Tuesday, December 29, 2009

medical marijuana and the workplace

The Press-Enterprise

It could be the classic quandary for a company: They want to hire a new
employee but the person has failed a pre-employment drug test. Then he
or she produces a legally obtained prescription to use marijuana.

Despite the growth of marijuana dispensaries and the willingness of some
physicians to prescribe the drug for medical reasons -- and despite the
tendency for California to side with employees in workplace issues --
the law is not on the side of people who use the drug.

Riverside's first marijuana dispensary opened less than a month ago and
there are about 1,000 such businesses in Los Angeles alone, so the issue
could come up more often.

A 2008 decision by the California Supreme Court found that a company
would be within its right to not hire someone or terminate an employee
whose drug test came up positive for marijuana, even if that use did not
violate state law.

That case was brought by Gary Ross, a U.S. Air Force veteran who was
hired to work as a systems administrator at RagingWire
Telecommunications Inc., a Sacramento company, in 2001. Several days
later, his drug test revealed the active ingredient for
doctor-prescribed marijuana in his system and he was fired.

Ross, who suffered from chronic back pain, sued RagingWire. He claimed
he was being legally treated for a disability, which would entitle him
to protection under California's Fair Employment and Housing Act, which
protects people from being fired because of ailments.

According to court documents, he said neither his back pain nor the
marijuana affected his ability to do his job.

"Just as it would violate the FEHA to fire an employee who uses insulin
or Zoloft, it violates the statute to terminate an employee who uses a
medicine deemed legal by the California electorate," Ross argued in
court documents.

California's workplace rules, in areas including overtime, sexual
harassment and break time, tend to favor workers over employers.

But the court ruled that marijuana, despite the 1996 voter initiative
that allows its medicinal use in California, is still considered an
illegal drug. The laws that cover workplace fairness do not require
employers to accommodate users and the 1996 Compassionate Use Act only
protects users against criminal prosecution.

"The Compassionate Use Act has to do with treatment of medical problems,
but it wasn't intended to change the relationship between employers and
employees," said Nate Kowalski, who practices employment law for the
Cerritos-based firm Atkinson, Andelson, Loya, Ruud & Romo.

Employers generally support the state court's decision, but many agree
it is an interesting dilemma.

"With our industry it's mandatory," said Valerie Liese, president of
Ontario-based Jack Jones Trucking. "We have the safety of the public in
our hands and I would not be able to have someone in that situation
working for me."

Max Arbolida, vice president for employee relations at San
Bernardino-based Arrrowhead Credit Union, has worked as a human
resources official for 25 years, which includes tenures at an aerospace
company and a nuclear power plant.

Arbolida said that, speaking strictly as a human resources expert, an
employer has a right to expect clear-headed workers.

But Ross, the plaintiff who sued his employer in 2001, told the Supreme
Court that he has continued to work in the telecommunications field and
has performed satisfactorily, court documents show.

That is a point that is often left out of this debate, said Allen St.
Pierre, executive director of the National Organizations for the Reform
of Marijuana Laws, because most of the drug use in question does not
happen on the job, and marijuana can remain in a body's system for a
month or more.

"No one wants to see employees impaired," St. Pierre said. "But a urine
test doesn't measure impairment, it just measures past use."

Lanny Swerdlow, a registered nurse and medical marijuana activist who
last year opened a clinic in Riverside where patients can get
prescriptions, said he's not aware of any legal challenges to the

He said the only possible avenue for an appeal would be applying the
federal Americans with Disabilities Act.

"That would probably take years," Swerdlow said.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Ganja Gourmet

Dinner and a buzz at Ganja Gourmet

The Denver restaurant, serving pizza, lasagna, salads and more, is a
unique medical marijuana dispensary for patients who prefer an edible
dosage -- and are tired of brownies.

By DeeDee Correll
December 28, 2009

Reporting from Denver

At the Ganja Gourmet, the chef's first order of business on a recent
weekday morning was to whip up a meat lasagna.

Her next was to entice customers to try it.

"Dinner Buzz Special," Jenny Fowler wrote on a dry-erase board. "Start
with our ganjanade [ganja tapenade], bread and a fat dank joint! Then
choose from a slice of pizza or LaGanja [lasagna]. Then top it off with
a Ganja Gourmet dessert, your choice, $30."

This, pronounced owner Steve Horwitz as he watched over her shoulder,
was a dinner special no other restaurant in America could claim.

Technically, the Ganja Gourmet, in a modest brick building on a worn
boulevard among gas stations, hookah shops and antique stores, is not a
restaurant -- it is a medical marijuana dispensary, one of many that
have sprung up this year throughout Colorado.

Nine years after voters approved a constitutional amendment legalizing
medical marijuana, state health officials decided in July to end a
five-patient limit for marijuana suppliers. The numbers of both
registered patients and dispensaries have exploded.

At least 15,000 people have applied to join the 15,800 already on the
state registry of patients. Although no official tally exists of the
number of new dispensaries, dozens have opened -- so many that Westword,
a Denver newspaper, hired two critics to review them.

Horwitz decided to join the rush. He had an idea for standing out:
emphasizing "edibles."

"I already knew I loved to eat pot," said Horwitz, a 51-year-old Long
Island, N.Y., native who said he has used marijuana since his teens to
cope with attention-deficit disorder.

The self-described food connoisseur quickly drew up a menu that would go
beyond the requisite brownies found in other dispensaries. He hired two
cooks, ending up with a menu that includes balsamic-vinaigrette-dressed
greens, white-sauce pizzas, tapenade, hummus, lemon meringue tartlets,
cheesecakes and muffins (low fat), all prepared at an off-site
commercial kitchen.

A gleeful Horwitz soon found himself the subject of news articles and
Jay Leno jokes ("I understand they make a terrific pot pie!").

But despite orders rolling in for the tie-dyed staff T-shirts -- "Our
food is so great, you need a license to eat it!" -- at least half of the
customers still come for the "bud bar" where they buy marijuana to
consume the old-fashioned way.

Some patients find eating pot more helpful for maladies such as
arthritis or muscle problems, said Georgina Livermore of the
Oregon-based American Alliance for Medical Cannabis, which promotes the
use of medical marijuana. Others simply don't like to smoke, she said.

When eating marijuana, it's harder to control the dosage, she said. It
also takes longer to feel the effect -- an issue Horwitz said he
addresses by not permitting customers to eat more than one item every 45

"It's a different buzz," Horwitz said. "A much more awake, alert, hyper

His chefs "medicate" the dishes by cooking them with butter or olive oil
infused with marijuana. The infusion process can take several days of
simmering an ounce of marijuana in one pound of butter or one cup of

The use of butter or oil makes it tricky to develop low-fat recipes,
said Fowler, who's also tinkering with recipes for the chocolate mousse
cake, paella and jambalaya Horwitz is determined to offer.

