Archive for the ‘Medical Marijuana Dispensaries’ category

Drive-Thru Windows Allowed for Naperville Clinics

December 25th, 2013

Medical marijuana dispensaries looking to open in Naperville will be allowed to do so in some retail areas and can have drive-thru windows. The Naperville City Council approved regulations for the dispensaries and cultivation centers before the drug officially becomes legal for medical purposes Jan. 1.

Cities are not allowed to prohibit such facilities entirely, but they can impose more stringent zoning regulations than the state, which has rules about their proximity to homes and schools.

Naperville council members agreed to limit cultivation facilities to industrial areas and require owners to go through a hearing process.

Dispensing facilities will be able to open in industrial areas without a hearing. They also will be allowed in some retail areas outside downtown, but a hearing will be needed. The city also has added a provision keeping such facilities at least 250 feet from residential areas.

The council debated whether to limit the amount of retail sales a dispensary could have.

“These facilities, what they sell other than medical marijuana oftentimes are health-related, natural, organic types of products … and I just don’t know that … we want to be in the business of restricting it,” Councilman Steve Chirico said.

Others said they feared drawing people who weren’t using marijuana legally. However, after a city attorney said the state law only allows the marijuana and accessories for using it to be sold to qualifying patients and their caregivers, councilmen agreed to drop the retail sales restriction.

Some council members also previously expressed concerns about allowing drive-thru facilities at dispensaries, but ultimately they decided to allow them.

“There’s people that will have certain issues that will make it difficult for them to get out and walk in,” Councilman Paul Hinterlong said.

The City Council voted 8-0 on the new rules. Councilman Joe McElroy was absent.

Just how many medical marijuana facilities will attempt to open in Naperville remains to be seen. State law allows no more than 22 cultivation centers and 60 dispensing centers statewide.

Source: Chicago Tribune (IL)
Author: Melissa Jenco, Chicago Tribune Reporter
Published: December 20, 2013
Copyright: 2013 Chicago Tribune Company, LLC
Website: http://www.chicagotribune.com/

Panel OKs Rules for Wash. State’s MJ Industry

October 18th, 2013

Washington became the second U.S. state to adopt rules for the recreational sale of marijuana Wednesday, setting what advocates expect to become a template for the legalization of the drug around the world.

“We feel very proud of what we’re doing,” said Sharon Foster, chairwoman of the Washington Liquor Control Board, as she and her two colleagues approved the rules. “We are making history.”

Washington and Colorado last year legalized the possession of up to an ounce of pot by adults over 21, with voters deciding to set up systems of state-licensed growers, processors and sellers. The measures put state officials in the difficult position of crafting rules for a fledgling industry barred by federal law for more than seven decades.

The liquor board devised the rules after nearly a year of research, debate and planning, including public hearings that drew hundreds of people around the state. The rules cover everything from the security at and size of licensed marijuana gardens, to how many pot stores can open in cities across the state.

Sales are expected to begin by the middle of next year, with supporters in Washington hoping taxed pot might bring the state tens or hundreds of millions of dollars, with much of the revenue directed to public health and drug-abuse prevention.

“What the Liquor Control Board has done is build a template for the responsible regulation of marijuana,” said Alison Holcomb, the Seattle lawyer who drafted Washington’s marijuana initiative. “This is a template that is going to be reviewed by other states, and already is being reviewed by other countries,” including Mexico, Uruguay and Poland.

The board’s members said they had tried to strike a balance between making marijuana accessible enough that legal pot would undermine the black market, but not so accessible that it would threaten public health or safety. The board hopes the sale of legal pot will capture about one-quarter of the total pot market in the state, for starters.

Under the rules, the board will issue licenses for up to 334 marijuana stores across the state, with 21 of them in Seattle – a figure some have questioned as too low, considering the city estimates about 200 medical marijuana dispensaries are operating there. The City Council has passed zoning regulations for pot businesses that would require medical marijuana dispensaries to obtain a state license or stop doing business by 2015.

The rules limit the number of licenses that anyone can hold to three – an attempt by the board to stamp out any dreams of marijuana monopolies before they start. They also prohibit out-of-state investment in pot businesses and require quality-control testing of marijuana by third-party labs. Marijuana must be tracked from seed to sale, and packages must carry warnings about the potential dangers of pot use.

Hilary Bricken, a Seattle lawyer who is advising businesses that hope to obtain marijuana licenses, said her clients largely are content with the regulations, though some are disappointed by the three-license max and the ban on out-of-state money.

