I'll admit straight off that I have never seen marijuana as one of society's great evils. I tried it a couple of dozen times in my 20s without understanding what the big deal was. So I come to the debate over medical marijuana shops with a libertarian's shrug.
Nonetheless, I felt it was my civic duty to take the medical marijuana survey that city officials say was started by a group of medical cannabis advocates exploring a ballot initiative. (See the survey at www.goo.gl/oO6Seg.)
In December, the council took action to limit the city's 82 marijuana dispensaries largely to industrial areas in the northern part of the city by next summer. City officials tell me that an initiative would be aimed at forestalling that move with lighter restrictions.
The questionnaire, circulated through a website called San Jose United, seems designed to push people to embrace a protective radius around schools or places where kids gather. This would allow some shops -- though not all -- to stay in business.
The first question asked whether the city should regulate marijuana shops, ban them or take no action. Holding to my principles, I checked "take no action," which seemed to put me beyond the pale of the next several questions.
A protective radius
Nonetheless, I soldiered on. Should the city "not allow" medical marijuana stores within 1,000 feet of schools, day care centers, libraries and parks? Presumably the pollsters meant "ban," though their choice of words was confusing. I checked "no." How about 500 feet? 150 feet? This time, I hit "undecided."
Then the pollsters got even trickier by asking the inverse. Should the city "not allow" day care centers, libraries, and parks within 1,000 feet of medical marijuana shops? And should schools be allowed to open within 1,000 feet of pot collectives?
This was almost too much for my poor brain. Was this rhetorical jousting? Had they smoked too much pot? Were they trying to suggest that regulating marijuana collectives was akin to dictating where schools, libraries and parks should go? I hit "yes" for the school question and played with "undecided" for the rest.
Finally, the poll administered the death blow. If the city allowed marijuana collectives within 150 feet of "residential uses," should "residential uses" be allowed within 150 feet of medical marijuana shops? I pondered the tautology for while. What was a "residential use?" Did they mean homes? My garbage can is a "residential use." Did that count?
The survey says that even states that have legalized marijuana for recreational use -- ergo, Colorado -- have banned pot shops from locating within 1,000 feet of schools. But I have to admit to being attracted to the reasoning of Rich Robinson, a political consultant who has represented the marijuana collectives.
"This is a bogus survey," Robinson told me. "The methodology is crazy. If they base their analysis on this, people will laugh them out of any policy debate.
"They ought to do a real survey, which allows them to decide based on public responses what they should do at the end of the day," he added.
Whoops. There might be a little too much truth coming back from that one. In a survey that's designed to advocate a point of view, candor might be just too confusing.