"I'm experimenting with the jambalaya," Fowler said. Part of the
challenge, she said, is finding the right blend of herbs and spices to
mask the pot flavor. She's skeptical about the plan for paella: A whole
pot pizza is $89. A seafood paella would be even more expensive, she
notes. "Who's going to buy that?"

Last week, Fowler rolled out a new menu item -- baba ghannouj, served
with pita bread -- to the approval of its first customers. "They loved
it," she reported.

On a recent morning, business was slow, with only a handful of
customers. Jason Cisneros, 32, a construction worker, arrived with his
medical marijuana registry card in hand to purchase some goodies to help
relieve back pain from a work injury. He bought brownies in three
flavors -- coconut, Heath bar and German chocolate.

Sometimes, it's just easier to chow down than to light up a bong, he
said. "It's more relaxing at the end of the night. You just eat the

Next came Jamie Currey, 30, who studied the menu while her companion
smoked some marijuana. "I might try the pizza or the salad," she mused
as an employee brought out a free order of tapenade, made of tomatoes,
olives and olive oil. Her doctor had suggested edibles to help with her
chronic nausea and difficulty gaining weight, she said, spooning
tapenade onto a triangle of pita bread.

"It's pretty good. It doesn't taste like marijuana," she said, declining
entrees: "It's kind of expensive, and it's close to Christmastime."

Such dining in could become illegal in Denver, where city officials are
considering an ordinance to regulate dispensaries, including a rule
banning the on-site consumption of marijuana.

If the ordinance passes, Horwitz said, he'll just make his restaurant
100% takeout. Most customers take their food home anyway, he added.

Horwitz remains convinced of a bright future; his pipe dream is to
eventually ship his creations all over the country.

"I'll be the Omaha Steaks of medical marijuana," he said.

Correll writes for The Times.

Rhode Island to consider changing it marijuana stance

PROVIDENCE - A Senate commission will soon explore whether Rhode Island
should decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana and
tax the drug, a path recently taken by Massachusetts.

Commission members are exploring several questions that suggest an
underlying skepticism with criminalizing marijuana, including whether
existing prohibitions have decreased drug use, caused corruption among
law enforcement officials, and resulted in violence. The panel will
present its findings early next year.

Commission member Nick Horton, a policy researcher for OpenDoors, which
works to reintegrate criminal offenders into society, said presidential
candidates have admitted using marijuana but people in his Providence
neighborhood still get jailed for it. "That double standard does
more harm than good to our justice system,'' he said.

State Senator Joshua Miller, a Democrat from Cranston, created the
commission and serves as its chairman. He has not yet backed any
specific changes to Rhode Island's drug laws, but members will hear
testimony about recent changes in Massachusetts.

In November 2008, Bay State voters decided to make possession of an
ounce or less of marijuana punishable by a $100 fine and confiscation of
the drug rather than a crime carrying a maximum six-month prison
sentence and a $500 fine.

The measure was approved over the objections of police and prosecutors,
who feared it would encourage use of what they consider more harmful
drugs and interfere with their ability to prosecute traffickers who
sometimes become suspects because of marijuana possession.

Some cities and towns in Massachusetts have since created additional
penalties to discourage marijuana use.

Rhode Island lawmakers already have taken steps to legalize some
marijuana use. In 2006, they started allowing patients who registered
with the state to possess small amounts of marijuana if it's used to
relieve pain or chronic ailments.

In June, the General Assembly expanded the medical marijuana program by
authorizing up to three nonprofit stores to sell marijuana legally.
State health officials still are determining how those stores will be
licensed and regulated.

Governor Donald L. Carcieri, a Republican, and the State Police have
opposed expansions of the medical marijuana system.

Miller's panel is required to examine the cost of prosecuting and
jailing offenders, as well as consider the possibility of legalizing
marijuana sales and imposing a tax of $35 per ounce or more.

Financial arguments could be tempting because Rhode Island faces a $220
million budget deficit for the fiscal year ending in June, about 7
percent of what state authorities originally expected to collect.

San diego to add ID program!

San Diego County has received 260 applications for medical marijuana ID
cards since it launched the program in July, according to county health

Nearly half the applications were from people ages 31-50, according to
data provided by the county. A quarter of the applicants lived in North
County, most of them in Carlsbad.

All of the applicants paid $166 for the card, which identifies them as
legitimate medical marijuana patients entitled to carry up to 8 ounces
of pot.

The county implemented the program this past summer after it lost a long
legal struggle challenging the state law that required counties to
provide the ID cards. The law does not require medical marijuana
patients to have a card.

While acknowledging the program has only been in place for six months,
medical marijuana advocates say the 260 applicants do not come close to
the number of people they believe are legally allowed to use the drug.
They say patients may be reluctant to apply for the card, fearing the
information on the applications will be used by authorities.

"The problem here in San Diego County is that nobody trusts (the
county)," said Rudy Reyes, a medical marijuana patient and activist.

The county says those fears are unfounded. The information on the
applications is protected under federal privacy laws. And the county's
top prosecutor said people should use the card because it quickly
identifies them as legitimate users of the drug.

In recent years, law enforcement agencies in the county have repeatedly
cracked down on medical marijuana dispensaries, including a Sept. 9
sweep that shut down 14 of the shops, two of them in North County.

The number of cards issued in San Diego County in the program's first
six months appears to be on par with the number issued by neighboring
counties in their first year, according to state figures.

For example, Riverside County issued 265 medical marijuana cards its
first year, Los Angeles County issued 401 cards and Orange County issued
114 cards. But advocates cite other places, such as Oakland in Alameda
County, which issued 1,475 cards in its first year.

Unfounded fears?

There are potentially thousands of eligible patients in San Diego County
based on discussions with doctors who recommend pot as medicine, said
Eugene Davidovich, a medical marijuana advocate with the group Americans
for Safe Access.

"People are afraid," Davidovich said.

County officials said legitimate patients have nothing to fear.

The county does not provide personal information from the applications
to anyone, including law enforcement, because it is protected by federal
privacy laws, said Adrienne Yancey, assistant deputy director at the
county's Health and Human Services Agency.

"We do not," Yancey said. "If we were subpoenaed, I can't say what would
happen then ... (but) we have not been subpoenaed."

District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis said her office has not asked for the
information. She said people should use the ID cards because they help
law enforcement identify legitimate patients.

"No one should feel intimidated," Dumanis said. "The county program is
totally separate from us."

Of the 260 applications the county received this year through November,
255 were approved. Five were rejected because the county could not get
the doctor to confirm the recommendation, Yancey said.

Other statistical information provided to the North County Times by the
county includes patients' age range and city of residency. The newspaper
also asked for, but did not receive, information on the types of
illnesses reported by patients and information about their medical

That information was not provided due to privacy rules, county officials

More data

Most of the people who requested a medical marijuana ID are between the
ages of 31 and 50, a total of 114 patients, according to the data. Of
the 260 applicants, only 14 were between the ages of 18 and 21.

