Archive for the ‘Los Angeles’ category

Sharp Limits on L.A. MMJ Businesses Approved

May 22nd, 2013

A ballot measure to sharply limit the number of medical marijuana dispensaries in the Los Angeles was approved by voters Tuesday night. The measure won with 62% of the vote, according to the latest results.

Proposition D would reduce the number of pot shops in the city from about 700 now to about 130 by allowing only those that opened before the adoption of a failed 2007 city moratorium on new dispensaries to remain open. A rival initiative, Measure F, which would have allowed an unlimited number of dispensaries to operate, failed. Both measures would raise taxes on medical marijuana sales 20%.

Yami Bolanos, a Proposition D supporter who opened PureLife Alternative Wellness Center in 2006, cried with happiness as the first election results came in, saying she felt as though years of uncertainty about the future of medical marijuana in the city were coming to an end. “Voters had the heart to stand up for the patients like the city council never did,” Bolanos said.

City Councilman Bill Rosendahl, a cancer patient and medical marijuana user who backed Proposition D, said the measure “takes us out of chaos.” He said the dispensaries that have been in the city since 2007 have showed that they are good actors. “They have lived with us,” he said.

Backers of Measure F, which called for additional regulations on dispensaries such as city audits and tests of cannabis for toxins, said they weren’t ready to give up.

David Welch, an attorney who supported that measure, said he was prepared to sue if Proposition D was declared the winner. He said the proposition was unconstitutional because it favored dispensaries based on an arbitrary date. He also predicted that Proposition D would be difficult to enforce, saying that many shops that opened after 2007 probably would continue to operate until the city identifies them and orders them closed. “The city has no idea who qualifies and who doesn’t,” Welch said.

The contentious campaign over how to regulate medical marijuana shops divided the city’s dispensaries, employees and customers, as well as the city council.

Measure F supporters warned that Proposition D would create a monopoly for older shops and allow the rise of “pot superstores.” Backers of Proposition D, including a coalition of older shops and a labor union that has organized workers at many of them, cautioned that Measure F could lead to thousands of new dispensaries.

A third measure, Initiative Ordinance E, would have permitted only the older shops to remain open but without raising taxes. It was put on the ballot by a coalition of older shops and the dispensary employees union, but that coalition shifted its support to Proposition D after the city council voted to put that measure on the ballot.

The stakes were raised this month when the California Supreme Court upheld the right of cities to ban dispensaries.

Supporters of both initiatives warned that if voters failed to pass one of the ballot measures, the city would be left with no law regulating medical marijuana and might be tempted to enact a total ban.

The city council attempted such a ban last year, voting 14 to 0 to outlaw over-the-counter sales of marijuana while allowing small groups of patients to grow the drug for their own use. It reversed the action after the coalition of older dispensaries and union workers qualified a measure for the ballot that would have repealed the ban.

At least one city council member, Jose Huizar, has spoken of revisiting the ban now that cities have been given the authority to outlaw dispensaries.

L.A. has struggled for years to regulate dispensaries, in large part because of contradictory court rulings. The city is battling more than 60 lawsuits over its earlier attempts at regulation.

Los Angeles voters have generally supported the availability of medical marijuana.

In 1996, California became the first state to legalize the medicinal use of pot, although subsequent state laws failed to make explicit how the drug should be distributed. In 2011, L.A. voters approved a ballot measure to tax sales.

Still, a USC Price/Los Angeles Times poll conducted this month found strong support for more regulation of pot shops, with 61% of respondents saying they felt the city should regulate dispensaries more than it currently does. In contrast, 13% said the city should regulate less, and 19% said regulation should not change.

The poll also found that 54% of voters supported a 20% tax increase on medical marijuana sales and 33% opposed it.

Many voters confessed to confusion over the differences among the ballot measures. “The pot stuff was hard,” said Sue Maberry, 64, of Silver Lake. She voted yes on Measure F because she believed Proposition D would create a monopoly.

Early returns also suggested voters favored a measure aimed at overturning Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission, the Supreme Court ruling that corporations and unions have a 1st Amendment right to spend their money to influence voters.

The measure would “instruct” members of Congress from the Los Angeles area to support a constitutional amendment to change the law, although the lawmakers would not be bound by it.