“It’s a huge undertaking, and the board has been extremely fair,” she said.

Washington’s rules take effect in one month, and the state plans to begin accepting license applications Nov. 18.

Colorado approved its marijuana industry rules last month. They require businesses to use a state-run online inventory tracking program to document the plant’s journey from seed to sale. Marijuana also must be placed in opaque, child-resistant containers before being taken out of a store, and recreational pot stores won’t be allowed to advertise to people under 21.

The federal government announced earlier this year that it would not sue Washington, Colorado or other states over plans to tax and regulate marijuana sales for adults over 21, provided they address eight federal law enforcement priorities, including keeping marijuana off the black market and keeping it away from kids

Washington’s legal marijuana law includes zoning requirements keeping the businesses away from schools, parks and playgrounds.

Source: Associated Press (Wire)
Author: Gene Johnson, Associated Press
Published: October 16, 2013
Copyright: 2013 The Associated Press

Conservatives Fight Marijuana Taxation

September 12th, 2013

In front of the U.S. Capitol Thursday, two congressmen discussed H.R. 2240, the Small Business Tax Equity Act, a little known bill introduced in June by Oregon Democrat Earl Blumenauer to allow deductions and credits relating to expenditures for marijuana sales conducted in compliance with state law.

The bill, according to GovTrack.Us, has a 0% chance of being enacted and has a tiny chance of even getting out of the House Ways and Means committee. The main reason it has reached national attention is Grover Norquist, the President of Americans for Tax Reform, who has corralled 219 Representatives and 39 Senators to pledge to oppose any and all tax increases. He has taken up the no-tax-penalty-for-pot cause. Norquist—who has “No, absolutely not” ever smoked the stuff—believes that federal encroachment on the nascent field of state regulation of marijuana is a deeply serious topic, irrespective of the drug’s effects.

“There’s always a slight giggle factor on the issue dealing with marijuana,” said Norquist. “That said, this is tax policy, this is real stuff. This is important. This is everything from jobs to whether the federal government comes in and writes rules that upsets the apple cart in many, many different states.”

The fact that taxing marijuana has become an issue of debate is a sign of the success of cannabis advocates. In August, the Administration said it would not challenge laws legalizing marijuana in Colorado and Washington, so long as the they implement “strong and effective regulatory and enforcement systems to control the cultivation, distribution, sale, and possession of marijuana,” according to a Justice Dept. memo. Marijuana is still, however, illegal under U.S. federal law.

Norquist, who says the “double taxation” of marijuana dispensaries received his attention a couple of months ago, says the legal issue should be decided state by state, but as a tax issue there should be no doubt: legal cannabis dispensaries should be able to claim the expense deductions that any other legal business can claim. ” In Colorado and some of these other states, marijuana dispensaries are just legal businesses. They should be treated that way. But federal law makes that difficult to impossible,” says Norquist. “We’ve got to take the IRS out of this issue.”

The press briefing, sponsored by National Cannabis Industry Association, also featured Blumenauer and Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, a California Republican. Blumenauer believes that this issue could be a stepping stone for a greater goal: comprehensive tax reform. ”I think comprehensive tax reform is not something that is beyond our reach, but it is a heavy lift,” said Blumenauer. “It would be nice to do a little momentum building, and have people work together on things that are common sense and have bipartisan support. And this is a classic example.”

While Blumenauer believes this is a “simple fix,” he admits that it could be awhile before a business can claim a tax deduction in its sale of marijuana. “What we’re doing first is building the understanding of this issue and its support,” says Blumenauer. “But I think that this is a perfect item that can be dropped into any tax vehicle going forward.”

Source: Time Magazine (US)
Author: Alex Rogers
Published: September 12, 2013
Copyright: 2013 Time Inc.
Contact: letters@time.com
Website: http://www.time.com/time/

Feds in Talks With Banks Over Marijuana Business

September 11th, 2013

The government is in talks with bank regulators to see whether financial institutions in states that have approved recreational marijuana use can do business with drug dispensaries there, a top Justice Department official said Tuesday.

The announcement came nearly two weeks after the Justice Department decided it won’t take legal action against Colorado and Washington, which approved recreational marijuana use last year.

Banks, worried they could be violating federal laws, have been hesitant to provide services to state-authorized marijuana dispensaries, forcing the dispensaries to become mostly cash-only enterprises. And “that’s a prescription for problems,” potentially including armed robberies, according to the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“I don’t want to see a shootout somewhere and have innocent people or law enforcement endangered by that,” Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said during a committee hearing Tuesday.