Nearly half of the applicants, 120 people, said they lived in San Diego.
Sixty applicants said they lived in North County cities, according to
the data. Carlsbad had the highest number of applicants in North County,
14, followed by Vista with 11 and Oceanside with 10, according to the
county's data.

Patients' distrust coupled with the $166 price tag for the card may have
discouraged people from applying, said James Stacy, a Vista resident who
operated one of the medical marijuana dispensaries raided by authorities
in September.

The state requires a $66 fee and the county charges $100 to cover staff
time and other administrative costs. San Diego County's $166 fee is $13
higher than neighboring Riverside and Los Angeles counties, which charge
$153 for the cards.

"Why would I pay $166 to be harassed and be put on a potential arrest
list?" Stacy asked.

Stacy faces federal charges of selling marijuana to an undercover
officer who posed as a patient at Movement in Action. He has said he did
nothing wrong and operated his dispensary according to state guidelines.

In 1996, voters in the state approved the Compassionate Use Act, which
legalized marijuana for medical use. The Legislature later passed Senate
Bill 420 in 2003, which required counties to participate in the state's
medical marijuana ID program.

The county fought the state's medical marijuana law until the case hit a
legal dead end earlier this year, when the U.S. Supreme Court declined
to hear an appeal from San Diego and San Bernardino counties.

'Additional protection'

After losing that case, the Board of Supervisors agreed to implement the
medical marijuana ID card program.

Officials estimated that they would receive about 100 applications a
month based on other counties' experience.

Yancey said the county processed about 100 applications the first month,
but the number quickly dropped off in following months.

Since the state began the program in 2004, more than 37,000 medical
marijuana ID cards have been issued. The county with the largest number
of cards is San Francisco, with more than 13,000, according to the
state's Department of Public Health.

Riverside County has 2,180 ID cards and Orange County has 622, according
to state figures.

Davidovich said the county could do more to publicize the card and calm
people's fears about privacy protection. Davidovich said he has a card
and encourages others to get it because it offers an "additional layer
of protection" for legitimate patients.

"We go out of our way to tell people to sign up for the program,"
Davidovich said.

Call staff writer Edward Sifuentes at 760-740-3511.

San Diego County medical marijuana ID program

Patients by age

Ages 18-21: 14

Ages 22-30: 47

Ages 31-50: 114

Ages 50-over: 85

Total: 260

Applications by city

Carlsbad: 14

Chula Vista: 9

Del Mar: 5

El Cajon: 18

Encinitas: 3

Escondido: 7

Imperial Beach: 3

La Mesa: 12

Lemon Grove: 2

National City: 3

Oceanside: 10

Poway: 1

San Diego: 120

San Marcos: 7

Santee: 6

Solana Beach: 2

Vista: 11

Unincorporated: 27

Total: 260

Source: San Diego County Health and Human Service Agency

Cards issued by county

San Diego: 255

Riverside: 2,180

Orange : 622

Los Angeles: 1,579

Imperial: 15

San Bernardino: 200

Source: California Department of Public Health

Pot town USA

By By Peter Hecht, McClatchy Newspapers

Saturday, December 26, 2009

ARCATA, Calif. — Stephen Gasparas was destined for this fog-chilled,
redwood-shrouded coast — America's most renowned region for
legal cultivation of marijuana.

He started growing skunky-smelling pot as a young man, in the closet of
his mother's suburban Chicago home. Later he visited cannabis fields
in India. Ultimately, he shared spiritual puffs at a gathering of the
famous moveable commune, the Rainbow Family, where a grizzled hippie
told him Humboldt "is the place you ought to be."

Today, Gasparas, 39, is a medical marijuana entrepreneur operating
legally in Humboldt County. He has moved from cultivating pot for
personal use to heading a cannabis growing and buying collective he says
has served 4,000 medical marijuana users.

Humboldt County — and in particular the college town of Arcata —
has become an epicenter for political and legal debate over the
unintended consequences of Proposition 215, California's
"Compassionate Use Act" for marijuana.

Since passage of the act in 1996, medical marijuana users have streamed
into this county, a liberal and libertarian bastion that decades ago
began attracting pot growers.

Their now-legitimate business — aided, legal experts say, by
Proposition 215's vagueness on personal pot-use limits — has
turned a so-called crop of compassion into a lucrative industry.

With the most wide-open cultivation policy in California, Humboldt
County allows individual growers of medical marijuana three annual
indoor harvests of 100 square feet, 99 plants and up to 3 pounds of
dried marijuana at any one time.

In 2003, the state Legislature approved restrictions that limited
medical marijuana users to six mature or 12 immature plants and 8 ounces
of pot at one time. But the law allowed local governments to approve
looser limits.

So in Humboldt, medical pot users converted small town houses into
growing factories — and bountiful earnings from sales to patient
collectives and pot dispensaries across California.

In a North Coast "Kush" rush, local outfitters such as Humboldt
Hydroponics in Arcata stack shelves with growing trays, high-intensity
lights and plant nutrients called "Big Bud," "Bud Candy"
and "Voodoo Juice."

Pot production — from nurseries that provide irrigation and growing
supplies to dispensaries that generate sales tax — is a mainstay of
the local economy.

"I would say that in 99 percent of cases, people growing medical
marijuana are growing it for profit," said Humboldt Sheriff's
Sgt. Wayne Hanson, who specializes in narcotics enforcement.

"It is the source of income for the county of Humboldt. Nobody wants
to say that," he added. "But there is no logging here anymore.
Fishing is sporadic. And people make their living growing

Under California law, anyone with a doctor's recommendation for
medical marijuana can join a patient cooperative and get compensated for
providing the network with pot for its members.

But few envisioned the burgeoning industry that has taken root in
Humboldt, where medical marijuana users are marketing their excess
plants to cannabis cooperatives and dispensaries hundreds of miles away.

"Many growers are exploiting vagueness in the medical marijuana laws
and will continue to do so until the law is clarified," said state
Deputy Attorney General Peter Krause.

State law permits nonprofit cooperatives, such as the Humboldt Patient
Resource Center in Arcata, to grow medicine for members.

In a fragrant room where he tends plants for hundreds of patients,
gardener Kevin Jodrey shows off pot "cultivars" like a winemaker
touting prize-winning varietals.

Hazy laws

California's cultivation laws are hazier when it comes to some of
the other medical marijuana operations sprouting in Humboldt.
Authorities and growers alike report instances in which as many as a
half-dozen medical marijuana users join together to grow hundreds of
plants in a single home. They dry and package exotic marijuana strains
they sell directly to multiple dispensaries and networks in Los Angeles
and other major California cities.

Krause said state law is unclear whether "collectives in urban areas
can have remote members in distant counties whose only job is to grow
the medicine."