Source: Los Angeles Times (CA)
Author: Kate Linthicum
Published: May 22, 2013
Copyright: 2013 Los Angeles Times
Contact: letters@latimes.com
Website: http://www.latimes.com/

The Marijuana Measures

May 10th, 2013

The regulation of medical marijuana in Los Angeles is a mess and has been ever since Proposition 215 was approved by California voters in November 1996.

Repeated state and city efforts to bring the chaotic situation under control have had little effect. A move by the City Council in 2007 to register medical marijuana dispensaries, for instance, led instead to an unexpected proliferation. An attempt to limit them in 2010 drew 66 lawsuits and a court-ordered injunction. An ordinance to ban them outright in 2012 was quickly repealed after marijuana businesses gathered enough signatures for a referendum to overturn the measure. Court decisions designed to clarify the murky laws have instead contradicted one another.

Today, there are an estimated 850 dispensaries — or maybe it’s 1,000 or 1,600 (no one seems sure) — operating in Los Angeles despite the city’s position that they’re illegal. Everyone knows that medical marijuana can be easily obtained by recreational users who aren’t truly sick. The “medicine” is not monitored by the government for potential health or safety problems; the dispensaries, by many accounts, are not nonprofit “collectives,” as state law requires (although it’s not really clear what a nonprofit collective is or isn’t). Residents in some neighborhoods complain that they are being overrun by dispensaries, and that many pot shops serve as hubs for crime.

A mess, like we said. And on May 21, Angelenos will have the opportunity to muck it up even further, if they’re not careful. On the ballot will be not one or two but three competing marijuana initiatives: Measures D, E and F.

It would be easy enough to urge a no vote on all three, and to call on the city to impose a full-scale ban instead. After all, The Times opposed Proposition 215 from the outset, partly because it was sloppily written and partly because it set up an inevitable conflict with the federal government, which continues to classify marijuana as illegal and dangerous.

But voting no solves nothing. The people of Los Angeles, like the people of California, overwhelmingly support making medical marijuana available to cancer patients, glaucoma sufferers and others. A ban would be unlikely to pass, and besides, denying marijuana to truly sick patients who can benefit from it would be a step backward. Given that, and given that the status quo is entirely unacceptable, the city’s best hope is to try to carry out the will of the voters with minimal confusion and maximum control to ensure that medical marijuana remains accessible to those who need it.

Measure D will come the closest to accomplishing that goal, or at least will put us on the right road.

Most important, it would impose limits on the number of marijuana businesses in the city, allowing about 135 dispensaries to remain open — those that were operating and registered under city laws in 2007 and that sought to re-register in 2011. Limits are essential. Even people who support easy access to medical cannabis can see that there need to be rules and oversight, as with bars and liquor stores. But resources are limited, and the city can’t police an infinite number of establishments.

Measure D is backed by both mayoral candidates and the current city attorney and his challenger. It applies to any organization of four or more people who cultivate, process, distribute or give away medical marijuana. It hikes the gross receipts tax on their operations — to $60 per $1,000 of gross receipts — and establishes the distances they must keep from schools, parks, one another and residential neighborhoods. It sets hours — they must be closed between 8 p.m. and 10 a.m. — prohibits the consumption of marijuana on the premises and requires background checks on managers, among other provisions.

It is far from perfect. For one thing, it is somewhat arbitrary. Why should a handful of dispensaries that got in under the wire in 2007 be the ones that now get to stay open? There’s no reason to think those particular establishments are more responsible than any other. For another, if it is passed, the city will be required to close hundreds of existing dispensaries, which could prove difficult, legally and practically. Here’s another thing: Measure D doesn’t create a process for a new dispensary to open when one of the 135 closes; that seems like an unfortunate oversight. And it would be far better if the measure could be amended or repealed by the City Council without requiring an additional vote of the people. But it cannot.

Still, Measure D is the best of the bunch.

Measure F, by contrast, sets no limits. It includes some strong rules and protections — in some cases stronger than those in D. But the city simply can’t sustain an unlimited number of dispensaries. Supporters of F say there would be de facto limits as a result of the requirements about how close dispensaries could be to schools, parks and one another, and that the final number would be in the hundreds. But what guarantee is there? Certainly nothing in the law.

