Despite all of the arguments NIMBYs have in their bag of tricks, it’s rare to hear one actually use the term. Philadelphia Councilman Curtis Jones, who is trying to limit the ability of medical marijuana dispensaries to set up shop in the City of Brotherly Love, has recently broken the taboo:
The legislation calls for banning dispensaries at eight locations within his district, including sites such as “Parkside Avenue from 52nd Street to Belmont Avenue” and “City Avenue from the Schuylkill Expressway to City Boundary.”
It would also require those seeking a zoning permit for a medical marijuana dispensary to notify relevant Council members, registered community groups, and neighboring properties.
“NIMBY does apply sometimes, not in my backyard,” Jones told reporters on the floor of City Council. “I’m hoping though zoning we can restrict certain uses of properties within certain areas. For example, on City Avenue, if they have their way, there will be three medical dispensaries within a half mile. That’s a little much for any one community to absorb.”
Jones, to his credit, supports medical marijuana. He couched the legislation as “an issue of local control — mentioning neighborhood fears about parking and congestion.”
His arguments against congestion and parking are a bit silly. Cities are more walkable than suburbs, where these dispensaries will wind up if they’re pushed out of the city.
In another example of surprising forthrightness about his motivation, Jones said, “Some communities in my district love it, this fits their lifestyle and expectation, in other areas they don’t. Locally, we know the difference.”
Medical marijuana isn’t a “lifestyle” choice–it’s medication. There’s little to no evidence that the presence of medical marijuana dispensaries in a neighborhood leads to an increase in crime, making Jones’s arguments a mild form of scaremongering. (Indeed, dispensaries take their own measures to prevent crime, such as video cameras or security guards.)
This isn’t to say that there’s no case for restricting development if there are genuine public health or safety concerns, but the industry is regulated and dispensaries are licensed by the commonwealth.
At the end of the day, this is an example of how “local control” can be used to exclude otherwise valuable enterprises because neighbors just aren’t comfortable with it to the detriment of those in need of treatment.