The Justice Department’s number two agreed, saying it’s “an issue that we need to deal with.”

“Obviously there is a public safety concern when businesses have a lot of cash sitting around,” Deputy Attorney General Jim Cole told the committee. “There is a tendency that there are guns associated with that, so it’s important to deal with that issue.”

Cole said offices within the Treasury Department, namely the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, are “bringing in bank regulators to discuss ways that this can be dealt with in accordance with the laws that we have on the books today.” And subsequently, Cole said, the Justice Department is in talks with the Treasury Department about the efforts.

The banking industry’s reluctance to do business with marijuana dispensaries in Colorado and Washington, based primarily on federal money-laundering laws, was an issue governors from both states raised with Attorney General Eric Holder when he informed them Aug. 29 that the federal government would not be filing lawsuits against the states’ recent marijuana laws, according to Cole.

Marijuana use remains illegal under the federal Controlled Substances Act, which describes marijuana as a dangerous drug. But, as Holder told Gov. John Hickenlooper, D-Colo., and Gov. Jay Inslee, D-Wash., federal prosecutors are now operating under new enforcement guidance, aggressively pursuing prosecutions only in eight “priority areas.”

Among other things outlined in a memorandum from Cole two weeks ago, the new Justice Department guidance tells federal prosecutors to focus on preventing marijuana from getting into the hands of children, preventing gangs or cartels from making money through marijuana, preventing marijuana from being exported to other states, and preventing “drugged driving.”

“We are going to aggressively enforce the Controlled Substances Act when it implicates any of the right priorities,” Cole said Tuesday, “and I think that’s a pretty fulsome list of priorities and important public safety issues that are present and associated with marijuana.”

Cole said his department “has not historically devoted our finite resources to prosecuting individuals whose conduct is limited to the possession of marijuana for personal use on private property.” And, he insisted, the department is not “giving immunity” to anyone or “abdicating our responsibilities.”

Leahy said he was “encouraged” by the Justice Department’s recent move.

“You can’t begin to prosecute all the laws that are on the books, you don’t have the resources,” he said. “The question is what resources should we use and where… I really don’t think [the Justice Department] should be devoting them to pursuing low-level users of marijuana who are complying with the laws of their states.”

But the Senate Judiciary Committee’s top Republican rejected that thinking, arguing Colorado’s and Washington’s marijuana laws “flatly contradict our federal law.”

“And the response of the Department of Justice isn’t to sue to strike down the laws or to prosecute illegal drug traffickers, but just let these states do it,” Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, said. “Prosecutorial discretion is one thing, but giving the green light to an entire industry predicated on breaking federal law is quite another.”

Grassley raised particular concern over whether Colorado, for example, can be trusted to regulate recreational marijuana use when it is “already struggling” to regulate medical marijuana use.

He noted that over the past several years in Colorado, after marijuana was legalized for medical use, there has been a “sharp increase” in marijuana exposure to young children, seizures of marijuana heading to states outside of Colorado, and fatal car accidents involving drivers who tested positive for marijuana — all areas cited by the Justice Department as among its “priority areas” for enforcement.

Grassley also cited a recent audit by Colorado’s internal watchdog that concluded the state’s system “does not sufficiently oversee physicians who make medical marijuana recommendations.”

Cole said Grassley raised “valid issues” and called the recent audit in Colorado “disappointing.”

He reiterated that the Justice Department reserves the right to bring a lawsuit against Colorado or Washington at a later time, and that it is up to the states to create systems and processes for enforcing the federal government’s “priority areas.” The department will keep tabs on the states under a “trust but verify” approach.

“Our hope is that with this [new guidance] and with the engagement of the states, telling them that they are ‘trust but verify,’ they will have an incentive to actually put in a robust scheme that will in fact address a lot of these issues,” he said.

Currently 21 states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana use for medical purposes.

Source: ABCNews.com (U.S. Web)
Author: Mike Levine
Published: September 11, 2013
Copyright: 2013 ABC News Internet Ventures
Website: http://www.abcnews.go.com/

Medical Marijuana Rules Approved

August 28th, 2013

Quinn To Sign Medical Marijuana Bill Thursday

August 2nd, 2013

Gov. Pat Quinn will sign a bill into law Thursday legalizing the use of marijuana for medical purposes in Illinois at an event at the University of Chicago, two state government sources told the Tribune today. Supporters say the four-year trial program here will be the strictest law of its kind in the nation.