As for Measure E — ignore it. That measure became moot after its supporters agreed to throw their support to Measure D.

No matter what you think of medical marijuana, it’s hard to deny that implementation of Proposition 215 has been unsuccessful. The Legislature and the state attorney general’s office were late to offer much-needed guidance. The federal government sent mixed messages about what it would or would not tolerate. The city of Los Angeles has flailed around, trying and failing to devise a workable set of rules.

Even if Measure D passes, there will still be no way to ensure that medical marijuana goes only to the sick people who are entitled to it, or that the product being sold is safe and untainted. Moreover, there will still be no resolution to the ongoing conflict between state and federal law. Perhaps one day the U.S. government will decide that marijuana should no longer be a Schedule I controlled substance, which means it has no medical use and is as dangerous as heroin. If that happens, perhaps the Food and Drug Administration will regulate it, doctors across the country will be able to prescribe it for patients they believe need it, and pharmacies will be able to provide it, just as they do with other medicines.

Source: Los Angeles Times (CA)
Published: May 10, 2013
Copyright: 2013 Los Angeles Times
Contact: letters@latimes.com
Website: http://www.latimes.com/

The Marijuana Measures

May 10th, 2013

The regulation of medical marijuana in Los Angeles is a mess and has been ever since Proposition 215 was approved by California voters in November 1996.

Repeated state and city efforts to bring the chaotic situation under control have had little effect. A move by the City Council in 2007 to register medical marijuana dispensaries, for instance, led instead to an unexpected proliferation. An attempt to limit them in 2010 drew 66 lawsuits and a court-ordered injunction. An ordinance to ban them outright in 2012 was quickly repealed after marijuana businesses gathered enough signatures for a referendum to overturn the measure. Court decisions designed to clarify the murky laws have instead contradicted one another.

Today, there are an estimated 850 dispensaries — or maybe it’s 1,000 or 1,600 (no one seems sure) — operating in Los Angeles despite the city’s position that they’re illegal. Everyone knows that medical marijuana can be easily obtained by recreational users who aren’t truly sick. The “medicine” is not monitored by the government for potential health or safety problems; the dispensaries, by many accounts, are not nonprofit “collectives,” as state law requires (although it’s not really clear what a nonprofit collective is or isn’t). Residents in some neighborhoods complain that they are being overrun by dispensaries, and that many pot shops serve as hubs for crime.

A mess, like we said. And on May 21, Angelenos will have the opportunity to muck it up even further, if they’re not careful. On the ballot will be not one or two but three competing marijuana initiatives: Measures D, E and F.

It would be easy enough to urge a no vote on all three, and to call on the city to impose a full-scale ban instead. After all, The Times opposed Proposition 215 from the outset, partly because it was sloppily written and partly because it set up an inevitable conflict with the federal government, which continues to classify marijuana as illegal and dangerous.

But voting no solves nothing. The people of Los Angeles, like the people of California, overwhelmingly support making medical marijuana available to cancer patients, glaucoma sufferers and others. A ban would be unlikely to pass, and besides, denying marijuana to truly sick patients who can benefit from it would be a step backward. Given that, and given that the status quo is entirely unacceptable, the city’s best hope is to try to carry out the will of the voters with minimal confusion and maximum control to ensure that medical marijuana remains accessible to those who need it.

Measure D will come the closest to accomplishing that goal, or at least will put us on the right road.

Most important, it would impose limits on the number of marijuana businesses in the city, allowing about 135 dispensaries to remain open — those that were operating and registered under city laws in 2007 and that sought to re-register in 2011. Limits are essential. Even people who support easy access to medical cannabis can see that there need to be rules and oversight, as with bars and liquor stores. But resources are limited, and the city can’t police an infinite number of establishments.

Measure D is backed by both mayoral candidates and the current city attorney and his challenger. It applies to any organization of four or more people who cultivate, process, distribute or give away medical marijuana. It hikes the gross receipts tax on their operations — to $60 per $1,000 of gross receipts — and establishes the distances they must keep from schools, parks, one another and residential neighborhoods. It sets hours — they must be closed between 8 p.m. and 10 a.m. — prohibits the consumption of marijuana on the premises and requires background checks on managers, among other provisions.

