Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Is Los Angeles Closing Its Doors To Medical Marijuana For Good?

LA may shut medical pot dispensaries

From wire service reports
Posted: 09/22/2009 10:23:52 PM PDT

A Los Angeles City Council committee Tuesday began considering a
proposed permanent ordinance to require the immediate closure of
hundreds of medical marijuana dispensaries that operate for profit.

The City Council's Planning and Land Use Committee heard presentations
from the Los Angeles City Attorney's Office, L.A. County District
Attorney's Office and Los Angeles Police Department, but decided to hold
more hearings.

The proposed ordinance allows the operation of medical marijuana
collectives, which are groups of qualified patients, and primary
caregivers who cultivate medical marijuana solely for the qualified

Under the proposed ordinance, collectives must be at least 1,000 feet
from other collectives, schools, playgrounds, child care facilities,
religious institutions, public libraries, public parks, hospitals and
rehab centers.

Collectives would also be limited to giving their members medical
marijuana only between 10 a.m. and 8 p.m. They cannot have more than
five pounds of dried marijuana nor have more than 100 plants on their
property at any time.

Before collectives can begin operating, their location will be inspected
by Department of Building and Safety officials to ensure compliance with
the ordinance.

Once the collectives are in place, they are required to document each
member's participation in the medical marijuana cultivation, and provide
an accounting of their expenses.

Collectives that began operating before Sept. 14, 2007, and registered
with the City Clerk's Office before Nov. 12, 2007, will be given 90 days
to comply once the ordinance takes effect.

Collectives that began operating after that time frame are required to
comply immediately, or be shut down.

"We are not talking about a dispensing model," Deputy City Attorney
Heather Aubry said. "We are talking about a collective cultivation model
whereby patients, their caregivers, can come together and cultivate
medical marijuana for provision to their patients, which is in
compliance with state law."

Joseph Esposito, head deputy district attorney for major narcotics at
the L.A. County District Attorney's Office, stressed "it is our position
that over-the-counter sales of marijuana in exchange for money and the
profitability - the tremendous profitability that's attached to those
sales - are illegal under California law."

Esposito said California allows "very specific conduct: qualified
patients and their caregivers can cultivate and can use. That is it.
There is no additional language that says you can sell
over-the-counter. "

Several owners and customers of medical marijuana dispensaries, as well
as members of collectives, packed the hearing to protest the proposed

Among them was Umberto Martinez, Jr., who is paralyzed from his navel to
his feet, and said he needs medical marijuana to help him cope with back

Martinez said he owns a collective that sells medical marijuana to more
than 1,000 other people.

"We do have to make some sort of profits," Martinez said. "Not a lot of
profits but a little bit, because we do have bills to pay, we do have
mortgages and rents to pay, and we do have car payments as well."

A legal loophole in a temporary ordinance had led to the uncontrolled
proliferation of medical marijuana dispensaries. It is believed that as
many as 600 of them opened across the city within a span of months.

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