Thursday, July 29, 2010

New Jersey’s Medical Marijuana Law Loses Planned Grower and Dispensers

Five months before its new medical marijuana law is set to take effect, New Jersey this week moved further away from having answers to basic questions about how the law will work — specifically, who will grow the marijuana and who will dispense it.

Gov. Chris Christie’s administration had been pursuing a plan to make Rutgers University the only approved cultivator of cannabis, and to make teaching hospitals the only places where patients could get it.

But on Thursday, Rutgers announced that it would not participate for fear of losing grants from the federal government. State officials said the hospitals had the same concern.

State laws legalizing medical marijuana are at odds with federal law. The Obama administration has stopped the practice of raiding marijuana dispensaries in those states, but the Drug Enforcement Administration remains reluctant to grant permission to grow the plants, even for medical research.

“This is genuinely something we were interested in doing,” said Robert M. Goodman, the executive dean of agriculture and natural resources at Rutgers. “We have agricultural stations; we have programs in medicinally reactive plants, in chemical biology, in pharmacy. It’s a potential new crop for the state, and we’re interested in promoting the state’s economy.”

But, he added, “it just puts too much at risk,” jeopardizing research grants, contracts, student aid or other funds from Washington.

Fourteen states have passed laws allowing medical use of marijuana, but New Jersey’s, signed in January, is in some ways the strictest. The law was written to prevent the proliferation of growers and dispensaries seen in states like California and Colorado, at first limiting the state to six dispensaries run by nonprofits, and it prohibits patients from growing the plants themselves.

New Jersey allows doctors to prescribe marijuana only for patients with terminal illness or a fairly limited set of specific, chronic conditions, and limits each person to two ounces per month, compared with as much as 24 ounces in other states.

Governor Christie, a Republican who took office days after the law was enacted, has sought to make it still more restrictive in the way it is carried out. The administration is supposed to put regulations in place for carrying out the law by Oct. 1, and the law is scheduled to go into effect on Jan. 1.

Michael Drewniak, the governor’s chief spokesman, said Friday that the administration still expected to have dispensaries ready to open in 2011.

“As we’ve said all along, we’ve been considering other options beyond the Rutgers plan,” Mr. Drewniak said, “and we will continue working diligently to implement a high-quality and secure program.” He declined to elaborate.

The governor is angry about the university’s decision, according to officials who were granted anonymity to comment on private discussions, and so are some legislators. Assemblyman Reed Gusciora, a Democrat from Mercer County who was one of the primary sponsors of the legalization bill, said “the university is chickening out” by not testing federal authorities’ willingness to grant a waiver.

State Senator Nicholas P. Scutari, a Democrat from Linden who was the other main sponsor, said that Mr. Christie wanted too much control over the program and that the state would have no choice but to approve private growers.

“We’ve known this was going to be a concern for Rutgers from the get-go, but the administration indicated no, it’s not going to be a problem,” Mr. Scutari said. And the hospitals, he said, “have got the same exact issue.”

The New Jersey Council of Teaching Hospitals declined to comment, but several people briefed on the discussions said the hospitals wanted some kind of guarantee that they would not be jeopardizing federal money.

Mr. Christie has said he had concerns about how to carry out the law with enough security. At his request, the Legislature delayed putting the law into effect for 90 days.

The plan to use Rutgers and teaching hospitals would have given the state far more direct control over the program than the Legislature intended, but for the most part, lawmakers said they were amenable to the idea if it would work.

California ACLU Affiliates Endorse Prop 19

For Immediate Release: July 22, 2010
Contact: Laura Saponara, ACLU-NC, 415.621.2493

California ACLU Affiliates Endorse Proposition 19's Move Toward a Rational Marijuana Policy

LOS ANGELES, Calif. - The California affiliates of the American Civil Liberties Union today announced their endorsement of Proposition 19, the initiative on the November 2010 ballot that would allow state regulation of marijuana.

Enforcement of marijuana prohibition consumes a great deal of California's law enforcement and court system resources, and has a disproportionate impact on communities of color. Proposition 19 would allow adults age 21 and older to possess and grow small amounts of their own marijuana for personal use, and would allow cities and counties to regulate and tax commercial sales. Unless individual cities and counties enact local regulatory structures, marijuana sale would remain illegal under state law.

The three California affiliates of the ACLU have 96,000 members combined and join a broad coalition supporting Proposition 19's common sense approach to controlling marijuana. Supporters of the initiative include former U.S. Surgeon General Jocelyn Elders, the California NAACP, labor unions, and law enforcement officials from around the state.

In 2008, California police made 60,000 marijuana possession arrests, the majority of them young men of color. The arrests, however, do not indicate actual marijuana usage. A new report from the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) reveals distinct racial disparities in California arrests for low-level marijuana possession. Data in the report reveal that African Americans in California are more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than whites, but more white youth use marijuana than black youth.

"California makes tens of thousands of arrests each year for simply possessing small amounts of marijuana. These arrests overload our already stressed courts and jails and divert scarce public safety dollars that could be used to address violent crime," said Kelli M. Evans, associate director at the ACLU of Northern California.

The California Legislative Analyst's Office cites that Proposition 19 would allow "redirection of court and law enforcement resources to solving violent crimes."

"The significant racial disparities in marijuana possession arrests have serious consequences, for young men of color in particular. The impact of a misdemeanor conviction for marijuana possession creates barriers in finding a house, a job, and even a school loan," said Ramona Ripston, ACLU/SC executive director.

In Los Angeles County alone, the marijuana possession arrest rate of African Americans is more than 300% higher than the same arrest rate of whites, although blacks made up less than 10% of the county's population, according to the DPA report.

"Proposition 19 is smart policy that would regulate and tax marijuana for adults, just like alcohol and tobacco," said Kevin Keenan, executive director of the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Voters asked to expand Oregon's medical marijuana law

EUGENE, Ore. - Oregon voters will decide in November if the state should have dispensaries to sell medical marijuana.

Supporters of the idea gathered enough signatures to put the issue on the November ballot.

Alice Ivany, who lives near Newport, was one of the chief petitioners for the initiative. She said marijuana has totally improved the quality of her life. "It works for pain like no other medication out there," she said.

It will be up to voters to decide if Oregon's medical marijuana act should be expanded. Ivany said the original law in Oregon didn't go far enough.

"As wonderful as the original act is, it still was fatally flawed in that it did not allow safe, legal access for patients to obtain medical cannabis," she said.

She believes a regulated medical marijuana supply, sold in dispensaries, will be much safer for Oregonians. "Not only are you exposed to dangerous people but you don't know exactly what you're getting," she said. "The medicine could be tainted with other drugs."

Oregonians right now are required to grow their own marijuana or have to find someone to do it for them. They are also limited to 6 mature plants and 24 ounces of marijuana. If voters approve the ballot measure in November, patients could buy their pot at a dispensary or continue to grow their own - as long as they have a license.

The new law would allow dispensaries to have 24 plants and 96 ounces of marijuana, and the state would regulate sales. The dispensaries could not be located within 1,000 feet of a school or in a residential area.

If voters say no, the state's medical marijuana law will stay as it is. This is not the first time the issue has been up for a vote in Oregon. Voters rejected a measure to set up dispensaries back in 2004.

KVAL News talked to foes of the measure. Hear why they oppose dispensaries on KVAL 13 TV News Friday night and on

19.25% TAX on MEDICATION!!!!!


The City of San Jose is trying to put in place a 10% SALES TAX in
addition to the states 9.25% sales tax.. Taxing medication in SJ at

With a survey of less then 800 "likely voters," of which over 50% were
over 45-White/Caucasians, and 80% lived in single family homes, the
city of San Jose has come to the conclusion that a 10% sales tax for
medical cannabis is appropriate. The survey they used is both
confusing and misleading. This is another attempt by the powers at be
to chase medical cannabis out of San Jose. A 19.25% tax would drive
medical patients back to the streets, where no tax is charged or out
of town for their medication

San Jose's goal is to place the 10% tax on the November Ballot, at the
next city council meeting August 3rd, 2010

Review the survey & potential ballot measures yourself:




The Marijuana Business Tax Measure is item 3.3.c of the Agenda


Friday, July 23, 2010

Christie’s making medical marijuana unworkable for New Jersey’s patients

The Christie administration is contemplating making the nation's most restrictive medical marijuana law even more restrictive. Lawmakers do so at the expense of patients' well being.