It is far from perfect. For one thing, it is somewhat arbitrary. Why should a handful of dispensaries that got in under the wire in 2007 be the ones that now get to stay open? There’s no reason to think those particular establishments are more responsible than any other. For another, if it is passed, the city will be required to close hundreds of existing dispensaries, which could prove difficult, legally and practically. Here’s another thing: Measure D doesn’t create a process for a new dispensary to open when one of the 135 closes; that seems like an unfortunate oversight. And it would be far better if the measure could be amended or repealed by the City Council without requiring an additional vote of the people. But it cannot.

Still, Measure D is the best of the bunch.

Measure F, by contrast, sets no limits. It includes some strong rules and protections — in some cases stronger than those in D. But the city simply can’t sustain an unlimited number of dispensaries. Supporters of F say there would be de facto limits as a result of the requirements about how close dispensaries could be to schools, parks and one another, and that the final number would be in the hundreds. But what guarantee is there? Certainly nothing in the law.

As for Measure E — ignore it. That measure became moot after its supporters agreed to throw their support to Measure D.

No matter what you think of medical marijuana, it’s hard to deny that implementation of Proposition 215 has been unsuccessful. The Legislature and the state attorney general’s office were late to offer much-needed guidance. The federal government sent mixed messages about what it would or would not tolerate. The city of Los Angeles has flailed around, trying and failing to devise a workable set of rules.

Even if Measure D passes, there will still be no way to ensure that medical marijuana goes only to the sick people who are entitled to it, or that the product being sold is safe and untainted. Moreover, there will still be no resolution to the ongoing conflict between state and federal law. Perhaps one day the U.S. government will decide that marijuana should no longer be a Schedule I controlled substance, which means it has no medical use and is as dangerous as heroin. If that happens, perhaps the Food and Drug Administration will regulate it, doctors across the country will be able to prescribe it for patients they believe need it, and pharmacies will be able to provide it, just as they do with other medicines.

Source: Los Angeles Times (CA)
Published: May 10, 2013
Copyright: 2013 Los Angeles Times
Contact: letters@latimes.com
Website: http://www.latimes.com/

Pot Patient Wins Custody Case

December 12th, 2012

Defense Attorney Lauren K. Johnson won a major court victory for parents who legally use marijuana for medical purposes last week in Los Angeles.  In the case of Drake A. (case # B236769), Division Three of the Second Appellate District, California Court of Appeal ruled on December 5, 2012 that there was no evidence showing that the defendant, a father, is a substance ab­user for simply being a legal medical marijuana patient. The court confirmed that while parents who abuse drugs can lose custody of their children, a parent who uses marijuana for medical reasons, with a doctor’s approval, isn’t necessarily a drug abuser.

The father, “Paul M.” was placed under DCFS (Department of Children and Family Services) supervision after he testified in an October 2011 hearing that he used medical marijuana about four times a week for knee pain.  During that same hearing, he also stated that he never medicates in front of his children, nor is he under the influence while they are in his care.  DCFS supervision requires drug counseling, parenting classes and random drug testing.  During subsequent drug screenings the father tested positive for marijuana, and negative for all other drugs.  As a result, the Superior Court of Los Angeles ruled that the child was to become a “dependent of the court based on the trial court’s finding that [the] father’s usage of medical marijuana placed the child at substantial risk of serious physical harm or illness…”.

“Paul M.” appealed the former court’s ruling, which was challenged in the Second Appellate District of California.  The Appellate court subsequently ruled in favor of reversing the Superior court’s judgment.  The official ruling stated “[that the] DCFS failed to show that [the] father was unable to provide regular care for Drake [the minor child at issue] due to father’s substance abuse.  Both DCFS and the trial court apparently confused the meanings of the terms ‘substance use’ and ‘substance abuse’.”

Johnson issued a press release noting that this is the first case to distinguish between marijuana use and abuse with regards to child protection laws. “In overturning a Los Angeles Superior Court ruling against the plaintiff, Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services, the Appellate Court said the ‘mere usage of drugs,’ including marijuana, is not the same as substance abuse that can affect child custody, as alleged in this case by the lower court.”  She went on to say, “The ruling illustrates a growing recognition of the legitimate use of medical marijuana in this state and other states. We want kids to be safe, but we also want parents to be able to use legally prescribed medications when children appear not to be at demonstrated risk of harm.”