For years, the measure had failed to gain traction at the Capitol, particularly in the House. But sponsoring Rep. Lou Lang, D-Skokie, was able to cobble together a simple majority in the spring to send the bill to the Senate, where a similar but less restrictive bill had passed in previous years.

As the legislation was gaining momentum, Quinn indicated that he would keep an “open mind” about the issue. Proponents took it as a positive sign from a governor who has displayed his liberal tendencies on issues ranging from abolishing the death penalty to supporting a gay marriage bill.

One reason Quinn said he was giving legalized pot more thought was that he was impressed by an injured military veteran who maintained marijuana provided him relief from war wounds.

Under the new law, which would take effect Jan. 1, an individual could be prescribed no more than 2.5 ounces of marijuana over two weeks. The prescribing doctor must have had a prior and ongoing medical relationship with the patient.

Patients would have to buy the marijuana from one of 60 dispensing centers throughout the state and would not be allowed to legally grow their own.

Workers at dispensing centers would undergo criminal background checks, the stores would be under round-the-clock camera surveillance and users would carry cards that indicate how much they had bought to prevent stockpiling.

Marijuana would be grown inside 22 cultivation centers registered with the Illinois Department of Agriculture.

Source: Chicago Tribune (IL)
Author: Ray Long
Published: July 31, 2013
Copyright: 2013 Chicago Tribune Company, LLC
Website: http://www.chicagotribune.com/

Senate OKs Bill to Legalize Medical Pot Shops

July 4th, 2013

Seeking to make it easier for medical pot users to get their medicine and harder for the black market to get its hands on Oregon weed, the state Senate on Wednesday approved a bill that would legalize and license marijuana shops.

Under current Oregon law, nearly 55,000 cardholders must grow the drug themselves or designate someone to grow it for them. Medical pot users say dispensaries are needed, to give them a reliable place to get their medicine.

Medical marijuana dispensaries that exist now operate without oversight and run the risk of being shut down by law enforcement. Some counties have taken a hands-off approach and allowed the establishments to remain open. But dispensaries in other counties have been raided by police and forced to close.

Another major concern of Oregon’s medical pot program is that the weed supposedly intended for medical marijuana patients is getting sold on the black market.

Architects of the bill passed on Wednesday say it will give cardholders certainty that they can acquire their medicine, and that it is safe. They also hope the bill will keep excess pot from being siphoned off to the black market.

“This is a great way to impose a standard that will keep that from occurring,” said Sen. Floyd Prozanksi, D-Eugene.

The bill, which passed 18-12, would establish a licensing system under the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program to regulate the medicinal pot retail industry. This would bring the estimated 200 lounges, collectives and cafes already in operation under the purview of state law.

Opponents say the bill doesn’t go far enough to stop what they see as abuses to the state’s medical marijuana program. And some lawmakers have argued that authorizing dispensaries is a slippery slope to legalizing marijuana for recreational use.

The bill would authorize growers to legally sell their excess pot to medical marijuana establishments that connect patients with their medicine. Growers could only charge for the cost of supplies and utilities.

Under the bill, medical marijuana retailers would pay $4,000 a year to remain registered. Owners would have to pass criminal background checks, document the marijuana coming into their establishments and verify it’s from state-registered growers. The bill also requires testing all marijuana batches for pesticides, molds and mildews.

A legislative report estimates there will be 225 state-licensed dispensaries in the next two years if the bill is approved.

The bill would also prohibit medical marijuana retail outlets from operating within 1,000 feet of each other or a school. And they would have to operate in agricultural, industrial or commercial areas.

Supporters of the bill include Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum and the League of Oregon Cities.

In a letter endorsing the bill, the organization wrote: “While there are a number of divergent viewpoints on medical marijuana among Oregon’s cities, there is a common need to ensure that those providing medical marijuana do so in a responsible manner.”

A Senate committee modified the bill last week to satisfy concerns raised by some district attorneys who initially opposed the bill. Among other changes, the revised bill would tighten a restriction prohibiting people convicted of certain drug crimes from running a medical marijuana dispensary. The district attorneys are now neutral on the bill.

The legislation now goes to the House, which approved an earlier version of the bill but must agree to the Senate’s changes. A vote is expected this weekend.

Source: Associated Press (Wire)
Author: Lauren Gambino, The Associated Press
Published: July 4, 2013
Copyright: 2013 The Associated Press

Finding a Place for Medical Marijuana

May 30th, 2013

The legalization of medical marijuana is prompting cities and towns across the region to consider zoning restrictions to limit where dispensaries may open. With state regulations in effect as of Friday, and the dispensary application process scheduled by the state for this summer and fall, many communities are feeling time is short to regulate what some see as an unwelcome neighbor.

