red wine—is my drug of choice. I like it–perhaps too much. But that’s a whole other story.
As for pot, I have not tried it since college. I didn’t like it much then, and have no desire to use it at any time in the future. The smell? Ick.
And who wants to be around a bunch of stoners? If you’re not stoned? Although, I have to say that being around a bunch of people blissed out on weed would be no worse than—and might even be preferable—to being around loud, annoying drunks. Among these drunks, I’m including a very obnoxiously vocal and tipsy silver-haired man in a polo shirt (a lawyer? Bank executive? Real estate entrepreneur?) who was toting a wine glass and making an ass of himself on North Main Street during last week’s Fall Wine Walk. This wine-tasting event, hosted by the Downtown Business Association, was, remember, a fundraiser to benefit local Walnut Creek schools.
Again, what about alcohol and it’s connection to crime and destruction? No wait! Alcohol is legal, so it’s harmless, right? It doesn’t cause death, destruction, or crime, right?
Well, of course, we all know it does. We’re familiar with the fact that alcohol is involved in thousands of traffic fatalities every year across the United States. We also know that long-term alcohol abuse is associated with tragic health consequences, astronomical medical costs, and the breakdown of families and communities.
The U.S. government says about both alcohol and tobacco, which are both legal in this country, for recreational use, to people of a certain age: “Alcohol and tobacco cost society a great deal every year in terms of crime, lost productivity, tragedies, and deaths. … As a result of legal settlements and vigorous public education efforts, many Americans are aware of the dangers of dependence and addiction associated with alcohol and tobacco use. Even so, alcohol and tobacco remain a significant part of the American health problem.”
So, we might be aware that alcohol is a major health problem, but most of us probably don’t think of it as a major crime problem as well. But it is, and like marijuana and other drugs, it contributes to our local, state, and national crime rates. Alcohol, notably, is a major factor in domestic violence.
From the U.S. Department of Justice:
- About 3 million violent crimes occur each year in which victims perceive the offender to have been drinking at the time of the offense.
- Another Justice Department study found that that alcohol abuse was a factor in 40 percent of violent crimes committed in the United States.
- Among those victims who provided information about the offender’s use of alcohol, about 30 percent of the victimizations involved an offender who had been drinking.
- Two-thirds of victims who suffered violence by an intimate (a current or former spouse, boyfriend, or girlfriend) reported that alcohol had been a factor. Among spouse victims, three out of four incidents were reported to have involved an offender who had been drinking.
Let’s return to alcohol’s contribution to annoying, life-style crimes in downtown Walnut Creek. As I mentioned in a prior story, the Walnut Creek police reported that 1515 Restaurant and Lounge attracted their attention seven times between late July and late August. Police had to come to arrest drunks, and patrons not cooperating with state Alcoholic Beverage Control agents. Police also had to hear from a father who was alarmed that his daughter got so tanked up on booze at 1515 and/or other downtown establishments that she couldn’t talk or walk, and had to be carried to her car.
1515 Restaurant operates legally, as do some nearly 100 other liquor-dispensing establishments in town. After crying about lost profits due to their 12:30 a.m. closing time, the owners of 1515, Jack and Tony Dudum, received permission from the City Council to stay open a half hour later. They needed this extra time so that they could sell more beer, wine, and cocktails–to earn more money. To stay in business. To turn a profit. That is, they were given permission to dispense more mind-altering substances legally, and for recreational purposes, with profit as a prime motive.
But pot? Well, some city leaders and members of the public have gotten huffy and expressed their grave concerns about C3 Collective—just one venue so far—dispensing pot in town. The owners of this pot club, which has been hit with a lawsuit to shut down, claim they are dispending pot, not for recreational purposes or for profit, but to benefit people with serious medical conditions.
C3 owners may or may not be telling the truth. I will assume they are, until someone proves otherwise. Meanwhile, we have plenty of other venues in downtown that are dispensing the mind-altering substance of alcohol—for recreational purposes and, most definitely, for a profit. I could fill a page with their names, but here are just a few. Besides the above-mentioned 1515, which by the way allegedly caters to an “mature, upscale crowd,” there are the upscale restaurants Prima, Va de Vi, Lark Creek Walnut Creek, and the Walnut Creek Yacht Club. There are also markets and drug stores like Whole Foods Market, Trader Joe’s (Two Buck Chuck!), Safeway, CVS Pharmacy, and 7-Eleven.
I’m sure in the history of any of these establishments–mostly likely the grocery and convenience stores–someone has come in and tried to steal a bottle or two of something. From my police reporting days, this was a fairly regular occurance at grocery and convenience stores: thefts of booze that amounted to a misdemeanor shoplifting. It might involve someone who is dependant on alcohol, shoplifting a bottle, or kids eager to get their hands on a six-pack or a bottle of hard liquor.
How is this kind of theft so much different from what those idiots in Concord were trying to do, when they were attempting to steal a bit of weed from that legally grown backyard crop?
Marijuana and alcohol: Both mind-altering substances. Both legal, with varying restrictions. Both promise to pleasure the senses, including smell and taste. Both offer the promise of relaxation, escape, and an altered mental state. And, both, when abused in terms of sales, distribution or use, become the source of devastating consequnces.
But why is one substance culturally embraced, celebrated as a symbol of the California good life, and used to entice people into donating money to help local school kids? And why is the other substance treated with contempt and mostly outlawed, when there is no evidence, I can find so far, that it causes society any more harm than the other? I’m trying to figure that one out.