This has been a pervasive issue in California, as well as other medical marijuana states. Legal patients have lost custody of their children and been forced to turn their children over to a juvenile protection agency.  The NORML Women’s Alliance has been working hard to bring this issue to the forefront.  NORML Women’s Alliance Director Sabrina Fendrick issued the following statement; “This ruling is a small victory in our fight for legal marijuana patients’ parental rights.  We hope that future judicial hearings, as well as child protection agencies will utilize this judgment and adopt new policies that reflect the Appellate court’s ruling.”

Marijuana Only for the Sick?

October 8th, 2012

One year after federal law enforcement officials began cracking down on California’s medical marijuana industry with a series of high-profile arrests around the state, they finally moved into Los Angeles last month, giving 71 dispensaries until Tuesday to shut down.

At the same time, because of a well-organized push by a new coalition of medical marijuana supporters, the City Council last week repealed a ban on the dispensaries that it had passed only a couple of months earlier.

Despite years of trying fruitlessly to regulate medical marijuana, California again finds itself in a marijuana-laced chaos over a booming and divisive industry.

Nobody even knows how many medical marijuana dispensaries are in Los Angeles. Estimates range from 500 to more than 1,000. The only certainty, supporters and opponents agree, is that they far outnumber Starbucks.

“That’s the ongoing, ‘Alice in Wonderland’ circus of L.A.,” said Michael Larsen, president of the Neighborhood Council in Eagle Rock, a middle-class community that has 15 dispensaries within a one-and-a-half-mile radius of the main commercial area, many of them near houses. “People here are desperate, and there’s nothing they can do.”

Though the neighborhood’s dispensaries were among those ordered to close by Tuesday, many are still operating. As he looked at a young man who bounded out of the Together for Change dispensary on Thursday morning, Mr. Larsen said, “I’m going to go out on a limb, but that’s not a cancer patient.”

In the biggest push against medical marijuana since California legalized it in 1996, the federal authorities have shut at least 600 dispensaries statewide since last October. California’s four United States attorneys said the dispensaries violated not only federal law, which considers all possession and distribution of marijuana to be illegal, but state law, which requires operators to be nonprofit primary caregivers to their patients and to distribute marijuana strictly for medical purposes.

While announcing the actions against the 71 dispensaries, André Birotte Jr., the United States attorney for the Central District of California, indicated that it was only the beginning of his campaign in Los Angeles. Prosecutors filed asset forfeiture lawsuits against three dispensaries and sent letters warning of criminal charges to the operators and landlords of 68 others, a strategy that has closed nearly 97 percent of the targeted dispensaries elsewhere in the district, said Thom Mrozek, a spokesman for the United States attorney.

Vague state laws governing medical marijuana have allowed recreational users of the drug to take advantage of the dispensaries, say supporters of the Los Angeles ban and the federal crackdown. Here on the boardwalk of Venice Beach, pitchmen dressed all in marijuana green approach passers-by with offers of a $35, 10-minute evaluation for a medical marijuana recommendation for everything from cancer to appetite loss.

Nearly 180 cities across the state have banned dispensaries, and lawsuits challenging the bans have reached the State Supreme Court. In more liberal areas, some 50 municipalities have passed medical marijuana ordinances, but most have suspended the regulation of dispensaries because of the federal offensive, according to Americans for Safe Access, a group that promotes access to medical marijuana. San Francisco and Oakland, the fiercest defenders of medical marijuana, have continued to issue permits to new dispensaries.

In 2004, shortly after the state effectively allowed the opening of storefront dispensaries, there were only three or four in Los Angeles, experts said. The number soon swelled into the hundreds before the city imposed a moratorium. But dispensaries continued to proliferate by exploiting a loophole in the moratorium even as lawsuits restricted the city’s ability to pass an ordinance. Over the summer, the City Council voted to ban dispensaries.

Anticipating the ban, the medical marijuana industry “that historically had not worked together very well” began organizing a counterattack, said Dan Rush, an official with the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, which formed a coalition with Americans for Safe Access and the Greater Los Angeles Collective Alliance, a group of dispensary owners. The coalition raised $250,000, mostly from dispensaries, to gather the signatures necessary to place a referendum to overturn the ban on the ballot next March, said Don Duncan, California director for Americans for Safe Access.

