A whiff of caution in Claremont

by John Pixley


Earlier this spring, I had a couple of piercing rings removed. I might have had it done at the Claremont Tattoo Parlor but, according to the establishment’s website, the Claremont Tattoo Parlor only does tattoos—no piercings.

So I ended up going someplace in Upland, on Mountain or Central Avenue, that does piercings as well as tattoos. Besides, it was closer than the Claremont Tattoo Parlor.

That’s right—a place in Upland that does tattooing and piercings is closer than the Claremont Tattoo Parlor. How can this be? How can an establishment in Upland be closer to Claremont than a Claremont business?

No, it isn’t because the Claremont business is across town while the Upland business is just across the border. It’s because the Claremont Tattoo Parlor isn’t a Claremont business. The Claremont Tattoo Parlor is actually in Rancho Cucamonga.

The Claremont Tattoo Parlor is a Rancho Cucamonga business because Claremont didn’t want to have any business with it when it tried to get a space in the Village some 20 years ago. The city decided to not have any business with tattoo parlors and banned them. Well, they eventually decided to allow such establishments in Claremont a few years ago but only in industrial parks or other such in-the-dark, out-of-sight-out-of-mind places. I don’t even know if there is a tattoo parlor in Claremont at this point, which is probably the point.

At the time, the debate over whether to let the tattoo parlor locate in the arcade off Yale Avenue in the Village went on for some weeks—well over a month, actually—taking up time at two or three city council meetings. City officials said the concern was over health and safety issues. However, there was plenty of talk and letters written about not wanting that kind of business, not wanting the kind of people that kind of business attracts, in Claremont, much less in our Village.

Never mind that, even at that time, it was plainly evident many people who visited the Village and patronized its businesses indulged in the services offered at a tattoo parlor. Never mind that there were guys working at Some Crust Bakery in the Village—just a block from the proposed site—serving up its renowned, beloved treats, whose arms and legs were covered with tattoos. Never mind that, not many years later, I felt comfortable getting my piercings and having them seen in public in Claremont and even in the Village. (I had them removed primarily because of the pain they were causing.)

It is all too easy to see that this kind of thinking is behind the city council’s recent unanimous decision to ban pot dispensaries in Claremont. The council took this step before Tuesday’s election, in which Proposition 64 to legalize the recreational use of marijuana as well as dispensaries and various regulations and taxes in California is likely to be approved. The measure permits local governments to make such moves, banning marijuana businesses, regulating cultivation and banning outdoor plants.

In going ahead and taking this step to ban dispensaries, but not personal use and cultivation of marijuana in Claremont, the city council mainly cite legal and technical concerns. The worry is that while legislation will occur immediately after Proposition 64 passes, businesses won’t be able to apply for licenses until January 2018.

In order to keep illegal commercial dispensaries from opening here, possibly resulting in legal costs, and to observe how the proposition will work in other cities, the council concluded that a ban is best. As City Manager Tony Ramos said, this “put[s] in safeguards to protect this community and then allow this community, if [Prop 64] passes, to have the appropriate dialogue about what they would like to do with recreational marijuana.”

It is all well and good to take time out and have a ban or moratorium while an “appropriate dialogue” takes place. But is this what the ban is about? If it is, why is it taking place now, just before recreational pot may be legal, and when it has been a hot topic for several years (at least)?

After all, medicinal marijuana has been around for decades, but there are still no medicinal marijuana dispensaries in Claremont. Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised when there are also no recreational marijuana dispensaries in Claremont and, perhaps, a Claremont Pot Shop opens up in San Dimas in a handful of years.

This would be too bad. If we stepped up as a community, a truly “appropriate dialogue” could lead to a creative, innovative, responsible way to deal with what “to do with recreational marijuana.” Dealing with recreational marijuana use like this, rather than banning dispensaries or putting them in the shadows, when drinking alcohol can cause at least and probably more damage, would reflect Claremont’s caring, outgoing spirit.    

Claremont can do better than to be so overly cautious and ban the dispensaries that are coming probably sooner than later, not to mention the ones already here. This community can do better than the man who said he feared for his daughter’s safety when there were people camped out in front of city hall during the Occupy movement.

Pitzer College, of all places, can also do better. The student senate at the college, known for its progressive outlook and activism, decided to withhold funding from, and thus cancel, the student-run Reggae Fest, which was slated for this month and has been going on annually for 14 years. The decision was based on concerns expressed by some students and faculty that the festival, at which a number of bands play and vendors offer goods and food, is “cultural appropriation.”

The fear here is that, frankly, a bunch of white students are taking on and exploiting the creative expression of black artists. There is also concern that the festival, which usually kicks off at 4:20, glorifies pot use and, as one international student from Jamaica said, “perpetuates the idea that Jamaicans (and Caribbean people in general) just sit around and smoke weed all day.”

The Pitzer Student Senate also decided to increase its funding for the school’s Rockabilly Festival. Doesn’t this exploit Latino artists and appropriate Chicano culture?  

As a disabled, gay man, I’m all for people being sensitive. I want people to take care and be gentle with each other, including me. I understand the desire to be heard and to protect.

But again, as with the tattoo parlors and pot shops, we can be too careful and end up hidden from and scared of each other. What good will ignoring reggae music do? Will “trigger warnings” and having only black roommates in college—an issue that arose recently at, yes, Pitzer College—help in getting along in the world?

A wall keeping us in is almost as bad as a wall keeping others out. 


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