Besides legal growing, Sgt. Hanson said, Humboldt authorities confront
illegal operations, including grow houses that vastly exceed plant
limits and have little to do with medical use. He said local growers are
also victimized in pot-seeking home invasions.

Even in Humboldt County, marijuana tolerance has its limits. The city of
Arcata got fed up with stench-filled pot houses disrupting neighborhoods
and creating fire risks with 1,000-watt grow lamps and dangerous wiring.

Last year, it restricted medical pot growers to 50 square feet of
growing space — still more than most everywhere else in California
— and set limits on electricity use. The county is considering a
similar policy.

Randy Mendosa, Arcata's police chief and acting city manager, said
the town is sick of its notoriety. America's Arts & Entertainment
network recently dubbed Arcata "Pot Town, USA," and its cannabis
culture drew coverage from the Sunday Telegraph in London.

"We have been over-saturated with this," Mendosa said.
"It's becoming damaging to the community. We just don't want
to be the national `spokescity' for marijuana."

Even Gasparas was shocked by the pot prevalence when he came to Humboldt
in 2004.

"I didn't know there was a waterfall of weed," he said.

Gasparas' iCenter medical marijuana collective now operates
dispensaries in the Humboldt County towns of Arcata and Mill Creek, as
well as Redding in Shasta County. He says the nonprofit network pays him
a "compassionate" salary of over $100,000 a year.

In Arcata, The Humboldt Cooperative — a nonprofit known locally as
"THC," the medicinal compound in cannabis — pays $3,200 a
pound to its network of up to 150 medical pot growers.

"We're a paradox. We're a legal business in an illegal
world," said THC director Dennis "Tony" Turner, whose
cooperative has provided pot to 8,500 California patients since its
inception in 2003.

Turner figures the collective pays its growers between $35 and $60 an
hour, depending on whether they are "journeyman-level"
cultivators or supervising floricultural technicians who ensure that the
medicine flowers without toxic materials or pesticides.

"Not everyone can grow medical weed," Turner said.

But the pot-grower market may be expanding soon. Last year, a state
appellate court threw out restrictive plant limits for pot patients that
are standard in most California counties. If the state Supreme Court
upholds the ruling in a decision due in February, Humboldt-style medical
cannabis harvests could become more common elsewhere.

Humboldt medical growers watch anxiously as signature gatherers
circulate petitions for four 2010 ballot measures seeking to legalize
marijuana for all adults.

Gasparas fears legalization could replace Humboldt's medical growers
with big agribusiness and low-grade "factory bud" that
diminishes the "spiritual experience."

But Turner is setting up a computerized "virtual grow room" to
organize his Humboldt cultivators to compete in a fully legal pot

"The people who do this legally are good people," he said.
"We don't want to be outlaws. We want to be survivors. ... We
want to avoid seeing our local economy go into the toilet."

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

medical marijuana helps many in pain!

SIDNEY — Richard Julien says medical marijuana gave him his life
back. Now he wants to be legal.

Julien, 41, of Rockford, who said he has hepatitis C and other
illnesses, said smoking marijuana daily has allowed him to give up four
high-powered prescription painkillers.

"When I'm medicated (with marijuana), I feel good. When I'm
not, I'm nauseated and I can't sleep," said Julien, one of
50 persons attending a meeting of the Mid Michigan Compassion Club on

Since he began smoking marijuana in 2004, Julien said it has helped him
cope with the side effects of the interferon he takes. It has also
helped him control his temper and lose about 100 pounds.

Since the state rules for medical marijuana were released last spring,
Julien said he has been ripped off by two persons who signed up to
become his legal caregiver.

As the father of two children with a third on the way, Julien said he is
hoping to find a reliable source who can legally supply his need for 28
grams every 10 days. Otherwise, he will grow it at home, he said.

Abraham Scharaswak said he also hopes to find a legal supply to ease his
chronic pain and muscle spasms.

In 2003, the 27-year-old Stanton resident said, he broke his neck in
four places when he was thrown out of a minivan that rolled over. He is
partially paralyzed and uses a motorized wheelchair.

Marijuana has allowed him to go from 14 prescriptions to five or six,
said Schwaraswak, who said he smokes from a pipe four or five times a

"I feel great. I'm not drugged down," the father of two
said. "I'm living a life and that's something I wasn't
able to do for five years."

Toney Smith, of Six Lakes, said marijuana has allowed him to reduce his
intake of Vicodin and Neurontin for pain brought on by arthritis and
three "blown" discs in his back.

Smith, who said he smokes two joints every evening, recently obtained
his medical marijuana registration card.

While he may grow his own supply one day, Smith said he currently is
supplied "through people I know."

Smith, who is employed as a maintenance man at a Remus manufacturing
company, said his employer is aware of his alternative treatment. He
does not smoke before work or during the work day.

"I want to do everything legal," he said. "That's the
whole purpose."

Sheriff is ordered to release marijuana, for patients in collective!

Court of appeals won't rule on legality of pot order to DCSO

John Sowell
The News-Review

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Oregon Court of Appeals has dismissed the Douglas County Sheriff's
Office challenge of an order forcing the agency to provide marijuana
seized in a drug raid to three patients prescribed medical marijuana.

Three years ago, police raided the Dixonville home of Dwight Ehrensing,
a designated caregiver and grower for several people who are cardholders
under the Oregon Medical Marijuana Act.

They seized more than 120 pounds of processed marijuana, some of which
was processed for sale. They also seized 80 pounds of marijuana butter,
produced by slow cooking marijuana leaves with butter or margarine and
then straining out the leafy material. The butter, which contains high
levels of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, is then used as a
food spread.

The raid also yielded 45 large marijuana plants, 10 grams of hashish,
psilocybin mushrooms and more than $7,000 in cash.

Ehrensing, 64, a medical marijuana cardholder himself, was charged with
manufacture, delivery and possession of a controlled substance. He was
accused of selling pot to others who weren't medical marijuana

Under the law, a caregiver can have six mature plants per person and 18
immature plants and can grow for four people. The seized amount far
exceeded that, authorities alleged.

Upon motion by the defendant, Douglas County Circuit Judge William
Lasswell ordered then-Sheriff Chris Brown to return 8 ounces each of the
marijuana to the three other patients for whom Ehrensing was growing
marijuana. Brown asked for reconsideration of the order after arguing
the county could be in violation of federal laws prohibiting delivery of
a controlled substance.

Lasswell rejected that argument, saying he had empathy for the patients
and the pain they were enduring. None of the three patients was accused
of a crime.

On appeal, the county and the Oregon Department of Justice argued
Lasswell erred when he ordered the sheriff to release some of the seized
marijuana. Although that marijuana was presumably used up, the state
argued its appeal was not moot because the county still has the rest of
the seized pot that Ehrensing contended should be released.

The three-member panel of the Court of Appeals disagreed.