Instead of allowing the referendum to proceed in March, when elections for mayor and City Council seats will also be held, the council on Tuesday voted to simply rescind the ban. José Huizar, one of only two council members to vote against the repeal, and the strongest backer of the ban, said the city was not in a position to fight an increasingly well-organized industry.

Mr. Huizar said California’s medical marijuana laws, considered the nation’s weakest, must be changed to better control the production and distribution of marijuana, as well as limit access to only real patients.

“Unless that happens, local cities are going to continue to play the cat-and-mouse game with the dispensaries,” he said, adding that the industry had fought attempts here to regulate it. “These are folks who are just out to protect their profits, and they do that by having as little regulation or oversight as possible by the City of Los Angeles.”

But coalition officials say they favor stricter regulations here.Rigo Valdez, director of organizing for the local union, which represents 500 dispensary workers in Los Angeles, said he would support an ordinance restricting the number of dispensaries to about 125 and keeping them away from schools and one another.

“We would be able to respect communities by staying away from sensitive-use areas while providing safe access for medical marijuana patients,” he said.

Such an ordinance would shut down many dispensaries catering to recreational users, said Yamileth Bolanos, president of the Greater Los Angeles Collective Alliance and owner of a dispensary, the PureLife Alternative Wellness Center. “I felt we needed a medical situation with respect, not with all kinds of music going, tattoos and piercings in the face,” she said. “We’re normal people. Normal patients can come and acquire medicine.”

But the hundreds of dispensaries that would be put out of business will fight the federal crackdown, as some are already doing.

In downtown Los Angeles, where most of the dispensaries were included in the order to close, workers were renovating the storefront of the Downtown Collective. Inside, house music was being played in a lobby decorated to conjure “Scarface,” a poster of which hung on a wall.

“We don’t worry about this,” the manager said of the federal offensive, declining to give his name. “It’s between the lawyers.”

David Welch, a lawyer who is representing 15 of the 71 dispensaries and who is involved in a lawsuit challenging a ban at the State Supreme Court, said the federal clampdown would fail.

“Medical marijuana dispensaries are very much like what they distribute: they’re weeds,” he said. “You cut them down, you leave, and then they sprout back up.”

A version of this article appeared in print on October 8, 2012, on page A16 of the New York edition with the headline: Marijuana Only for the Sick? A Farce, Some in Los Angeles Say.

Source: New York Times (NY)
Author: Norimitsu Onishi
Published: October 8, 2012
Copyright: 2012 The New York Times Company
Contact: letters@nytimes.com
Website: http://www.nytimes.com/

L.A. To Repeal Ban on Medical Marijuana Shops

October 3rd, 2012

The Los Angeles City Council voted to rescind a newly enacted ban on storefront medical marijuana shops on Tuesday, allowing the city to avoid a referendum next year that some officials said would likely succeed in reversing the prohibition.

The council, in a blow to an industry that operates in violation of federal law, voted in July to ban pot dispensaries and replace them with a system that would allow up to three patients to collectively grow marijuana.

But medical marijuana advocates collected in August the necessary 27,425 valid signatures to put the decision to a March 2013 referendum. Under city rules, that number of signatures – 10 percent of the total number of votes cast in the city’s last mayoral election – put the ban on hold until the vote.

The backtracking comes a week after federal authorities moved to close about 70 such dispensaries in the city in a renewed effort to crack down on the operations through the use of asset-forfeiture lawsuits and warning letters.

“Legally it appears that almost nothing we do is a surefire approach,” City Councilman Paul Koretz said during the meeting on Tuesday.

“But I think the surefire least positive approach is to have a ban, but have it on hold … have it fail in March and basically be back where we started,” said Koretz, who voted in favor of repeal.

Pot remains illegal under federal law, but 17 states and the District of Columbia allow it as medicine. Los Angeles has between about 500 and 1,000 medical marijuana dispensaries, more than any other city in the nation.

Medical marijuana in California, which in 1996 became the first state to allow it, is used to treat everything from cancer to anxiety, and many police officials complain recreational users are taking advantage of the system.