To review: in January, after years of debate, outgoing Democrat Governor Jon Corzine signed legislation making New Jersey the fourteenth state in the nation to allow for the state-authorized use of medical cannabis by qualified patients. The measure, known as The New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act, authorizes select patients with a physician's recommendation to possess and obtain medical cannabis from up to six state-authorized "alternative treatment centers." Unlike the laws in thirteen others states, state-qualified patients are not legally permitted to grow their own marijuana, nor are they allowed to legally consume marijuana to mitigate the symptoms of chronic painful conditions.

Yet these safeguards apparently provide little comfort to Gov. Chris Christie. Recently, the Governor has proposed amending state law so that patients would only be eligible to obtain medical cannabis in state hospitals. He has also proposed limiting the cultivation of marijuana to a single supply source at Rutgers University. Lawmakers ought oppose to these amendments, which are unnecessary and, if enacted, would make New Jersey's law totally unworkable for patients.

How so? Consider this: For over nine years the University of Massachusetts has sought — unsuccessfully — to cultivate marijuana for medical research purposes. The University even went so far as to file a legal challenge with the DEA — which it won — to gain permission to grow pot. Yet in 2009 the DEA's acting director overruled the determination of the agency's own administrative law judge in order to prohibit UMass from growing even a single marijuana plant — citing that allowing the University to do so would be in violation of international conventions. It is unlikely that a similar plan at Rutgers University would be met with any greater success.

Moreover, centralizing the supply of medical-grade cannabis severely limits patients' options. The efficacy of cannabis as a medicine is derived from its various active therapeutic components, known as cannabinoids. Different strains of marijuana vary in their therapeutic prowess based on their percentages of distinct cannabinoids. By limiting patients' legal access to only one or two specific varieties of cannabis, lawmakers are needlessly consolidating the total number of patients that may be helped under the law.

Finally, it is burdensome and unnecessary to limit patients' use of medical marijuana solely to hospitals. As stated in 1988 by no less than the DEA's own administrative law judge, "Marijuana, in its natural form, is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man." The plant's compounds are virtually non-toxic to healthy cells and organs, do not depress the central nervous system, and are incapable of causing a fatal overdose.

In fact, a 2008 meta-analysis published in the Journal of the Canadian Medical Association (CMAJ) reported that cannabis-based drugs were associated with virtually no elevated incidences of serious adverse side effects in over 30 years of investigative use. To place this finding in proper perspective, consider this: taking just a small amount of acetaminophen (Tylenol) over the recommended total daily dose has been conclusively shown to cause liver damage and death. It is arbitrary and unnecessary for the Governor to propose impose restrictions regarding the use of medical marijuana that are more stringent than the regulations already in place governing the distribution and use of other doctor recommended medications.

The bottom line is this. Seriously ill patients in New Jersey have already waited years for legislative relief and safe access to medical marijuana. Lawmakers should reject any further amendments or delays to the New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act.

Paul Armentano is the Deputy Director of NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, and he is the co-author of the book "Marijuana Is Safer: So Why Are We Driving People to Drink?" (Chelsea Green, 2009).

Santa Barbara Set to Implement New Marijuana Ordinance

Santa Barbara’s new ordinance on medical marijuana goes into effect July 29, and city officials are readying themselves to implement the new requirements.

After nearly a year of revisionary meetings, the consensus called for a three-storefront citywide cap and stricter security and operational rules.

Only one of the three permitted storefronts — at 331 N. Milpas St. — can stay, and all other locations have six months to shape up, with a permit under the new ordinance, or close up.

Under the new ordinance, members must live within Santa Barbara County and have a valid doctor’s recommendation, cultivation must be within the Tri-Counties and the operations can’t turn a profit — though reasonable compensation is thought to be acceptable. Vending machines are OK, as long as they’re located within a permitted collective dispensary, and edible products also are allowed.

In fact, according to the ordinance, anyone who “assists” in preparing the edibles will be viewed as “an individual who provides assistance to a qualified patient or person with an identification card, or his or her designated primary caregiver, in administering medical marijuana to a qualified patient …” as the phrase is mentioned in the Health and Safety Code.

Criminal Investigations

While the zoning ordinance requires operators to comply with state laws — such as being nonprofit — a permit is by no means a get-out-of-jail-free card.

The Pacific Coast Collective is permitted at 331 N. Milpas St., but after a traffic stop prompted an investigation, the owner was arrested and charged with cultivation and possession for sales of marijuana, and the storefront was temporarily shut down, Santa Barbara police Capt. Armando Martel said.

Martel, who represented police at most city meetings on the subject, is a 25-year veteran of the department in charge of the investigative division.

Local law enforcement agencies have conducted raids on several city dispensaries and residences, which yielded arrests and seizures of marijuana and cash for evidence purposes.

“The city takes people for face value when they say, ‘I’m going to open up this business,’” he said. “(The city) isn’t endorsing them — there’s an assumption that the business owners are going to obey laws.”

Regardless of civil actions, the police department will always investigate potential law violations, whether they’re reported by the public or discovered by police personnel, Martel said.

“Don’t think that I or anyone else thinks, ‘I’m going to go to a dispensary and pick on them,’” he said.

Investigations into the storefront collective and dispensary raids are resource-and-time intensive and can take four to six months from the start to getting warrants and taking enforcement action, Martel said.

Enforcing the Ordinance

Danny Kato, a senior planner with the city’s Community Development Department, had stayed busy with storefront-collective applications and ordinance updates, but has found a reprieve now that policy decisions are made.

He said he’s in the middle of writing letters to all known dispensaries telling them to close or update their applications.

Many applications stuck in limbo while the moratorium was in place are no longer valid, Kato said, leaving at least three current owners vying for two open spots — all of whom ignored cease-and-desist letters issued by the city attorney.

The Santa Barbara Patients Group has an application for a new location, and The Compassion Center on De la Vina Street and Hortipharm on Upper State Street have applications submitted with updated operational plans to comply with the new ordinance.

The owners of the Pacific Coast Collective and Hortipharm were arrested on charges of possession of marijuana for sales after investigations into compliance with the Compassionate Use Act of 1996.

The Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office is prosecuting cases involving six dispensaries, four of which are within city limits, District Attorney Joyce Dudley told Noozhawk in an e-mail.

She said that everyone arrested in connection with those cases are awaiting preliminary hearings, most of which are scheduled for August or September.

No owner of a dispensary can have a felony conviction, but the city takes no action on arrests alone, Kato said.

“We’re not going to try to revoke their permit just on the arrest,” he said of the Pacific Coast Collective.

Although some owners have been involved in court action with the city over shutting down, Kato said none complied right away with the cease-and-desist letters.

City Resources

Enforcement and the processing of applications can be a drain on the police department, the city attorney’s office and the community development department, but the heavy implementation process could be short-lived.

A new $120-per-hour fee for processing applications is designed to help with cost recovery, and after the six-month deadline to comply or shut down, there will be only three to deal with, Kato said.

Plans for annual reviews and record-keeping, with cooperation from the police department, are still being developed, but operators of storefront collectives must keep all financial, membership and cultivation records on hand for three years and make them available to city staff.

New applications will be accepted through July 29, though chances could be slim as there are many people fighting for two available spots.

“You could spend a lot of money and not even get the chance to present your case,” Kato said.

Other Jurisdictions

Santa Barbara County is one of 15 in California with a moratorium against dispensaries, and the city is one of 36 with an ordinance, according to Americans for Safe Access.

Many jurisdictions have their eyes on the November ballot measure that proposes legalizing the use of marijuana, and 101 cities have adopted moratoria and another 132 have bans. The Santa Barbara City Council approved a ballot measure for November that would ban all storefront collectives.

Just recently, the Ventura City Council continued its moratorium. During the meeting, some people made references to Santa Barbara, calling it a marijuana mecca, and said the distinction between legitimate collectives and for-profit dispensaries is too difficult to discern, according to the Ventura County Star.

The nearest areas with an ordinance allowing dispensaries are cities in Santa Clara County, Tulare County or the Long Beach area, depending on which way you’re driving.

— Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Medical marijuana provides an economic boost in Montana

The rapid growth of Montana’s medical marijuana community has fueled a local economy but isn’t making anyone rich, yet. In the past two years, the state’s licensed patient pool has grown to 20,000 who are supplied by nearly 4,000 caregivers. Montana allows small individual growers to provide the supply of medical marijuana, whereas in New Mexico growing is limited to state approved non-profits or licensed patients themselves. The result in Montana is a flourishing medical marijuana cottage industry, reports the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, that generates millions in economic activity in various sectors of the economy.

As the Daily Chronicle reported:

After the home construction market crashed, medical marijuana has helped “a massive amount,” said Ron Boston, president of Comfort Systems, a Bozeman ventilation, heating and air-conditioning business. “It has put a jump start to part of our business.”

