Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Long Beach Medical Marijuana Regulations Are Under Review

Council delves into regulations for medical marijuana

By Paul Eakins, Staff Writer
Posted: 09/21/2009 09:18:13 PM PDT

LONG BEACH - Trying to understand and navigate the legal issues
surrounding medical marijuana is a lot like using the substance, a
council committee learned Monday.

The laws can be confusing, dizzying and a bit numbing, particularly for
city officials who want to regulate medical marijuana dispensaries,
collectives and cooperatives.

"In adopting these laws, California did not legalize medical marijuana
but instead exercised the state's reserved powers to not punish certain
marijuana offenses," Deputy City Attorney Cristyl Meyers told the

Councilwoman Rae Gabelich replied: "So Cristyl, would you agree that
there is a legal road for us to identify and regulate these co-ops,
collectives, dispensaries ... within the city of Long Beach?"

Meyers said she could give "a qualified yes" for collectives and
cooperatives, which function as a resource for patients and caregivers
and aren't supposed to distribute to the public.

Cooperatives must file articles of incorporation with the state, and
collectives can cultivate marijuana but can't procure it from outside
vendors, Meyers added.

Dispensaries, on the other hand, are typically illegal, she said.

City Prosecutor Tom Reeves told the committee that regulating
dispensaries, collectives and cooperatives requires "really careful

"Assuming they can operate lawfully, regulating them is a significant
challenge," Reeves said.

The organizations are considered caregivers for patients, who receive
recommendations - not prescriptions - from doctors to use medical
marijuana, he said. Doctors and their patients have confidentiality
under the law, while the law isn't clear on what kind of confidentiality
caregivers have, Reeves said.

So, determining if patients are abusing the system would be difficult,
he said.

Both he and Meyers said that they attended a summit last week held by
District Attorney Steve Cooley, at which the message was that
dispensaries are illegal and will be prosecuted.

Ultimately, he said, that means Long Beach can't or shouldn't try to
regulate them.

"Over-the-counter sales are illegal," Reeves said.

That didn't put the committee any closer to a solution.

"So you're not helping us any," Councilwoman Tonia Reyes Uranga said.

"I'm helping you a great deal," Reeves said. "I just told you that you
can't regulate illegal businesses."

Throughout the meeting, the committee discussed ideas such as having the
Health Department inspect the pot dispensaries, which distribute
marijuana-filled food, and regulating the operations in a way similar to
liquor stores or adult businesses by placing limits on where they can

Even limiting their locations created concern among committee members,
who said such a move would create a negative connotation for
organizations that ideally are helping the sick.

Members of the public spoke on both sides of the issue.

Constantine Haramis was among a group of residents who live near Fourth
Street and Alamitos Avenue that said they had seen unsavory activity and
people who didn't appear infirm at nearby marijuana dispensaries.

"It's an issue of safety, and that is the thing we haven't heard about,"
Haramis said.

A medical marijuana patient who didn't want his name used said that one
can't always tell who is sick or legitimately needs medical marijuana
based on a person's appearance.

He and other medical marijuana supporters agreed that regulations are a
good idea, but that the cooperatives and collectives are necessary.

"This is a resource for sick people," he said.

The committee didn't find a solution after two hours of discussion, and
will continue vetting the issue at a future meeting.

paul.eakins@ presstelegram. com, 562-499-1278

http://www.presstel egram.com/ ci_13388349

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