The Los Angeles City Council’s decision to repeal the dispensary ban must return for a second vote next week because the 11-2 vote was not a unanimous one.

Separately, the council approved a resolution asking the state Legislature to give municipalities clear guidelines on how to regulate the distribution of medical marijuana.

Councilman Mitchell Englander complained that many badly run dispensaries in the city have “ruined it” for a minority of storefronts that are truly helping patients.

City Councilman Bill Rosendahl, who has cancer and diabetes and has taken medical marijuana, made an impassioned plea during the meeting for allowing a limited number of dispensaries.

“Where does anybody go, even a councilman go, to get his medical marijuana?,” Rosendahl said in a hoarse voice, moments after revealing that doctors told him he might not have “much time to live.”

Reporting By Alex Dobuzinskis; editing by Todd Eastham and Cynthia Johnston

Source: Reuters (Wire)
Author: Alex Dobuzinskis, Reuters
Published: October 2, 2012
Copyright: 2012 Thomson Reuters

Los Angeles City Council Overturns Their Medical Marijuana Dispensary Ban

October 2nd, 2012

In a 11-2 vote, the Los Angeles City Council voted to overturn their ban on medical cannabis dispensaries. The council had previously voted 14-0 in favor of banning all dispensaries in the city.

Advocates vowed to overturn the ban and collected the more than 27,425 signatures required to force the council to either repeal the ban on their own or put the issue before voters early next year.

This is an evolving situation and NORML will keep you updated as it develops.

Last Chance To Register For NORML’s 41st Annual National Conference

September 27th, 2012

These are the last days to register online to attend NORML’s 2012 national conference, ‘The Final Days of Prohibition,’ taking place Thursday, October 4th through Saturday, October 6th at The Omni Los Angeles Hotel.

Former CA Assemblyman and peace activist Tom Hayden will speak on Thursday morning. Best-selling travel author and TV host Rick Steves and NORML Founder Keith Stroup will address attendees at Friday’s Keynote luncheon, "Observations on the Final Days of Prohibition".

Round-table sessions and plenary speeches at NORML’s 41st annual conference include:

  • Pot-n-Politics 2012: A Review of Statewide Reform Initiatives Impacting Cannabis Consumers
  • Cannabis and the ‘Demo’ Gap: Who Does Not Support Cannabis Legalization and What Can We Do About It
  • Cannabis Legalization and Taxation: What Might It Look Like?
  • Broken Promises: Obama Administration and Federal Blowback Against Medical Cannabis Industry
  • The Changing Face of the Medical Cannabis Community
  • Seventy-Five Years of Cannabis Prohibition in America: A Review of the Cannabis Prohibition Epoch in America
  • Past is Prologue – Women’s Role in Ending American Prohibition[s]

States NORML’s Executive Director Allen St. Pierre: “2012 marks the beginning of the end of cannabis prohibition. A majority of Americans for the first time now acknowledge wanting to end marijuana prohibition and replace it with a system of legalization and regulation, and this November, voters in a handful of states are poised to embrace this common sense policy. The 2012 national NORML Conference reflects upon the decades of failure imposed by prohibition, celebrates our recent progress at amending this policy, and looks forward to the very near future when cannabis prohibition is abolished once and for all.”

Social events include a Wednesday night welcoming reception, a Thursday night Activist Awards Ceremony, a joint High Times/NORML party and ‘Not-So-Silent’ Auction, a NORML Women’s Alliance Luncheon, and a Saturday night fundraiser at ‘The Hemp Museum’ in downtown Los Angeles.

NORML invites the public to join hundreds of like-minded marijuana law reformers at the nation’s only annual conference dedicated to ending cannabis prohibition.

Online registration and day passes, as well as details regarding conference speakers, agenda, and social events, is available at here.

Voter Referendum to Overturn LA Dispensary Ban Qualifies for Ballot

September 17th, 2012


Today, the LA City Clerk announced that a referendum to overturn the recent Los Angeles City Council medical marijuana dispensary ban has qualified for the ballot.

Organizers had previously submitted signatures to the city and were informed today that they surpassed the 27,425 valid signatures required to qualify. There are now three possible outcomes for this effort: the LA City Council could choose to overturn the dispensary ban on their own, call for a special election on the issue, or place the referendum on the ballot for the March mayoral election.