Boston stressed his company is reputable and only agreed to install ventilation systems for marijuana growers because it isn’t breaking any laws. New systems can cost $8,000 to $20,000, he said. The new business allowed him to hire a couple people.

“In a downturn, you’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do to survive,” Boston said.

The paper said the industry had benefitted garden supply stores, “lawyers, accountants, builders, electricians, Web page designers and commercial real estate brokers.”

The executive director of the Montana Medical Growers Association said growers have spent $17 million on start-up costs for things like lights, nutrients, soils, odor abatement gear, security, lawyers and insurance. Then, there are the utilities, rent, and employees to help tend the plants in a routine similar to the doting that’s required for orchids.

Oakland poised to cash in on medical marijuana boom

OAKLAND — Oakland is ready to cash in on the medical marijuana boom — and perhaps recreational pot use — now that the City Council agreed to license and tax four industrial-sized marijuana farms and promised to review policies that exclude small and medium-size farmers who grow the marijuana sold at the city's four dispensaries.

Hundreds of small growers and collectives complained that the new ordinance could drive them out of business, despite having risked arrest to supply $28 million worth of medical marijuana sold at dispensaries last year.

The city intends to crack down on growers who are not permitted or exceed the growing guidelines established for patients and caregivers, but agreed to delay enforcement until the large cultivation, manufacturing and processing permits are issued in January.

The delay gives city staff members time to develop a point system for evaluating the applications and return to the council with recommendations for ensuring the licensed growers will follow fair labor and local hiring policies as well as sound environmental practices.

It will also allow time for the public safety committee in the fall to figure out how or if independent small and medium-size growers should be regulated and taxed.

Oakland Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan, who co-authored the cultivation ordinance with Councilmember Larry Reid, assured the small farmers that the city would work on creating permits for medium-size facilities, and reassured medical-marijuana patients that licensing large farms does not prevent them from growing their own plants or selling to dispensaries as long as they are within the city's guidelines.

"We are at a time when medical cannabis is a growing and emerging industry," she said. "There is a growing demand to have permitted facilities, not just (to reduce) danger, but to provide good products, good paying jobs and to provide revenue for public safety."

Councilmember Nancy Nadel voted no and Councilmembers Jean Quan and Jane Brunner abstained. They supported the regulation but had questions about the criteria for selection, local hiring, environmental issues and the amount of tax revenue the cultivation operations would generate. Nadel wanted to delay a vote until the small and medium-size growers could be included.

The city will issue a request for proposals for four Cannabis Cultivation, Manufacturing and Processing Facility permits. Several people have expressed interest, among them Dhar Mann, a founder of iGrow, a hydroponic superstore in East Oakland, and Jeff Wilcox, a businessman who owns several acres of light industrial land along the Embarcadero.

Each applicant must pay a $5,000 fee to cover administrative costs for background checks and to review business and site plans.

Once selected, the four permitted cultivation businesses will be charged an annual $211,000 regulatory fee that will be used to hire staff members and develop and sustain a program to oversee the cultivators, similar to the team that oversees compliance and complaints about the city's liquor establishments.

The permitted facilities must be in industrially zoned areas of the city and meet all relevant building and fire codes, hire security guards and maintain security cameras, and carry sufficient liability insurance.

"(Passing this resolution) will actually decrease public safety," said Dan Grace, a small grower with five employees. "It will create an environment where small growers will have to go back underground, where they will not be able to get electrical permits. We actually do our best to be above board and follow safety regulations."

Steve DeAngelo, executive director of the Harborside Health Center dispensary, said he supports the licensing and regulation of the industry, but he wants to make sure that the more than 500 small and medium-sized growers who supply his business are included.

"They are not miscreants. "... These courageous growers have taken serious risks to provide medical marijuana to those who need it. Let's create a system that legitimizes all growers," he said.

Reid, co-author of the cultivation ordinance, said the new regulations would ensure that patients receive a high-quality product grown at a safe, regulated facility. He said the regulation is also needed to cut down on the numbers of fires, robberies and shooting crimes that are rampant among bootleg growers who take over homes in residential areas or in small warehouses.

He said there is nothing to prevent the small growers or collectives from banding together to apply for one of the four cultivation permits.

James Anthony, attorney for Harborside, said that's exactly what they intend to do. He said the permit application would include existing individual and small collective cultivators. Anthony also said he was hopeful that the council would take action to include the small cultivators in the fall.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Medical marijuana myths ‘disposed’ at El Centro City Council meeting

Cannabis is an effective pain reliever and helps overcome side effects of chronic pain medicine, said Dr. Wally Marsh at Tuesday’s El Centro City Council meeting.

Medical marijuana was a topic of discussion at the meeting as three people came before the council to “dispose myths of medical marijuana,” Marsh said.

Marsh was an ophthalmologist for more than 40 years in Lompoc near Santa Barbara before switching to a cannabis consultant two years ago, he said. He sees medical marijuana as a “wonder drug,” not only being natural but also with the potential to benefit a lot of people. However, residents here don’t have access to it.

“I would like to see this council clear the way for people to buy marijuana in a safe way,” he said.

El Centro resident Joann Villareal agreed. Villareal was the director at the alleged dispensary that was shut down last week.

“I’m here for the patients of El Centro,” she said to the council, adding that a collective or dispensary is a safe environment for patients. “We’re just looking for some help from you.”

In the three weeks the collective on Fifth Street in El Centro was open, people from all walks of life, including veterans, the elderly and those in wheelchairs, came in to get help, she said.

“These are medical patients with needs,” she said.

Placing a moratorium, as the city had done, is taking away rights from collectives, said Lanny Swerdlow, registered nurse and medical marijuana activist from Riverside. Patients need the medicine, and the city must enforce state law.

The city placed a moratorium on dispensaries at its April 21 meeting, and later extended the hold at the June 2 meeting.

There were multiple reasons that Mayor Cheryl Viegas-Walker previously said as to why the city decided to wait until the beginning of October to take action. The first was to await a decision in the appellate court about another city banning marijuana dispensaries.

The moratorium also allowed staff time to find an appropriate land zone to classify a dispensary, she said. The final reason was to see what the outcome of the November election will be as one of the ballot measures would be whether to legalize marijuana for all adults in California.

“It’s an issue that isn’t going away,” she told the three, who said they would be back at other meetings to discuss the issue.

Oregon to Vote on Medical Marijuana Dispensaries in November

Oregon voters will decide in November if the state should have medical marijuana dispensaries in the spirit of California and Colorado. A ballot initiative, known as I-28, would legalize nonprofit medical marijuana dispensaries to sell marijuana to card-carrying patients. According to Oregon Business, the initiative barely qualified for November’s ballot (

The Secretary of State’s office has announced that I-28, the medical marijuana dispensary initiative, has qualified for the November 2 ballot.

Organizers of the I-28 campaign turned in 130,702 signatures, 85,848 of which turned out to be valid, narrowly exceeding the required number of 82,769 valid signatures. A separate campaign to legalize marijuana and sell it through state-run liquor stores went nowhere.

The idea behind I-28 is to allow people to set up nonprofit dispensaries for selling marijuana to people holding medical marijuana cards. The system would be overseen by the state health department.

Such a system would almost certainly result in a gold rush to tap into the growing market for legal weed, which has been lucratively exploited in California and Colorado. Marijuana is the nation’s largest cash crop, and any move to update regulations controlling how it is grown and sold will create opportunities within Oregon’s already sizable marijuana business. Just because an operation is a nonprofit doesn’t mean it can’t bring in big money. The dispensaries also would bring new revenue into state government from license fees.

As this article notes, an initiative to legalize marijuana failed quite miserably. The Oregon Tax Cannabis Act of 2010, sponsored by the Oregon chapter of NORML, gathered only 12,000 signatures of the 83,000 required. A similar initiative in Washington missed the ballot by a hair. Expect these two Western states, along with Colorado, to try again with full force to put legalization on the ballot in 2012.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Portland accepts medical marijuana dispensaries into business zones

PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- The Portland City Council has unanimously agreed to include a medical marijuana dispensary in the city's business zoning ordinance.

Three companies have been selected to dispense medical marijuana in Maine to patients suffering from a number of illnesses from cancer to AIDs.

The dispensaries will be located in six areas of the state including downtown Portland.

The state has agreed to allow Northeast Patients Group to set up dispensaries in Portland, Thomaston, Augusta or Waterville, and Hermon.

Now that Portland's ordinance allows it anywhere within the business 2, 3, and 7 zones of the city, there are a number of places the group is looking to move into.

One key location under discussion now is the former location of a Key Bank on the corner of Congress and St. John Streets.

But one major concern is that it's too tight of an area to accommodate a lot of traffic.