Milford passed zoning restrictions last week; Framingham and Natick are looking at working together on zoning that could allow dispensaries on Route 9 in the neighboring towns; and Newton, amid several inquiries from prospective dispensary operators, is reviewing its zoning bylaw to see whether it is adequate for dealing with the new state law.

“What we’re doing is actually taking some time to internally review the regulations, since they still just came out, and we have not made any specific plans to alter the usual zoning requirements for new businesses, but we are looking into it,” said Dori Zaleznik, Newton’s commissioner of health and human services.

Massachusetts voters approved the legalization of medical marijuana via statewide ballot in November. The measure calls for a maximum of 35 nonprofit dispensaries across the state, with at least one and not more than five in each of the state’s 14 counties.MAS

Communities cannot ban dispensaries but can impose zoning laws that restrict their location, according to a March 13 ruling from Attorney General Martha Coakley.

Many municipalities have already passed or are considering a moratorium — typically lasting from six months to a year — on permits for a dispensary to buy time for reviewing their zoning regulations.

Milford decided it did not need a moratorium and went straight to zoning changes, approved by Town Meeting on May 20.

The amendment, which must still pass muster with the attorney general’s office, allows dispensaries in two of the town’s three industrial districts as long as they are not within 200 feet of a residential zone, school, place of worship, park, playground, or youth center.

The limitation translates into about 1,000 acres along Fortune Boulevard and Maple and Beaver streets available as the site of a dispensary, according to Larry Dunkin, Milford’s town planner.

Natick has already passed a moratorium, and Framingham’s Town Meeting was considering one this week.

Both communities are looking at allowing dispensaries along some part of Route 9.

Robert Halpin, Framingham’s town manager, said the moratorium would give his community some time to get a better sense of the regulations and how they are being implemented.

“I think there’s a discussion to be had with Natick,” he said. “We can talk about Route 9 and other approaches.”

Natick Town Administrator Martha White said it makes sense to work with Framingham on a shared approach.

“Since we share Route 9, and that may well be the area that’s zoned for these facilities, we want to be sure to keep each other’s communities informed and to work it out together, so we’re not negatively impacting each other,” she said.

Although many municipalities in the area see a moratorium as a first step before evaluating their zoning options, Newton is not sure that one is necessary.

“So at this point, we don’t believe we’ll need a moratorium, but we don’t know as we go through the review what we’ll end up doing,” said Zaleznik.

When the city gets inquiries, she said, staff are telling prospective dispensary operators that they should get through the first phase of the state’s two-phase application process before they look for a location in Newton.

“And hopefully by then, we will have figured out our approach,” said Zaleznik.

Despite the local moves to limit dispensaries, which by law are supposed to cultivate their own marijuana to fill prescriptions for the drug, prospective proprietors are not put off, said Bruce Bedrick, CEO of Kind Clinics and MEDBOX, based in West Hollywood, Calif.

“We’re used to that — it’s all part of the process,” said Bedrick, who serves as a consultant for the application process and also markets his technology to keep marijuana supplies secure. “People have to get comfortable with the use. Once people realize it’s just average everyday people trying to pick up medicine, I think in a few years we’ll all look back and laugh at this.”

Bedrick, whose local office is in Natick, would not say exactly how many clients he has or where they are looking to locate a dispensary, but he suggested interest is healthy, with “not many spots left” on his client roster that will max out at 35.

He praised the state Department of Public Health, and said generally the new regulations are solid.

“It’s actually great for our clients because we’re all about transparency and regulation and safety and security,” he said. “The only thing we feel is cumbersome is the verification of $500,000.” He was referring to the minimum amount that applicants must have in escrow as part of the new regulations.

Adam Fine, a lawyer with a Colorado-based firm, Vicente Sederberg LLC, that opened offices in Boston and Needham in connection with last fall’s legalization vote, also applauded the state for creating a strong regulatory environment that balances patient needs with public safety concerns.

“I think overall people are very pleased with the comprehensive nature of the regulations and the fact the Department of Public Health took a measured, thoughtful approach,” he said.

Like Bedrick, Fine could not say which towns and cities are being eyed for dispensaries, but he did say Middlesex, Norfolk, and Suffolk counties seem to be garnering the most interest.

“The anecdotal information I’m getting is the most populous areas make the most sense because there will be more patients to serve,” he said.