The enforcement of the ban on medical cannabis dispensaries will remain suspended until the referendum is resolved. NORML will keep you updated as the situation progresses.

L.A. Pot Ban Blocked for Now

September 6th, 2012

A ban on storefront pot dispensaries here won’t go into effect Thursday after advocates for medical marijuana successfully petitioned to block it, the latest skirmish in the battle over how local governments around the nation should regulate pot businesses.

After years of failed attempts to control the number of pot shops and their operations here, the Los Angeles City Council unanimously passed an ordinance in late July that made storefront dispensaries illegal by modifying language in the city’s municipal code.

Last week, medical-marijuana advocates submitted about 50,000 signatures to overturn the ban, nearly twice the number needed, according to the Los Angeles City Clerk’s office. Once the city clerk verifies the signatures, the council will have to decide whether to repeal the ordinance or place the issue on the ballot next year.

This city’s unsuccessful efforts to regulate marijuana businesses have taken center stage in a statewide and national debate. Even as the federal government steps up efforts to crack down on dispensary sales of the drug, illegal under U.S. law, 17 states and the District of Columbia now allow marijuana use for medicinal purposes, according to Americans for Safe Access, an advocacy group.

An ASA spokesman said California was the first state to popularize brick-and-mortar pot shops, typically denoted with a leaf or cross symbol, and the nation’s largest state still counts the most pot shops.

A 1996 voter-approved initiative allows people with a doctor’s recommendation to grow and use marijuana for medical reasons in California. According to an attorney for the city of Los Angeles, there is no mention of dispensaries in that law.

“The state voter initiative envisioned a kibbutz model,” said Deputy City Attorney Bill Carter. “It’s morphed into a Starbucks model.”

Complicating the issue for California cities is a tangle of competing lawsuits. Last year, the California Court of Appeals ruled that the city of Long Beach, just south of Los Angeles, couldn’t use a lottery system to limit the number of pot shops, because controlling the distribution of medical marijuana violates federal law. The state Supreme Court recently dismissed the case.

The state Supreme Court is expected to take up other cases addressing the issue of whether municipalities can ban pot shops, but not for several months.

Although many California municipalities ban pot sales, about 50 jurisdictions allow sales, while regulating things like the number of dispensaries, their locations and hours of operation, according to Don Duncan, California director of ASA.

In 2007, when fewer than 200 dispensaries were operating in Los Angeles, city officials passed a moratorium to block new ones from opening. But hundreds more opened anyway, exploiting an exemption for dispensaries that could show they faced “hardship.”

There are currently about 1,000 dispensaries in the city, according to Councilman Paul Koretz, who represents parts of the city’s west side.

On the same day the City Council passed the ban, Mr. Koretz proposed that city attorneys prepare a separate ordinance allowing dispensaries that were open before 2008 to remain in business. Mr. Koretz said he hoped the new ordinance, once it proceeds through a clearance process, would be approved by the City Council before the ban comes up for a citywide vote.

For now, the proliferation continues. In the east side neighborhood of Eagle Rock, about 15 dispensaries have sprouted up recently, attracting customers from the nearby communities of Pasadena and Glendale, where dispensaries are banned.

Michael Larsen, president of the Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council, said he isn’t opposed to medicinal marijuana but said the shops are a “nuisance” in the community. Loitering, littering and reselling are serious problems around the dispensaries, Mr. Larsen said.

“It’s easier to open a pot shop than a yogurt shop in Eagle Rock,” Mr. Larsen said. “They just do it and start raking in the cash.”

Annie Lam, a manager at Hyperion Healing in the nearby neighborhood of Silver Lake, said a citywide ban would be “harsh” for many of her shop’s clients who use marijuana to curtail side effects from AIDS, cancer drugs and other conditions. State law allows people with a prescription to grow their own cannabis, she said, but for many that isn’t a viable option.

“They’re frustrated,” she said. “Everyone still needs their medication.”

A version of this article appeared September 6, 2012, on page A3 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: L.A. Pot Ban Is Blocked.

Source: Wall Street Journal (US)
Author: Erica E. Phillips
Published: September 5, 2012
Copyright: 2012 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
Contact: wsj.ltrs@wsj.com
Website: http://www.wsj.com/