"Here, in light of the state's concession at oral argument that it
cannot retrieve the released marijuana, any determination about the
lawfulness of the trial court's order would have no practical effect on
the parties," Judge Robert Wollheim wrote in the 17-page decision
issued Wednesday.

The court noted that although Ehrensing could have asked that more of
the seized marijuana be distributed, no request had been made. As a
result, there weren't any grounds for a ruling, the panel concluded.

"Any dispute over the marijuana still being held by the sheriff
would therefore be based on future events of a hypothetical nature. As
such, the issue that the state raises as to the marijuana that is still
in the sheriff's possession simply is not ripe at this time,"
Wollheim wrote.

In a dissent, Judge Walter Edmonds said that by concluding the question
was moot, the Court of Appeals effectively prevented the state from

"The majority's reasoning effectively denies the state a statutory
right to appeal because it obeyed the trial court's order," Edmonds

Ehrensing is set to go to trial on the drug charges Jan. 27. A 12-member
jury will hear the case in Judge Joan Seitz's courtroom. She was
assigned the case after Lasswell retired earlier this year and went on
senior status.

Ehrensing has filed a motion to have the charges dismissed for lack of a
speedy trial. A hearing on that motion is scheduled for Dec. 29.

• You can reach reporter John Sowell at 957-4209 or by e-mail at

Monday, December 21, 2009

Riverside dispensary operates even without permission

The Press-Enterprise

Three weeks after opening, the sole medical marijuana source in the city
of Riverside has no shortage of customers.

The Inland Empire Health and Wellness Center Medical Marijuana
Collective, which opened Dec. 5 on North Main Street, requires a
doctor's recommendation for marijuana and is open only to members.

After starting with about 150 members, collective general manager
William Sump said Friday, "We'll probably hit 500 today."

Organizers describe the collective as a farmer's market in which vendors
who grow the drug can sell it to other patients. The collective takes a
small cut of the money to cover expenses.

Riverside officials have maintained that city zoning forbids medical
marijuana facilities of any kind, but Sump said city officials and law
enforcement have not contacted him since the facility opened.

Within 10 minutes of the collective's 11 a.m. opening time Friday,
nearly a dozen people crowded the lobby area, filling out paperwork to
become members or having their IDs checked if they were returning
patients. A security guard waved a metal detecting wand over members
before letting them past the front counter.

Among those waiting was David Stone, a 47-year-old Riverside resident
who arrived in a wheelchair and wearing a Santa hat.

He said he has used medical marijuana for two years to alleviate
prostate problems, lymphoma, lower back pain and other medical issues.
Of all the dispensaries he's used, "I like this facility better than all
of them."

The prices are better and the location is closer to home, he said.

"They helped me out last time I came in. I told them I'm hurting and I
didn't have a lot of money," and the vendor gave him a deal, Stone said.

For the first hour, Sump bustled around answering questions, taking
calls on his cell phone and looking for extra tables to accommodate more

Since the first weekend -- the collective is open Friday through Sunday
-- the number of vendors has risen along with the number of patients.
Craig Crawley, 51, of Temecula said he's been selling at the collective
all three weeks and saw vendors increase from about five the first day
to 15 last Friday.

Crawley has been cultivating marijuana for 36 years. He also works with
dispensaries where he drops off his product and someone sells it for
him, he said, so he's excited about being able to interact directly with
patients at the collective.

"The goal here is to get affordable medicine to patients," he said.

The city has said the collective isn't allowed and the Riverside County
district attorney's position is that such facilities generally are
illegal, but whether enforcement is planned is unknown.

"If there's going to be a city action, it would be on the legal front
through the police department," City Councilman Mike Gardner said. "I
don't know whether there is a plan to do that or not."

District attorney's spokesman John Hall on Friday would not confirm or
deny any investigation into the Riverside facility.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Colorado begins to see Medical marijauna rise in major cities

By Jessica Fender
The Denver Post

Posted: 12/18/2009 01:00:00 AM MST
Updated: 12/18/2009 01:51:24 AM MST

State leaders have unveiled figures showing a large portion of
medical-marijuana recommendations are written by doctors who are barred
from writing other prescriptions.

As of mid-August, three quarters of pot recommendations came from 15
doctors, half of whom operated on restricted licenses, a spokesman for
Gov. Bill Ritter said. The number of medical- marijuana patients has
tripled since that time to about 30,000 statewide, according to health
department figures.

More strictly defining the relationship between physicians and their
cannabis-seeking patients has emerged as the one patch of common ground
in the battle over medical marijuana that will be waged in the 2010
legislative session.

Doctors would have to perform physical examinations, provide follow-up
consultation and would have to possess a valid, unrestricted medical
license, in a proposal Ritter has circulated.

But the governor has not yet said whether he favors the storefront pot
dispensary model or limiting pot providers to a handful of patients, the
most heated of the medical-marijuana debates.

"We're working with lawmakers and law enforcement on a plan to respect
the will of the voters, provide some guidelines on how those
legitimately entitled to medical marijuana obtain it, and rein in
serious abuses," Ritter spokesman George Merritt said.

Even in the face of mounting controversy — the anecdotal spikes in
crime, the anger over storefront dispensaries close to schools and the
concerns of businesspeople facing potentially onerous regulations —
House Speaker Terrance Carroll said he hopes the pot debate won't
distract lawmakers in 2010.

"I'm hoping we'll deal with the medical-marijuana issue efficiently,
with very little fanfare and maintain focus on issues at hand," Carroll,
D-Denver, said.

But the state's attorney general predicts "a war," and the senator
backing the single regulatory bill filed so far likens the legislation's
pro-pot backers to the ragtag but spirited band of soldiers at Valley

Lawmakers will build from scratch regulations for a fledgling industry
while they grapple with a more than $1.5 billion budget gap and search
for ways to create jobs in Colorado, top priorities in the four-month
legislative session.

"It's going to be very time consuming," said Ted Tow, executive director
of the Colorado District Attorney's Council. "There are multiple
different approaches to fixing the problem that have to be hashed out.
The dispensaries are organizing and have money."

His group is part of a coalition of law enforcement, local government
and medical groups that have helped draft an anti-dispensary proposal,
though it is unclear whether a bill will be filed and who would support
it. The district attorneys' group has not yet decided to support the law
enforcement plan.

In the meantime, the medical-marijuana industry has become a sizable
political force by enlisting communications firms, conducting polls and
seeking assistance from big-name lobbyists and a former lawmaker.

Former Sen. Bob Hagedorn, who once chaired his chamber's health care
committee, is careful to say he's not lobbying for the newly minted
Colorado Wellness Association. To do so would violate revolving door

But he is educating his former colleagues on the topic on behalf of the
dispensary trade association and enjoys access to the Senate and House
floors, which lobbyists do not.

At least a half-dozen new medical-marijuana advocacy and trade groups
have recently hung shingles.

OC police raid locations in Orange County and Long Beach!!!