Another concern some have is that it's within 500 feet of the Deliverance Center, a church that holds classes for kids and rehabilitates drug and alcohol abusers.

A third concern is safety; as with any pharmacy, there's strong potential for the dispensary to get robbed. Executive Director of Northeast Patients Group, Becky Dekeuster, says they will have a security guard on-site 24 hours a day.

Applications for prospective dispensaries in two districts, York County and Washington & Hancock Counties, didn't score high enough to make the cut.

Companies with low scores can make changes and apply again through August 20th.

Northeast Patients Group hopes to have dispensaries up and running before December 31st.

California Blacks Split Over Marijuana Measure

SACRAMENTO — Ron Allen says he knows all too well the ravages of drug addiction.

“I was a pastor on crack cocaine, sir,” said Mr. Allen, who says he has been sober for 11 years and now identifies himself as the bishop of the International Faith Based Coalition here. “Drugs have no religious preference.”

And while crack cocaine laid him low, Mr. Allen says his first drug of choice was marijuana. So it is that Mr. Allen and a cadre of other black pastors, priests and other religious leaders have bonded together in recent weeks to fight what they see as a potentially devastating blow to their communities: Proposition 19, the California ballot measure that would tax and regulate marijuana.

In doing so, Mr. Allen and his followers have opened a new, potentially crucial front in the battle over Proposition 19, pitting those afraid of more widespread use of the drug versus those who see legalization as “an exit strategy in the war on marijuana.”

Mr. Allen has been particularly critical of Alice A. Huffman, the president of the California branch of the N.A.A.C.P., who has been vocal in her support for the measure, casting it as a potential victory for civil rights that could help reduce the number of young black men jailed on marijuana-related offenses.

“I’m not encouraging anyone to recreationally use marijuana,” said Ms. Huffman. “I am simply focused on the injustice and the disparities in the criminal justice system.”

How black voters in California decide on Proposition 19, which would allow anyone 21 and over to possess up to an ounce of marijuana, could be critical to its success or failure. (At the moment, possession of more than 28.5 grams of marijuana, about an ounce, is punishable in most cases by up to six months in prison and a $500 fine.)

Blacks make up less than 10 percent of the population in California, but unlike two larger minority groups in the state where opinions on the measure are also split — Asians and Latinos — their “participation in elections is on par with their populations,” according to the California Voter Foundation, a nonprofit group here.

In the case of Proposition 19 — which is trailing narrowly in a recent Field Poll — appeals to that potential swing bloc have already begun, and the measure’s backers have been seeking out the support of prominent black leaders. Last week, proponents secured what they view as a major endorsement, that of Dr. Joycelyn Elders, the former United States surgeon general and the first black to hold that position.

In a statement to be published in a voter guide, Dr. Elders said the legalization bill would help divert law enforcement resources to more serious threats. “We can let police prevent violent crime, or we can accept the status quo, and keep wasting resources sending tens of thousands of nonviolent marijuana consumers — a disproportionate number who are minorities — to jail,” Dr. Elders wrote.

Kamala D. Harris, the San Francisco district attorney, who is black, joined the opposition last week. Ms. Harris, who is running for state attorney general, issued a statement saying that the proposition would encourage “driving while high” and drugs in the workplace.

Enforcement of marijuana possession laws is a touchy topic among many blacks here and nationwide.

This month, the Drug Policy Alliance — a New York group that is supporting Proposition 19 — released a study showing that blacks were arrested for possession at far higher rates than whites in California’s 25 largest counties, often two or three times higher. In those 25 counties, blacks make up 7 percent of the population but accounted for 20 percent of the marijuana possession arrests; in Los Angeles County, which accounts for about a quarter of the state’s population, blacks were arrested for marijuana possession at three times the rate of whites.

At the moment, 1,515 people are in California prisons on marijuana charges, 750 of them black, state corrections officials say.

The study’s author, Harry G. Levine, a professor of sociology at Queens College who has discovered similar trends in marijuana arrests in New York City, said that the impact of those arrests could be profound.

“A criminal record lasts a lifetime,” Mr. Levine wrote. “The explosive growth of criminal record databases, and the ease with which those databases can be accessed on the Internet, creates barriers to employment, housing and education for anyone simply arrested for drug possession.”

Rob MacCoun, a professor of law and public policy at the University of California, Berkeley, who has studied marijuana use in America, said there was little doubt that blacks — particularly black men — bore the brunt of arrests for marijuana.

“The arrest statistics are disproportionate with respect to African-Americans and disproportionate with respect to use,” said Mr. MacCoun. “And that’s very hard to justify in any way.”

And while Mr. MacCoun said he was not certain that a ballot measure was the way to address that inequity, he said the positioning of Proposition 19 as a civil rights issue could be a potent selling point.

“I don’t think it’s decisive for all voters,” Mr. MacCoun said. “But I think it’s an important argument, and I think it’s going to carry weight with some people.”

Mr. MacCoun was one of several authors of a report issued this month by the RAND Corporation that found that legalization could double the use of the drug in California — of the 15 million Americans who regularly use marijuana, the study found, about 1.9 million of them, or 13 percent, are in California — and slash the price by up to 80 percent.

Opponents of Proposition 19 seized on the report as evidence of the potential damage of legalization. They were also cheered by the Field Poll, taken on July 9, which showed that support for the measure had dropped to 44 percent, with 48 percent disapproving, equal to national levels of support for legalization.

The poll found only 40 percent of black voters backing the proposition with 52 percent opposed. But white people are supporting the measure, 48 to 43 percent.

Mr. MacCoun cautioned that polls could be deceptive on the issue, because of the longtime stigma surrounding drug use.

“If you get called on the phone, people may be uncomfortable saying that they support a marijuana initiative,” he said. “But for years, I’ve had people come up to me — grown-ups in corporate America — and say to me, sotto voce, ‘If it were up to me, I’d legalize it.’ “

On the ground, meanwhile, Mr. Allen and his followers have continued to campaign against the referendum. At a recent rally on the steps of the state capitol here, several pastors used fiery language to rally a small crowd, calling for Ms. Huffman’s resignation, describing marijuana as “the most sinister drug,” and asking that “the demonic spirits be cast back into hell.”

“How stupid to think that by legalizing a vice it’s going to help the situation,” said Darryl B. Heath, pastor of St. John Baptist Missionary Baptist Church in Sacramento. “This is not a game. A whole generation is at stake.”

For her part, Ms. Huffman shows no signs of backing off her support for the proposition, saying her critics “have got their heads in the sand” when it comes to the reality of drug use, and enforcement, in America.

She also scoffed at the notion that she would bend to their calls for her resignation.

“Why in the world would I allow a bunch of locals who don’t amount to anything run me out of office?” she said. “When they come up with a solution, they can look me up.”

Malia Wollan contributed reporting from San Francisco.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Legal pot wouldn't stop office testing

If California ever legalizes marijuana usage, employers will still have the right to test employees for it, experts say, because the proposed laws don’t offer new protections in the workplace.

“The employers will continue to have the right to determine what level of impairments they allow in their workplaces,” said Karen Gabler, an Oxnard lawyer who specializes in labor law.

Marijuana wouldn’t be treated differently than prescription medicines or other legal substances that cause impairment, Gabler said, should legalization occur under a new bill alive in the state Assembly, AB 2254, or Proposition 19 on the Nov. 2 ballot.

“Alcohol has been legal for a long time, but you’re still not permitted to be under the influence of alcohol in the workplace,” she said.

But marijuana remains in the system longer than alcohol, and may register on tests long after smokers feel any effect. A smoker could test positive for the drug even a week after smoking marijuana.

“We don’t want the employer independently analyzing whether the employee is truly ‘under the influence’ because it’s too subjective,” she said.

It’s up to employees to decide whether to raise the issue and challenge the adequacy of drug tests as a gauge for measuring impairment, lawyers say.

If an employee is smoking marijuana for legitimate medicinal purposes, Gabler said employers would treat it like a disability and offer employees a leave of absence until they finish treatment.

Lawsuits have been brought by medical marijuana users who argue they are entitled to protection from medical discrimination, and have rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The conundrum for legal scholars is that under the Americans with Disabilities Act, a person who takes “illegal drugs” is not a “qualified individual with a disability.”

Whether medical marijuana is technically “illegal” under the act is a question being debated, as it’s not illegal in certain states, but is a crime under federal law.

Rhode Island took care of the issue by enacting a medical marijuana law that explicitly states employers cannot discriminate against medical marijuana users. But neither of the proposed laws in California would protect a medical marijuana patient from employment discrimination, according to Tamar Todd, an attorney with the Drug Policy Alliance in Berkeley.

