Santa Clara Smoking Ordinance Criminalizes Medical Cannabis Users – Letter to the Editor

On February 5th, the Santa Clara City Council voted to enact an ordinance prohibiting smoking in multi-unit residences. Condominiums, townhouses, and duplexes all fall under the ordinance, regardless of whether the resident is an owner or a tenant. The new law is well-intentioned; the city wants to protect residents from the dangerous effects of secondhand smoke. However, the city council failed to provide exception or alternative for residents who rely on medical cannabis for their health. Patients who smoke or vape must take their medication at home, because Santa Clara has already banned smoking in nearly all public spaces. Under the ordinance, cannabis users living in multi-unit residences will be unable to smoke or vape in their own homes, in public spaces, or within 30 feet of any no-smoking zone. There are no such places in most of Santa Clara, therefore residents must leave the city in order to lawfully use cannabis. They may not leave in their own vehicle, as it would be both unsafe and illegal to drive while under the influence of cannabis. Therefore, any law-abiding cannabis patient who is not wealthy enough to own a single-family house must instead pay for a rideshare, taxi, or public transit service, every time they need to take their medication. In addition to the monetary expense, a patient who both lives and works in Santa Clara would have to spend several hours each day in transit in and out of the city to take their medication. Such an expectation is unrealistic, and in conflict with state laws allowing medicinal use of cannabis. The city must amend the ordinance to include exceptions for medical cannabis users, before it takes effect on August 1st.