Police raid four O.C. locations over illegal pot sales


December 18, 2009 12:55 PM

Long Beach police officials have served a series of search warrants at
several marijuana dispensaries for illegal sales of drugs, including
four in Orange County.

The raids, which were carried out Thursday with the help of the Los
Angeles County District Attorney's Office, included Tangent Retail, a
medical marijuana clinic in Garden Grove also known as Unit D and three
locations that were not clinics in Fullerton, Anaheim and Westminster,
Long Beach Police Cmdr. Laura Farinella said today.

The raids resulted in the confiscation of "a large quantity of
marijuana" from the 17 locations in Long Beach and Orange County, and a
total of 15 people were arrested, Farinella said. She declined to
identify the locations, saying investigations are still ongoing. She
said she did not have the names of those arrested in the raids.

The enforcement was brought about as a result of complaints from Long
Beach residents about illegal marijuana sales in their neighborhoods,
Farinella said.

The search warrants were not served at medical marijuana clinics that
were operating legally, but only at residences and clinics that were
dispensing marijuana over-the-counter illegally, she said.

"We don't want anyone to think we're taking people's medicine away," she

The clinic in Garden Grove, as well as the other three locations in
Orange County, had ties to illegal marijuana sales in Long Beach, which
is why the enforcement was extended to Orange County, Farinella said.

"Crime does not know boundaries," she said.

The department kept local agencies informed and worked together to help
serve the search warrants, Farinella said.

Garden Grove police Lt. Travis Whitman said today he did not know if any
of his department's officers went out to Unit D. He said the
investigation and enforcement were carried out entirely by Long Beach

The Garden Grove City Council in September passed an ordinance banning
medical marijuana dispensaries in the city. But Unit D continued
operating and the city or its police department has not taken any action
so far.

In fact, the clinic renewed its business license after the passage of
the ordinance.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Los Angeles still has not decided on new regulations and ordinances

City of Angles

Medical Pot Issue Stretches Into 2010

By Brian Doherty
December 16, 2009 8:57 PM


The L.A. City Council failed again Wednesday to vote on new regulations
for medical pot dispensaries, after many weeks of lengthy debate largely
over questions of how many will be allowed and where.

New ideas to amend and adjust the buffer zones between residential
buildings, "sensitive uses" (including schools, parks, youth centers,
libraries and churches), and dispensaries were still being bandied about
at Wednesday's City Council meeting.

Councilwoman Jan Perry suggested that each council district get to have
its councilperson choose its own buffer zone, and councilman Richard
Alarcon, openly annoyed with the whole process, called for a prompt vote
rather than letting the council members contemplate a new set of maps
from the city planning department that define the (quite limited)
acreage of the city in which medical pot dispensaries could actually
exist under varied definitions of the buffer zone.

The L.A. Weekly reported on today's meeting, stressing the map issue:

This was the first time, five years after the council decided it
needed to adopt local regulations for selling medical weed, that the
City Council has ever seen a zoning map showing where pot shops would be
located or be banned under a typical "buffer zone" approach used in many
California cities....

The Planning Department found that if pot shops were limited to a
500-foot buffer zone around sensitive uses, they could open in 31
percent of the city's commercial and industrial areas -- but only five
percent of those areas would be commercial spots such as business
districts. The rest would be industrially zoned.

If the city decides on a 1,000-foot buffer from sensitive uses, no
pot shops would be able to open, said [planner Alan] Bell.

The Weekly's extensive, and generally negative, coverage of medical pot
in L.A. created its own controversy, with Vince Beiser over at
Huffington Post attacking their recent cover story on the topic. Beiser
notes that:

We are told that there is "rising crime in and around them," that
"20 unregulated pot dispensaries (are) attracting crime in ... Eagle
Rock", and that LAPD Chief Charlie Beck says, "They are the hub of crime
... A lot of nighttime break-ins and robberies."

Not one of these scary-sounding claims is backed up with a single
statistic. Crime stats are easy to gather -- you can find them mapped
block-by-block on the LAPD's website. But Pelisek and MacDonald seem not
to have bothered to see whether there's any basis for the complaints of
cops and neighborhood gadflies. If they had, their story might have lost
a lot of its urgency. In Hollywood, for instance, an area which the
reporters rightly note is chock-a-block with marijuana dispensaries,
crime hasn't risen -- it's dropped by 12 percent in the last two years.
Robberies and burglaries, the crimes you'd most expect to see associated
with pot shops, have both fallen by double digits.

Tim Rutten in the L.A. Times (after first blithely repeating an
exaggerated figure of nearly 1,000 medical pot dispensaries in L.A. that
has been thoroughly debunked by the L.A. Weekly's diligent reporting on
that aspect of the story) notes that the City Council's fearful attitude
about medical pot isn't matched by voters:

A recent Field Poll found that 60% of Los Angeles County voters and
56% statewide favor legalizing and taxing marijuana....the council would
be well advised to ignore [D.A.] Cooley and [city attorney] Trutanich
and adopt sensible regulations that treat the dispensaries pretty much
like bars -- allowing them to operate in appropriate areas but not to
become public nuisances.

City of Angles has done much previous blogging on L.A.'s medical pot
wars, including here
-dispensaries-does-la-need.html) and here

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Tulare county medical marijuana operators face tough reality!

Pot Dealers Last Minute Plea in Tulare County

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Jessica Peres

Watch video story (2:08) - http://abclocal.go.com/kfsn/video?id=7173228

Visalia, Calif. (KFSN) -- Medical marijuana distributors in Tulare
County have less than a week to shut their doors or they could face
criminal charges.

Jeff Nunes pleaded with the Tulare County Board of Supervisors Tuesday
morning to reconsider a new medical marijuana ordinance they passed
which ultimately is forcing the shutdown of medical marijuana
distributors in Tulare County.

Jeff Nunes said, "I commission more research and meetings with these
groups before we close these medical marijuana distribution centers

Tulare County Sheriff's Deputies served compliance notices to seven
medical marijuana operators giving them ten days to comply with the new

The law essentially requires them to shutdown until there is no conflict
between state and federal regulations. Right now, medical marijuana is
allowed in California, but it violates federal law.

If the medical marijuana operations don't shut down within the ten day
period the sheriff's office says the owners could face arrest or a
possible forced shut down.

That's a risk Jeff Nunes is already preparing for.

Nunes said, "We're trying to get everything prepared especially if
there's jail time I mean there's going to be time away from my family
time away from my job."

Nunes says his operation-- Visalia Compassionate Care-- is in compliance
with state law and wants to keep it open. He says they serve more than
400 patients.

"We have AIDS, cancer glaucoma specicity there are many elements that
cannabis treats especially mental like parkinson kuntington's disease,"
said Nunes.

Captain Mike Boudreaux with the Tulare County Sheriff's Office says if
medical marijuana operations refuse to close down, they'll submit the
case to the district attorney's office, and the distributors could face
state and federal charges.