Were either to become law, Todd agrees that little would change in the workplace. Common law — a 2008 case called Ross v. RagingWire Telecommunications Inc. — would still govern workplace issues concerning medical marijuana.

“Since that case is currently controlling law in California,” Todd said, “employers in California can fire patients for their medical use. California companies don’t really need to come up with a defense for firing patients because the California Supreme Court has said it is legal for them to.”

A change in the law also wouldn’t warrant new policies for random drug testing.

Random testing can be conducted under limited circumstances under current law, Gabler said. For example, random testing can occur if an employee works a job where safety is an issue. Testing can also be conducted when there’s “reasonable suspicion that an employee is currently under the influence.”

“Reasonable suspicion is the key,” said Gina Hudak, a third-party administrator for drug and alcohol testing programs in the workplace who does training for Ventura County companies and public agencies.

“There has to be reasonable suspicion,” she said “It can’t be somebody comes to the employer and says, ‘hey, I know so-and-so smokes pot.’”

Management has to be trained in what to look for, she said, and “be able to articulate that there’s something about the person that indicates they’re impaired because there’s something out of the ordinary about their speech, behavior or appearance.”

Suspects In Marijuana Money-Laundering Case Arrested

SHERMAN OAKS — An investigation in a massive marijuana money-laundering case has pointed detectives to a dispensary in the San Fernando Valley area. It is believed that the dispensary unlawfully sold millions of dollars worth of marijuana and attempted to conceal the profits by transferring the money between illegitimate businesses, according to officials. (Brett adds - While not identified in this story the dispensary that this marijuana was allegedly grown for was Golden State Collective in Granada Hills.)

The suspects in the case are 26-year-old Northridge resident Jimmy Silva, and Sherman Oaks residents 55-year-old Steven Kall and 47-year-old Anne Adams. A search warrant affidavit indicates that the three individuals allegedly laundered drug sales valued at $2.18 million during from 2007 to 2009.

On July 3, Kall and Adams were reportedly taken into custody while in Las Vegas, and have a bail amount set at $750,000 for Kall and $250,000 for Adams. Silva was taken into custody in Northridge, but was released on $250,000 after entering a not guilty plea to the charges made against him.

The suspects were arrested as a result of an investigation that lasted for approximately a year, and originated after investigators received a tip about a marijuana farm in a residence in Lockwood Valley, according to the Ventura County Sheriff. After a search warrant was executed at the home, approximately 1,000 marijuana plants were discovered. Kall reportedly indicated that the plants were being cultivated for medical purposes in connection to a Granada Hills dispensary.

A search of the dispensary, a number of homes, (including a Sherman Oaks apartment in which Kall and Adams lived), and bank accounts connected to the defendants uncovered that $3 million worth of marijuana was being sold each year during the operation. According to written documents, the marijuana profits were being transferred from one account to another in an attempt to cover its actual source. Further investigation later determined that millions of dollars was still missing, so a search was conducted to find a possible hidden cache for the missing profits. According to investigators, a man who had previous involvement in the collective had also indicated that the Kall and Adams may have purchased marijuana from individuals who did not work for the collective. It is also believed that the suspects may have used the profits to purchase expensive or luxurious items.

Kall is reportedly facing charges involving 109 counts of felony money laundering and one count of promoting an area in which to cultivate marijuana. His co-defendant, Adams, faces charges involving 13 counts of felony money laundering and nine counts of felony money-laundering respectively. Kall and Adams are expected to be arraigned. Officials indicate that the two suspects are also to receive sentencings for other felony drug charges for which they had previously entered guilty pleas.

Silva currently has pled not guilty to all charges and has a pre-trial conference scheduled for July 23. Kall and Adams have had their arraignment on the indictment continued to July 23, according to the County of Ventura District Attorney.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Al Martinez: Do we need one more drug to shield us from reality?

I predict that by the end of the year the sale of marijuana will become so common in L.A. that Mom will be able to say, "Timmy, run down to Vons and get me a quart of milk, a loaf of sourdough bread, a pound of tomatoes and two ounces of pot."

Even though an effort is being made to limit the number of places that sell marijuana, and even barring home delivery, there will be no way to keep it totally under control.

Any effort to confine its sale to specific venues will be out the window by the time that old devil weed has made inroads into our culture. Fake prescriptions will pop up by the thousands and burden the marijuana stores to the extent that sellers will be expanded to include pet stores, gas stations, coffee shops and street vendors.

Its sale will satisfy not only its users but those who profit from it, including growers, sellers and the city. There's nothing like making money to keep a product in the public eye, or the public bong.

Kids who don't already have the habit will pick it up from their friends and parents and before you know it every third person in L.A. will be wearing a dim smile and calling everyone Dude; beggars will carry signs that say "Will work for Weed."

Marijuana has never been my drug of choice even though the very air reeked of burning hemp during the 1960s when I was covering the student uprisings in Berkeley. You could get stoned by just breathing. I was a martini man then and I'm a martini man now and I rarely smile, dimly or otherwise, and I call no one Dude.

That is not to say I've never tried the stuff. Since I was writing about them a lot I decided one evening to eat a sugar cube soaked in LSD. But instead of rising into psychedelic space or trying to fly out a window, I remained in my own world, as bland and colorless as it was. I just sat there drinking beer, of all things, and waiting for my soul to soar. It never did.

Someone remarked that I was unaffected because I couldn't tell the difference between fantasy and reality. It reminded me of the famous boozer/comic W.C. Fields who, when asked if he ever suffered delirium tremens from overdrinking, replied, "I can't tell where Hollywood ends and the d.t.'s begin."

Next, on a separate occasion, I tried a pipe loaded with kief, which is made from the crystals of a cannabis plant. There were maybe four couples involved, and after a few puffs, everyone fell asleep where they sat, practically in midconversation. Only my wife Cinelli declined to smoke the pipe and remembers the evening as very weird, with everyone slumped in their chairs like oversized rag dolls.

I guess that's the way it was about 2,000 years ago when the ancient Egyptians were using pot to treat sore eyes. It worked. After a sufficient number of hits the patients just fell asleep, thus closing their eyes. In such a state the soreness was gone.

One wonders what inroads the drug sellers will make next. Well, how about controlled cocaine parties? What you do for those inclined to sniff things up their noses other than decongestants is to confine the festivities to closed auditoriums, sell a certain amount of the drug to each partygoer and let them have the time of their lives until the coke is gone and they're too stoned to party any longer.

Then when the doors are open and they stumble out onto the streets, you arrest them for being under the influence of a banned substance, fine them and release them until the next coke party. There again, you see, everyone makes money, society gets its pound of flesh and no one is hurt.

A pamphlet once distributed out of Chicago warned that "friendly strangers" might try to sneak "marihuana" into your tea pot or your tobacco in the days when you rolled your own cigarettes, describing the drug as "a powerful narcotic in which lurks murder! Insanity! Death!" Wow!

I don't believe you necessarily go from one or two hits to becoming a serial killer. But I do wonder if our culture, already a little screwy, needs one more drug to shield it from the realities of the world we should be moving to face head-on before it's too late. To cure or relieve pain, sure. But where there's money to be made, I can't help but believe that the whole humanitarian process is going to be ridden like a drunken horse over the wishes of the people and we'll all go to hell smiling dimly and calling everyone Dude.

Al Martinez is a journalist and author for newspapers and magazines across the country and a frequent contributor to the Daily News. He can be reached at

Landmark 'Pot vs Anaheim' Appeal to Set Precedent This Week

California's balkanized approach to medical marijuana can mean profits or jail depending on where a patient lives. The most restrictive cities like Anaheim, Calif., have re-criminalized the drug, thereby setting up an appeals court showdown scheduled to end some time in the next seven days.

The California's 4th Appellate District Division Three will issue its opinion of 'Qualified Patients vs. Anaheim' by July 19th, capping a years-long appeal watched by thousands of patients, politicians, lawyers, and press. Qualified Patients' lawyer Anthony Curiale says cities cannot make growing and distributing medical marijuana illegal, because Prop 215 and SB420 took away the criminal penalties for doing so.

If the three-judge appellate court sides with Qualified Patients, and their reasoning is sound, it could set precedent used by lawyers across the state in battleground cities like Los Angeles, Costa Mesa, and San Jose. Anaheim City Attorney Moses W. Johnson said the city's ban has already stood up once in a trial court, and if it loses on appeal, Anaheim could take it to the state Supreme Court.

The appellate court could also rule in favor of Qualified Patients, but issue an unpublished opinion inapplicable to other cities, says Oakland lawyer Joseph Elford, counsel for Americans for Safe Access. “We're hoping it'll be a bellwether case, but there's no guarantee."