Locally, one of the biggest issues that dispensaries will face might have nothing to do with zoning or moratoriums, but rather finding space to lease, he said. Part of his firm’s role is to help educate landlords, Fine said.

“Finding a location that is going to be able to house these dispensaries can be a challenge,” he said. “There are landlords that . . . until it’s completely legal under federal law, they don’t want to be a part of it.”

Source: Boston Globe (MA)
Author: Lisa Kocian, Globe Staff
Published: May 29, 2013
Copyright: 2013 Globe Newspaper Company
Contact: letter@globe.com
Website: http://www.boston.com/globe/

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/

Medical Marijuana Shouldn’t be for ‘Adults Only’

May 15th, 2013

My 9-year-old daughter has Aicardi syndrome, a rare genetic disorder that causes extremely hard-to-control seizures, debilitation, disability and early mortality. She began having seizures at three months of age, and since that time has had multiple seizures every day, with rare exception — probably to the tune of nearly 200,000 seizures in her lifetime.

For most families, even one such day would be an emergency. For ours, it is the norm.

My daughter is a beautiful, loving girl who goes to school, enjoys music and parks, loves to be read to and adores looking at big, modern art in museums. She cannot walk independently, cannot talk and wears diapers. Every day she is at risk of Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy, or SUDEP, which accounts for 34 percent of all sudden deaths in children.

She is one of the 3 million Americans who have epilepsy, and one of the 40 percent whose seizures cannot be controlled by anti-seizure drugs. She has tried 10 anti-seizure medications as well as a high-protein/low-carbohydrate diet called the ketogenic diet; she takes three anti-seizure medications at once and has a vagus nerve stimulator implant that sends mild electrical pulses to the brain. These drugs help her, but she nonetheless experiences an average of three seizures every day. Moreover, the medications cause persistent side effects that negatively impact her quality of life, particularly her gastrointestinal, bone, dental, cognitive and mental health.

The Illinois Senate Executive Committee recently voted, 10-5, to move the House-passed medical marijuana legislation to the Senate for a vote. The bill is expected to pass, and though Gov. Pat Quinn has not committed to signing it, the general expectation is that the bill will become law. This should be received as great news for the many people with “debilitating” conditions that the bill is supposed to help — people for whom medical science has documented real, measurable and safe outcomes of the controlled use of cannabis or its component of chemical compounds.

It’s too bad that the legislature has ignored the medical needs of some of the most debilitated, and most vulnerable, patients in the state: children with epilepsy.

Imagine her father’s and my reaction upon learning that the legislature, in its concern not to send a “message” to kids that it is safe to smoke marijuana, decided that kids like ours, for whom medical cannabis has the potential to be as safe and effective as typical anti-seizure drugs, should be excluded from the benefits of this new law.

They have done so, I hope, only out of ignorance. Take, for instance, the parent survey conducted by Stanford University neurology researcher Dr. Catherine Jacobson. These parents had children with some of the most difficult-to-treat syndromes of epilepsy found in children: Dravet syndrome, Doose syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome. All of the kids were being treated with a nonpsychoactive compound made from cannabis — cannabidiol. Their parents report remarkable results — 83 percent noted that their children’s seizure frequency had been reduced.

Two-thirds of these children achieved a greater than 80 percent reduction in seizure incidence. Seventy-five percent of the parents reported success in weaning their kids from other ASDs; a similar proportion noted improved sleep, mood and alertness in their children. Most important, the survey’s author notes that common negative side effects reported on other ASDs were notably absent on cannabidiol, including rash, vomiting, nausea, confusion, insomnia, anxiety, irritability, dizziness and aggressive behavior.

There is no likelihood that my daughter will become a drug addict from using a compound within cannabis in a medically controlled setting. There is, however, a good chance that participation in a controlled study of these compounds could open the door to new treatments for her, and the many children like her, who desperately need medical innovation to save or improve their lives.

I urge the bill’s chief sponsors, Rep. Lou Lang, D-Skokie, and Sen. William Haine, D-Alton, to reconsider and amend the bill to allow for the medically controlled and regulated use of cannabis for pediatric and adult patients with uncontrolled epilepsy. And to all Illinoisans who know or love someone with epilepsy, please let your legislators hear your voice on this matter.

Margaret Storey lives in Evanston.

Source: Chicago Tribune (IL)
Author: Margaret Storey
Published: May 15, 2013
Copyright: 2013 Chicago Tribune Company, LLC
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