Capt. Boudreaux said, "Depending on the circumstances surrounding the
case and if the DA's office felt there was sufficient evidence to
support a prosecution there is a possibility of that yes."

Visalia compassionate care and six other medical marijuana operations
could be shut down as early as Sunday.

Possible legal use of marijuana in California

Government by initiative seems to be riding high in California.

But, what's new about that? With the Legislature prone to partisan
gridlock, the initiative process continues to take up the slack.

Upcoming will be a host of measures that will once again propose
government reforms and budgeting by ballot box.

Then there are social initiatives. Last election, it was gay marriage
being narrowly turned down by voters.

Come November, California voters probably will be deciding whether to
legalize marijuana.

Never mind that pot use remains a federal crime. In California, for all
intents and many purposes, marijuana already is quasi-legal.

The medical marijuana movement has provided an avenue for sick people,
and others, to obtain the drug. Meanwhile, mere possession is a
nonpriority for law enforcement in the city of Santa Cruz.

Backers say they had little trouble getting far more signatures than
needed to qualify the measure for the ballot -- 680,000, 57 percent more
than the 433,971 valid signatures needed.

The initiative would also permit cities and counties to pass their own
laws to allow marijuana to be grown and sold -- and local governments
could impose taxes on marijuana production and sales. It would become
legal for adults over 21 years old to possess up to an ounce of
marijuana and to grow it in a 25-square-foot area for personal use.
Sales to, and use by, minors would remain against the law -- even as a
new federally funded study shows almost a third of 12th-graders and more
than a quarter of 10th-graders smoked pot in 2009.

Will this pass? The main proponent of the measure, Oakland pot
businessman Richard Lee, originally was aiming for 2012 and the
presidential election ballot. But polls have shown a solid majority of
Californians support legalization. Then, the Obama administration
announced earlier this year it would not prosecute medical marijuana
providers or users who follow state law.

Since then, hundreds more medical pot dispensaries have opened in
California. Santa Cruz has two and a moratorium on opening new ones.

There are two compelling arguments for legalizing marijuana. The first
is that it would provide badly needed tax revenues for the state. Well,
so would taxing a lot of things -- maybe the state should start with
online purchases.

But the fact the law regarding marijuana possession is obviously ignored
and only selectively enforced is tough to refute. As long as
legalization does not include sales by cartels and includes provisions
with teeth against getting behind the wheel or passing pot along to
minors, it seems inevitable.


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Possible legalization of Marijuana in California

Measure to legalize pot may be on California's November ballot

Supporters say they have enough signatures -- about 57% more than the
required 433,971 -- on a petition to qualify for the ballot. Polls have
shown support for legalization among state voters.

By John Hoeffel
December 15, 2009

California voters could decide whether to legalize marijuana in November
after supporters announced Monday that they have more than enough
signatures to ensure that it qualifies for the ballot.

The petition drive has collected more than 680,000 signatures, said
Richard Lee, the measure's main proponent, about 57% more than the
433,971 needed.

"It was so easy to get them," Lee said. "People were so eager to sign."

The initiative would allow cities and counties to adopt laws to allow
marijuana to be grown and sold, and to impose taxes on marijuana
production and sales. It would make it legal for anyone who is at least
21 to possess an ounce of marijuana and grow plants in an area of no
more than 25 square feet for personal use.

Steve Smith, a political consultant who has run many California
initiative campaigns, said that as a rule of thumb, supporters assume
that about 30% of the signatures on petitions will be invalidated.

"I'll be very surprised if they don't qualify," he said.

The measure, the Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act, is one of four
initiatives in circulation to legalize marijuana use, but it is the only
one that appears to have the financial support to make the ballot.

Lee's firm, one of the state's most successful marijuana businesses, has
spent at least $1.1 million so far on the measure. Lee owns half a dozen
businesses in Oakland, including Coffeeshop Blue Sky, a medical
marijuana dispensary, and Oaksterdam University, which teaches about

Lee said he expected that the campaign will cost between $7 million and
$20 million, but he hopes to raise the money from across the country.

"We feel like we've done our part," he said.

Lee has hired consultants to run an Internet-based campaign that he said
already has a mailing list of about 30,000.

In a news release, the campaign announced that it had more than 650,000
signatures, but Lee said that the firm he hired to collect signatures
put the number at more than 680,000. Lee said volunteers would continue
to gather signatures until the campaign turns in the petition early next

Polls have shown support among California voters for legalization. A
Field Poll taken in mid-April found that 56% of voters in the state and
60% in Los Angeles County want to make pot legal and tax it. A poll
taken for the initiative's proponents in August found that 51% of likely
voters supported it when read language similar to what will be on the
ballot, but that increased to 54% when they were read a less technical

Smith said those numbers suggest proponents face tough odds.

"Generally, you are at your high point when you start," he said. "The no
side just has to come up with one good reason to vote no."

But Smith said that a lot will depend on how much money is spent by both
sides and whether the electorate tilts toward left or right on election

"I think it'll probably be a very close vote," he said.

Law enforcement organizations are likely to oppose the measure, but
several contacted Monday said they had not yet adopted an official

Some marijuana advocates have criticized Lee for pushing his measure,
arguing that they would have a better chance in 2012, a presidential
election year when the electorate tends to be more liberal.

"I think things have turned our way so much that we have a good chance
of winning," Lee said. "This is the time to bring up the issue and talk
about it. Who knows what will be going on in 2012."

Dale Gieringer, the director of California NORML, was one of the
skeptics, but he said his pro-legalization organization would endorse
the ballot measure.

"I'd like the initiative to pass," he said, "but I'm not holding my
breath necessarily for this to happen."

Lee said he believes that the increasing acceptance of medical marijuana
has changed the dynamic. He said voters are aware that it is easy to
obtain a doctor's recommendation to use marijuana, but he said most
believe that is "a good thing."

"Medical marijuana in California has been accepted as legalization in
some ways by a lot of the population," he said. "To me this is codifying
what it happening."


Leisure World finds new " green activities"

Watch story video (4:02) - http://abclocal.go.com/kabc/video?id=7171423

LAGUNA WOODS, Calif. -- It's the last place you might expect to find
hundreds of people smoking pot: But seniors living at the Laguna Woods
Village retirement community -- also known as "Leisure World" -- have
formed a non-profit, patient-run medical marijuana collective.

Golf is a way of life at Laguna Woods Village, also known as "Leisure

But now many seniors there are trying out a different type of "green."

"I'm a very law-abiding citizen, believe it or not," said Margo Bouer, a
resident. Bouer, 74, is a retired psychiatric nurse with advanced
multiple sclerosis.

"This last year I realized I was choking on food more often," said
Bouer. "I was prepared to make a serious decision about ending my own

Bouer had severe nausea and was unable to sleep. She considered suicide,
until a friend suggested medical marijuana.

"I inhaled ... blew it out, and I thought, 'OK, am I high?' I had no
idea," said Bouer.