If Qualified Patients' appeal fails, California would simply become even more balkanized, says Curiale, with hard-line cities like San Leandro sending even more consumer dollars to cities like Oakland that tax and regulate the $14 billion a year agricultural product.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

County, city wait on courts, election to decide medical marijuana issue

BARSTOW • The county will continue to prohibit new medical marijuana dispensaries in unincorporated areas for another year. Dispensaries likely won’t be allowed within city limits for another 10 months either.

City officials will recommend extending Barstow’s current dispensary moratorium another 10 or 12 months when the Council revisits the issue next month, said Ron Rector, Barstow’s community and economic development director. The San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to extend the county’s moratorium on dispensaries for another year.

City and county officials are waiting on the outcome of several lawsuits against cities like Los Angeles and Anaheim by medical marijuana advocates before deciding if dispensaries should be allowed at all.

Officials are also waiting on a November ballot initiative to legalize and tax marijuana. If the initiative passes, officials will still have to deal with zoning issues, county spokesman, David Wert said.

“The community has concerns about that the way they would have concerns about a liquor store,” he said.

Barstow established a 45-day moratorium last August, mirroring the county, which suspended the issuing of permits to medical marijuana dispensaries for 45 days last June. After the county extended that moratorium another 10 months and 15 days in August, Barstow followed suit the following month.

When the Council established the moratorium last year, City Planner Mike Massimini had said the city had received inquiries about medical marijuana dispensaries and needed time to research community impacts. Now, until the city won’t take action until they know what the law is, Rector said.

“We’re not going to move into findings until we really understand what the rules are,” he said, adding that the city hasn’t had any more inquiries about marijuana dispensaries. “Once the rules are put in place by the courts, then we’ll know what they are and move forward to build our medical marijuana ordinance.”

Staff at a Yucca Valley clinic that provides two Barstow area clients with medical marijuana is also waiting to see what the rules will be. According to D.J. Ross, executive director for California Alternative Medical Solutions, he is waiting on the outcome of the Anaheim case.

“That (case) will affect the ability of cities and counties to enact a ban,” he said. “Yucca Valley on Tuesday (discussed) an outright ban within town limits, which would affect us, but we’re not going to close any time soon.”

When it comes to zoning concerns, Ross said the clinic he works for is located in a plaza with a karate school and a ballet school next door. California Alternative Medical Solutions sits 3,000 feet away from a school, and the nearest home is 500 to 700 feet away, he said.

Contact the writer:
(760) 256-4123 or

Will Medical Marijuana Lead to Criminal Reefer Madness in NY?

Earlier this week NYC's special narcotics prosecutor Bridget Brennan (website:!) fired off a letter ( to state legislators considering a bill that would legalize marijuana for medical purposes. Among her concerns, she feels that the bill would create a situation similar to LA, where pot dispensaries supposedly outnumber Starbucks. That's what we call Utopia, but it's Brennan's nightmare, and she thinks the New York bill is "far too loosely drawn, and offers no safeguards to protect the health of those who use it, and the safety of the communities where marijuana dispensaries would be located."

Brennan also argues that "dispensaries have proven to be public nuisances and magnets for crime," and criticizes the bill for not requiring a doctor in "good standing" to meet with a patient in person before writing a pot prescription. For counterpoint, we turn to Mike Meno, Director of Communications for the Marijuana Policy Project. He tells us, "Bridget Brennan’s fears are way off mark. New York’s medical marijuana bill is specifically crafted to safeguard against abuse through regulation—one of the many reasons it has garnered support from the likes of former Manhattan D.A. Robert Morgenthau and state Sen. Eric Adams, a former New York City police captain.

"Brennan believes, wrongly, that the bill would allow “an unlimited number of ‘unregulated’ marijuana dispensaries, which could be near schools or in high-crime neighborhoods.” In reality, New York’s dispensaries will be licensed, tightly regulated and subject to intense scrutiny. The bill allows only state-licensed establishments to distribute medical marijuana, and the state health department will be able to deny a license to anyone it finds is not 'of good moral character.' Dispensaries would also be subject to local zoning laws."

Meno's riposte continues below, concluding that Brennan's comparisons to LA are not specifically too apt:

It’s also misleading to compare New York’s bill to the medical marijuana law California passed in 1996. The reason Los Angeles became home to more dispensaries than Starbucks (which may no longer be the case after the L.A. City Council regulated the city’s dispensaries 14 years after the fact) is because California did not impose statewide regulations on its program. New York’s law would provide regulation from the onset, and therefore more closely resemble the tightly controlled medical marijuana program in place in New Mexico.

Lastly, there is very little evidence to back Brennan’s claim that “dispensaries have proven to be public nuisances and magnets for crime.” In fact, a recent study in Denver showed that dispensaries are less likely to attract crime than banks and liquor stories. That same study showed they are as likely to be robbed as pharmacies—which, like medical marijuana dispensaries, exist to provide people with safe access to legitimate medical treatment options.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Council set to vote on extending pot shop moratorium

AURORA | Aurora City Council members are set to decide Monday whether to extend the moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries through July 2011.

The vote is scheduled to take place during the council’s regularly scheduled session, beginning at 7:30 p.m. at the Aurora Municipal Center.

The moratorium that was originally implemented in December 2009 is set to expire this month. If voters decide not to outright ban medical marijuana dispensaries in an upcoming election, the moratorium would continue until July 1, 2011 or until zoning rules and regulations are put in place.

Gov. Bill Ritter signed legislation earlier this month that allows cities to either ban dispensaries at city councils’ discretion, or ask voters whether they want to ban dispensaries within their city limits.

The new statewide law allows for ballot language that could ask voters whether they want to prohibit the operation of medical marijuana centers, grow operations, and manufacturers’ licenses for marijuana-infused medical products.

Council members have discussed the possibility of asking voters whether they want to ban dispensaries in the city through a November ballot item.

At a regularly scheduled study session before the vote, council members will discuss a proposal to ask voters this November whether they want to extend a property tax.

Voters could be asked whether they want to approve a tax extension either this November, next year or in 2012.

The property tax in question is $28 for an average home costing $175,000.

If the extension is approved, the money generated could be used for capital projects, or to help the city’s budget shortfall, or both, according to city documents.

Some members of the council’s Management and Finance Committee thought seeking a tax extension in the current economic climate would be difficult and were split on whether to move forward with a ballot question this year, according to the documents.

Could L.A.'s Pot-Shop Law Be Softened Up?

In what reads like a follow-up on LA Weekly's own report about how many L.A. pot shops are remaining in business despite the city's tough new law outlawing most dispensaries, the Wall Street Journal quoted Councilman Ed Reyes as saying a change in the ordinance is possible. And it sounds like by "change" he meant a softening up:

"This document is like a living organism that continues to evolve," Reyes, an author of the ordinance, told the paper. "I never saw this as a cure-all."

This is an eye opener, as the council took more than three years to draft a permanent ordinance dealing with medical marijuana dispensaries in the city. During that time the number of dispensaries in L.A. mushroomed from less than 200 to more than 500, leading late-night comics to quip that there were more pot shops in town than Starbucks outlets.

So, is Reyes saying that three-plus years wasn't enough time to get it right? After studying ordinances in places such as West Hollywood and getting tons of feedback from fed-up neighbors and dispensary lobbyists, it's still not right?

Now that the rubber meets the road and many dispensaries are resisting the city's call to shut down, Reyes is indicating that a change might be in order. Maybe we exhaled too soon.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Medical cannabis industry looks to the future

With much of the state engaged in discussion over legalization, the local medical marijuana community is taking steps to develop Southern Humboldt into what they hope will be a center for sustainable outdoor medical marijuana grows.

Medical marijuana advocates met Saturday night in Garberville to discuss creating health and safety regulations and to encourage education for sustainable growing. The panel discussion ranged from marijuana growing education at 707 Cannabis College, a newly formed institution in Garberville, to a proposed dispensary for the Southern Humboldt Community Hospital, to creating new policy around medical marijuana.

Syreeta Lux of the newly formed Humboldt Medical Marijuana Advisory Panel --an organization created after a forum in March about what the marijuana industry will do if pot is legalized -- said local growers have to collaborate to keep up with the rest of the industry.

She said there are growers in the Bay Area who are organizing and Humboldt should do the same.

”Regardless of what happens in the fall, we feel as a group it's time to move forward with marketing legal marijuana,” she said.

The group is also hoping to create industry standards, work that is similar to the Bay Area-based Medical Cannabis Safety Council.

Sierra Knolle, a member the Medical Cannabis Safety Council and a Southern Humboldt resident, said the council is trying to implement a safety-based production process that
could be proposed to policymakers. The council is looking at many elements, including contaminants, water quality, sanitary practices, and industry models.

