Thursday, October 15, 2009

LAPD Not As Anxious As DA Cooley to Bust Medical Marijuana Stores

LAPD plays waiting game on pot issue

ENFORCEMENT: New city ordinance is needed for widespread crackdown.

By Rick Orlov, Staff Writer
Updated: 10/09/2009 10:57:54 PM PDT

While District Attorney Steve Cooley wants to charge ahead with a
get-tough campaign against medical marijuana dispensaries, Los Angeles
police said they are waiting for a definitive city policy regulating the
businesses before stepping up their efforts against rogue operators.

Capt. Kevin McCarthy, commanding officer of the LAPD's gang and
narcotics division, said that without a new city ordinance -- which has
been in the works for more than a year -- officers cannot act against
many of the clinics.

"We have been getting complaints from neighborhood councils and others
and we log them and try to deal with them on a case by case basis,"
McCarthy said.

"I think the district attorney made clear where he wants to go,"
McCarthy said. "The city attorney and Sheriff Lee Baca are on board with
him. The bottom line is we want to make sure people who need it have
safe access.

"But, we don't want to see situations develop where there are other

In a radio interview on KABC-AM (790), Cooley reiterated his plan to
close down many of the 800 to 900 medical marijuana shops believed to be
operating in the city of Los Angeles.

"We will give them fair notice and, hopefully, they will see the light
and voluntarily close down," Cooley said. "We are going to uphold the
laws of California."

Local law enforcement has faced a dilemma as the City Council debates
what to do about controlling the proliferation of marijuana

A moratorium on opening new shops expires in March and officials hope to
have a new ordinance in place by then with detailed requirements on the
shops and their allowed locations.

"None of us have a problem with the legitimate collectives, " said
Councilman Dennis Zine, who has taken the lead on the issue. "The
problem is with all these for-profit places that open up all over and
who give out marijuana to everyone."

Cooley and other officials say in addition to selling to minors and
others who do not use the drug for medical purposes, some of the
dispensaries sell marijuana laced heavily with insecticides that
endanger users even as they help finance Mexican drug cartels.

"And there is no question in my mind that this is leading to the illegal
growing of marijuana," Cooley said.

Councilman Greig Smith, who chairs the Public Safety Committee where the
measure is pending, said he hopes to have action within the next two

"At this point, we want to make sure we have something reasonable,"
Smith said. "We are trying to follow the state guidelines and take the
profit motive out of this by allowing the collectives. "

Smith said there were 189 collectives that sought permission to operate
initially and would be required to apply again to continue their

"I think what we would like to see is something like a pharmaceutical
setting where people who really need marijuana can get it," Smith said.

Attorney Joe Elford, who has represented clinics, said he believes as
long as the clinics follow the guidelines of the state Attorney
General's Office, they should be allowed to operate.

"We support reasonable regulations -- such as there are too many in one
area or the like -- but for the district attorney to come right out and
say all sales of marijuana is illegal (conflicts) with state law and
what the voters have approved," Elford said.

While the lack of an ordinance has partially tied the hands of the LAPD,
McCarthy said officers have been able to go after brazen operators. For
example, they took action against one shop that distributed fliers on
the cars of students at a high school.

Councilman Paul Koretz, who wrote the state law implementing medical
marijuana use, said he thinks Cooley's approach goes too far.

"All of us want to do something to make sure there are controls," Koretz
said. "I certainly never envisioned Los Angeles having more than 800
clinics. But I think the direction he is going is too far to try to
eliminate all medical marijuana.

"It is clear they are out of hand, but the city is trying to deal with

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