Bouer now grows her own marijuana. A friend helps her roll her marijuana

"And then I read a book and processed it myself and dried it and
crunched it up and smelled it, and it smelled very good," said Bouer.
For Bouer, it only takes about two puffs a night to ease the nausea and
keep her feeling well enough to continue synchronized swimming with "The

"I am grateful for the opportunity to tell the world there are good
people out there who need marijuana," said Bouer.

Bouer is not part of the new medical marijuana collective at Leisure

But some of the seniors are. The city of Laguna Woods was the first in
Orange County to pass an ordinance allowing medical marijuana

But so far no one has opened up a shop. So these seniors, many with
debilitating illnesses, decided to create their own non-profit medical
marijuana collective.

"A group of patients got together and decided we'd try to grow our own
and make it available for our neighbors who also have doctor
recommendations, but are too ill to grow," said Lonnie Painter, a
resident and member of the Laguna Woods for Medical Cannabis Collective.

There is no storefront dispensary like you see all over Los Angeles.
Instead, it's informal: "Patients helping patients."

"Marijuana is the only thing that will keep me from constant pain," said
Maria D'Anelle, another member of the collective.

Leisure World residents Karin and Luis Alvarez are growing their own
medical marijuana right on their balcony.

"I mean, they don't call them 'weeds' for nothing," said Luis Alvarez.
"As long as you give them water and food and sun. They need to have

Karin has endured a series of surgeries after a devastating injury.

"It's hard for me to stand any length of time," said Karin.

Karin had a near-fatal reaction to traditional painkillers, but she
takes comfort now in knowing exactly where her medicine is coming from.

"We prefer that to going and buying it some place where we're not
exactly sure what we're going to get," said Karin.

But some seniors in the collective don't want to say where the
collective is growing its marijuana.

"We have had some plants stolen," said Lonnie Painter. Several thousand
dollars' worth.

"It could be a vigilante, someone who's heard about it, thinks they
might make a little money," said Painter.

It's a setback for the collective, but won't stop these seniors from
"going green."

"It only takes a couple 'tokes' for me. Some people use more," said

Members are quick to point out that this is not about getting "stoned."

"I frankly could care less about getting high," said Jonathan Adler,
another member of the collective. Adler is undergoing chemotherapy and
radiation for breast cancer.

"Within seconds, literally five to 10 seconds, the thought of nausea
disappears and it's replaced by what's commonly called 'the munchies,'"
said Adler.

There is some risk. Despite California's medical marijuana laws, its use
is still illegal under federal law.

"People laugh, they say, 'Can you imagine all these people in
wheelchairs and walkers being made to do the "perp walk?"' You know?"
said Painter.

Seniors like Margo Bouer say they're up for a fight.

"You know what, I thought, 'Come and get me -- Just come and get me,'"
remarked Bouer.

To these seniors, marijuana means freedom from a life of pain.

"Well, do I look happy?" asked Bouer.

Friday, December 11, 2009

The LA debate over Marijuana Laws continues

DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES — A proposed ordinance governing the location
and operation of medical marijuana dispensaries in the City of Los
Angeles was again put on hold this week, as Council wrestled to find a
balance between access and control. A requirement that dispensaries be
1,000 feet away from residential uses proved contentious on Wednesday,
with Councilmembers split.

That got blogdowntown wondering, just what does a 1,000 foot buffer
around residential projects look like?

The maps above show 1,000, 500 and 200 foot buffers around residential
uses Downtown. They are not an exact visualization of where dispensaries
could be located -- they don't include buffers around substance abuse
center and may not include all residential hotels -- but they're more
than the City Council has to work with.

The City's planning department is working on creating maps of the
ordinance's effects, but they won't be ready until January.

There are currently an estimated 800 to 1,000 dispensaries operating
around the City, most of which came into being after the City passed a
2007 ordinance forbidding new outlets until permanent rules could be


OC judge weighs in!

Judge denies preliminary injunction against dispensaries

2009-12-11 11:59:22

LAKE FOREST – A preliminary injunction that would have shut down
several medical marijuana dispensaries was denied by a judge today, a
small victory for at least one of the dispensaries that's fighting the
city in court, its attorney said.

"Our plan is to stay open," said Christopher Glew, an attorney who is
representing dispensary owners in court.

City officials say the judge's order is simply addressing a procedural
issue and say he has provided a "roadmap" with exact steps to
permanently close the four dispensaries still involved in the lawsuit.
Four others – once named in the suit –closed on their own.

In September, the city of Lake Forest sued 35 people in the city,
including medical marijuana dispensary owners and retail landowners who
rented space to them. Since then, some of the collectives have shut
down, including one that was raided by the Orange County Sheriff's
Department. The city is involved in several lawsuits, targeting clusters
of marijuana collectives based on their locations and ownership.

In one of the suits, the city of Lake Forest requested a preliminary
injunction to shut down a cluster of dispensaries that were settled
along Raymond Way and El Toro Road. Today, a judge denied that request,
saying that there were no declarations stating that several of the
dispensaries had been served.

Judge David R. Chaffee also singled out 215 Agenda in his decision, the
one dispensary that filed arguments against the injunction in court,
stating that the city needs to provide additional information on the way
businesses were permitted and how this dispensary set up shop in the
first place.

"The judge agreed," said Glew, who is representing Robert Moen, the
owner of 215 Agenda. "We think this is invalid."

Meanwhile, Glew said he and his client were still hopeful the city would
be willing to create regulations that would allow the dispensaries to
exist under state law, though city officials said they plan to move
forward to shut down the dispensaries.

"We'd like to sit down at the table with the City Council and draw
regulations," he said. "We're still trying to peacefully co-exist."

Jeffrey Dunn, representing Lake Forest, said the city plans to re-file
and re-serve its request for an injunction with evidence that
establishes that the defendants are operating without permits. The city
will re-file and re-serve the remaining four marijuana stores: Vale Tudo
Café, 215 Agenda, Lake Forest Community Collective, and Lake Forest
Patients Collective Association. The city will also re-file on the
properties that have recently changed ownership. The city expects this
hearing to take place in January. A fifth dispensary, Evergreen Holistic
Collective – recently opening in a space where another collective
closed – is included in this cluster and are expected to respond
within the next few weeks.

"The city is concerned that these facilities pose a risk to the
community because they attract crime, vandalism and degrade the
commercial value of the property for surrounding businesses," said City
Attorney Scott Smith.� "The city will continue to vigorously
enforce its municipal code to ensure the safety of its citizens and to
maintain the high quality standards found in the business and
residential areas of the community."

City officials have said medical marijuana dispensaries are not
permitted in Lake Forest under the municipal code, which prohibits
businesses that violate state or federal law, and prohibits uses not
explicitly allowed in commercial areas.

Since these facilities are not explicitly allowed in Lake Forest, they
are not permitted within the city, Smith said.