The council has members who are mostly a part of the urban growing industry, and Knolle encouraged more Southern Humboldt growers to get involved so they're opinions could be heard.

”To see the difference with the urban growers to the country growers -- it's night and day,” she said.

Michael Geci, a longtime emergency room and holistic medicine doctor from Montana, discussed the science behind medical marijuana. The founder of the Montana Botanical Analysis Lab, Geci performs tests on medical cannabis at his lab in Montana to identify potency and determine the optimal strength for individual patients.

He said medical marijuana needs to be treated like other medications. Geci said there needs to be more research on what is optimal for medication, not just an optimal high.

”There are a lot of people who don't want to be high,” he said. “There are a lot of people who don't want to smoke pot -- people want an option.”

Montana Public Radio commentator and lobbyist Kate Cholewa talked about how to bridge the gap between the medical marijuana community and policymakers.

She encouraged advocates to reach out to representatives and remember that they are trying to create policy for a product that doesn't fit into any existing model. Cholewa recommended reaching out to supporters of organics or environmentalists -- groups that could see the value of outdoor, sustainable growing.

”We get to create this -- this is a whole different way of doing politics,” Cholewa said. “We're not trying to change something, we're trying to create it.”

Rally in D.C. to try and end the prohibition of marijuana

Why should anyone have to continue to buy extremely toxic chemicals from the big pharmaceutical companies that give a sick person little or no relief from an illness? Many of the drugs the pharmaceutical companies sell and doctors prescribe, can and have killed people. People can grow safer and more effective medicine for pennies on the dollar. Medical marijuana has been proven to be beneficial in the treatment of pain, cancer, autism, epilepsy, high blood pressure, anxiety, anorexia and many other illnesses.

Instead people have been arrested, jailed, fined, beaten and had their property taken from them. 420inDC is holding a peaceful rally in Washington D.C. on Wednesday, 4/20/2011. It is to try and legalize of medical marijuana or for the total legalization of all marijuana.

The speakers that are scheduled to appear are Jessica Corry, Robert Corry, Brett Strauss, Don Christen and a representative from NORML.

It requires the politicians to CHANGE THE FEDERAL LAWS. It takes an act of Congress to change the law. 420inDC writes to all U.S. Senators, Representatives and the Whitehouse. They let them know where they stand and ask the politicians what their position is on legalizing medical marijuana. They ask them why medical marijuana wasn’t part of the healthcare bill. Election time is just around the corner. They ask questions and vote for the people that share their views. For more information, go to

Related Links:

420inDC Home Page -

Scheduled speakers -

Sign up to attend -


Wednesday, July 7, 2010

County voters to decide on medical marijuana

Voters will shape the future of medical marijuana in Douglas County this November, with a ballot question targeting unincorporated areas of the county.

Douglas County commissioners are poised to adopt a resolution to ask county residents if they want to allow medical marijuana dispensaries in Douglas County.

At a June 16 staff meeting, commissioners gave the green light to the county’s legal staff to draft a resolution slated for a June 22 adoption. The resolution extends the county’s moratorium on dispensaries through Nov. 2, when voters will decide whether Douglas County is a marijuana friendly community.

If voters elect to allow dispensaries in Douglas County, the county will extend the moratorium as it begins the process of drafting medical marijuana regulations, said Lance Ingalls, Douglas County attorney. Should voters say yes to medical marijuana, a moratorium remains in place until regulations are adopted, according to the draft resolution.

If Douglas County residents open the door for medical marijuana dispensaries, any moratorium is lifted by July 1, 2011, the state’s deadline to have regulations in place. Commissioners will have until then to draft regulations, Ingalls said.

The county will additionally revisit its present zoning restrictions on dispensaries to confirm whether or not it aligns with Colorado’s 80 pages of statutes in the Medical Marijuana Code. On March 30, the county adopted zoning regulations to restrict medical marijuana dispensaries to a handful of industrial parcels in unincorporated Douglas County.

“If the zoning regulations already adopted are deemed insufficient because of something in [state statute], we are directed to review and propose any changes to the board,” Ingalls said.

The election will be the first in recent history to pose a ballot question to all of unincorporated Douglas County, said Jack Arrowsmith, Douglas County clerk and recorder. Most county-wide ballot questions include all county residents, whether or not they live within the limits of a municipality.

The clerk and recorder’s office is charged with creating a ballot to isolate those residents who live within an incorporated portion of the county, Arrowsmith said.

The ballot question will not be presented to residents of incorporated Parker, Castle Rock, Lone Tree, Larkspur, Castle Pines North and pockets of the county that include Littleton and Aurora.

Residents of Parker already know the outcome of the medical marijuana question, with a ban adopted by Parker town council at about the time Douglas County opted for an election. Castle Rock remains under a moratorium as Castle Rock’s town council debates whether to send the question to a public vote.

The county’s decision to send it to the public reflects a longtime tradition in Douglas County, said Wendy Holmes, Douglas County public affairs director.

“The commissioners want the people to decide,” Holmes said. “That’s the culture here.”

The people who will decide if Douglas County will allow the cultivation and sale of medical marijuana include residents of Highlands Ranch, Castle Pines Village, Franktown and all of rural Douglas County, Arrowsmith said.

At present, Douglas County is home to a handful of medical marijuana dispensaries whose future is uncertain, said commissioner Jack Hilbert. Hilbert attended a meeting for commissioners from across the state where the conversation revolved around the issue of how existing dispensaries are impacted by the outcome of an election.

If voters decide to close the door on medical marijuana dispensaries, commissioners across the state are wary of getting caught up in an illegal taking of any dispensaries already in business.

“We just don’t want to end up in a taking issue,” Hilbert said. “It would all be open to interpretation; there would certainly be court action.”

If medical marijuana gets a stamp of approval from Douglas County voters, existing dispensaries will have until July 1, 2011, to comply with any county regulations adopted, Ingalls said. Otherwise, Ingalls does not know how existing dispensaries could be impacted.

Regardless of the outcome, commissioners across the state know the issue could result in lengthy legal arguments.

“They say this [medical marijuana debate] is going to be a lawyer’s dream,” Hilbert said.

County revisits medical marijuana

La Plata County commissioners on Tuesday will consider whether to lift the county's moratorium on new medical marijuana operations to give existing operators a shot at staying open while a new state law is implemented.

If the county lifts the moratorium in the next couple of weeks, it would give operators a small window of opportunity to apply before the July 1 deadline when they must prove to the state they have a local license or are in the process of getting one.

Otherwise, they will have to wait until new state licensing rules, which have yet to be drafted, are in place.

"It kind of puts me in a little bit of a pickle here," Travis Pollock, owner of Natures Own Wellness Center, said in a phone interview last week.

Pollock said he has a site in the county where he grows some of the marijuana used to supply centers he has in Durango and Cortez.

When he called the county's Planning Department last year about getting a permit or license, he was told no process existed.

"So they told me to stay under the home-based business rules of having my facilities under 800 feet. If I was able to do that, then I wouldn't have to be licensed," he said.

But now Pollock doesn't have any documentation to meet the state requirement demonstrating he has local government approval.

The predicament is emblematic of the mad dash at all levels of government to improvise a legal structure for regulating medical marijuana where none existed before.

Colorado voters legalized medical marijuana in 2000, but the flood gates opened last year when the Obama administration announced that it would not seek to prosecute individuals who are complying with state laws, although medical marijuana remains illegal under federal law.

State lawmakers responded with House Bill 1284, which was signed into law earlier this month and sets new rules for growing and selling medical pot.

Commissioners received a briefing on the new law in a work session last Tuesday. Though not normally allowed, commissioners took testimony from the audience of about 15 people. Pollock and other center owners urged them to lift the moratorium.

Jonny Radding, an owner of Durango Organics, said the operations create jobs.

"I think it also brings in much-needed growth to these areas," he said.

The state bill differentiates between centers, manufacturing facilities and caregivers.

Caregivers are not licensed by local government and can provide medical marijuana for up to five patients.

Centers, on the other hand, will be required to have both state and local licenses. They cannot possess more than six plants and 2 ounces for each patient registered with the center.

Centers must also grow 70 percent of their marijuana on site or at a licensed grow site that has been officially recognized as their supplier.

The bill gives local governments or voters the power to ban centers and manufacturing facilities. Bayfield imposed such a ban last month.

Pollock said if he can't get his La Plata County grow site licensed, he will have to go elsewhere.

"We have multiple sites," he said. "It's just more of a hassle for me because then I have to travel to pick up my medicine. I have to bring it back, and I'm spending time and so forth that could be contained in this community."

Commissioners in March voted to impose a six-month moratorium on the development of land for medical marijuana dispensaries or grow houses.

County staff reported seeing a spike in interest, mostly in establishing grow houses, before the moratorium was imposed.

Even if commissioners vote Tuesday to lift the moratorium, the county still will have to quickly come up with a temporary process for permitting the operations. Otherwise applicants would be no better off than if the moratorium had stayed in place.

The options commissioners will consider Tuesday are permanently lifting the moratorium, leaving it in place or lifting it just until July 1 to give existing operators a chance to meet the state requirements.

In a report, county staff recommended against lifting the moratorium permanently but was moot on the other possibilities.

"The other options are policy decisions which are solely within the purview of the (board of county commissioners)," it reads.

The report recommended against lifting the moratorium if commissioners are inclined to ban operations in the future.

"A continuous moratorium would prevent staff and the public from wasting resources on the drafting of new regulations that may never be adopted or making business plans that may not come to fruition," it reads.

Under the state law, the location of operations that grow marijuana for a center, called an "optional premises," are confidential and will be kept out of public records.

The plants, which can be worth thousands, have been a target of break-ins and theft.

But the secrecy creates another problem for the county if the centers are to be allowed.

The county's land-use code uses neighborhood compatibility to determine whether a land-use permit should be approved.

"If you can't identify where the property is, how do you determine compatibility?" County Attorney Sheryl Rogers asked.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Lansing-area arrest might clarify medical marijuana law

When Meridian Township police stopped 37-year-old Aaron Katz for speeding, they discovered marijuana in his car.

He faces the possibility of time behind bars because of a charge of marijuana possession, along with another of operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol.

Yet the Marshall man apparently has a state-issued medical marijuana card, which his attorney says is reason to drop the marijuana charge.

Ingham County Prosecutor Stuart Dunnings III argues in his brief that Katz received the card after his March 4 arrest and that he didn't have a "bona fide" relationship with the doctor who gave him a recommendation for the state's medical marijuana program.

"He was not a 'registered qualifying patient' at the time of the offense," Dunnings said in court documents. "There was not a 'bona fide physician-patient relationship' at the time."

According to Dunnings, the doctor who gave Katz his recommendation specializes in obstetrics and gynecology.

The case is another that could help bring clarity to Michigan's medical marijuana law, which two-thirds of the state's voters approved in 2008.

"Everyone is trying to be compliant with the law," said Lisa McCormick, Ingham County's chief assistant prosecuting attorney. However, "there's a lot of questions that have come up with the way it's written.

"That's why cases will be litigated. That's our system. It will be very interesting to see how it all pans out."

Mike Nichols, Katz's attorney, is upset with prosecutors for touching on the doctor-patient relationship.

"The issue is whether (the) Department of Community Health checked it out, endorsed the application and granted the card," he said. "It's nobody's business how long (the doctor) spent with that person and what (he or she) did to analyze their case."

While Dunnings emphasizes that Katz received his medical marijuana card after his arrest, Nichols said that the medical marijuana allowance should be permitted because Katz's conditions existed before the arrest.

Katz declined to comment for this story, and Nichols would not say what those medical conditions are. But court documents say that they include "severe and chronic pain," "severe nausea" and "severe and persistent muscle spasms"

What constitutes a "bona fide" doctor-patient relationship is something state officials may look into.

"That's one of the things we are concerned about when it comes to doctor-patient relationships," said James McCurtis, spokesman of the Michigan Department of Community Health. "That's one of the topics that we're going to ask the Board of Osteopathic Medicine and the Board of Medicine to define (and) set up some type of guideline.

"Right now, there isn't anything that clearly defines what is a bona fide doctor-patient relationship, not in the public health code."

He did not say what he thinks the proper guidelines are, explaining that he wouldn't want to influence the state boards.

The Capitol City Compassion Club, an advocacy and education group, invites the seriously ill to meet with a doctor for potential recommendations to participate in the state's medical marijuana program.

Traveling from outside Greater Lansing, the doctor recently began making weekly trips to the 2010 E. Michigan Ave. club.

Robin Schneider, the club president, said that appointments of less than a half hour shouldn't be an issue.

She emphasized that she's known doctors to do the same for other types of medication.

Voters may get say on pot tax

Pueblo voters may get to voice their opinions on medical marijuana in November, including whether to levy a 4.3 percent sales tax on the drug and its related paraphernalia.

That would be on top of the current city sales tax of 3.5 percent. And on top of the state's 2.9 percent sales tax. And Pueblo County's 1 percent tax. Those taxes already total 7.4 percent if you're adding them up.

"So we're talking about a total sales tax of nearly 12 percent on medical marijuana?" asked Tom Sexton, the owner of MediMar Ministries, a medical marijuana center that is trying to get licensed in Pueblo. "It seems the city's attitude is to make it as difficult as possible for people who have a legal right to use medical marijuana to obtain any. And the only thing that will accomplish is keep the business underground."

In two weeks, City Council will consider a proposed ballot measure that would impose the 4.3 percent tax on medical pot and other products sold with it. That rate of tax was picked by city staff because the city already charges a 4.3 percent surtax on every hotel and motel room in the city — called a lodging tax.

"No one knows what it would actually cost the city to license and regulate medical marijuana centers, so we are proposing a similar amount to the lodging tax as a starting point," City Attorney Tom Florczak said last week.

Council hasn't really discussed the sales-tax issue yet, although there is broad sentiment among the seven members that if the city is going to license and regulate those businesses, the medical pot centers should pay additional sales tax. Part of the reason is that council expects the businesses to require more attention from police.

Council President Larry Atencio, who favors licensing and regulating the businesses said all indications are the marijuana centers have plenty of patients or customers.

"Voters have said people have a right to use medical marijuana for certain health conditions," Atencio said. "That's fine, but I'm also willing to tax the heck out of them. I'm all in favor of sin taxes, so a 4.3 percent tax sounds fine to me."

Councilwoman Judy Weaver doesn't want any medical marijuana centers in Pueblo. She wants council to support a resolution that would put that fundamental question on the November ballot. Thus far, a majority of council appears to be favoring licensing, regulating and taxing the medical pot industry instead.

But if centers are established in the city, Weaver wants to tax them, too.

"I'd hope we'd do the research on what other cities are charging and what their experience is," she said, noting that voters in the Western Slope town of Fruita approved a 5 percent tax on medical pot sales.

Sexton has been trying to get formal city approval to operate his center since the summer of 2009. He obtained a sales tax license and then council passed an emergency moratorium last autumn on licensing marijuana centers. That ban has been extended twice and now runs through July 27 of this year. And the Legislature just finished approving a new state law that will not start providing state licenses until July 2011.

Sexton said that state and local governments are setting up hurdles for medical marijuana providers faster than operators can address them.

"What I'm hearing is that the state is going to be charging something like $30,000 for a state license," Sexton said with some resignation. "And now the city wants to tack on more sales tax. They must want to force all medical marijuana providers to operate underground. What about the people who need this for their medical conditions? Why are they being punished with these higher taxes?"

Council intends to have a public hearing on the proposed ballot question at its next regular meeting on June 28.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Implement medical marijuana program

Look at other states and use the best model to get New Jersey's program running this year.

In January, New Jersey became the 14th state to legalize the use of marijuana for medical purposes. It was an affirmation of what thousands of sufferers of cancer, AIDS, glaucoma and other conditions already know -- that marijuana is one of the few substances, for some, the only substance, that can take away their daily pain and mask some of their symptoms.

New Jersey's law is restrictive, probably more so than all other states that have legalized medical marijuana. Patients certified by a doctor and registered with the state won't be allowed to grow the plant themselves. Rather, they'll have to purchase marijuana from one of a handful of dispensaries around New Jersey that will be created to provide small, strictly governed amounts of marijuana.

The dispensation of medical marijuana to patients was supposed to begin in October, but now the Christie administration wants a delay to fine tune the rules and parameters of the program. One thing Christie's Health and Senior Services commissioner is looking to do is create a single site for growing all the marijuana that would be available to patients who qualify to use medical marijuana.

The administration had sought a delay of up to a year in implementing the law. That's unnecessarily long. State Sen. Nicholas Scutari, D-Union, the law's sponsor, has proposed a more reasonable delay of 90 days.

We can understand the governor's desire to get this right. He's trying to ensure that medical marijuana doesn't open a Pandora's box to fully legalized marijuana for recreational use, which is not what the Legislature intended in approving this law.

We just don't see how it would take up to a year to get it right. There are 13 other states that allow patients to use marijuana for legitimate medical purposes. Some of them administer it better than others. Simply look at the other states and find the ones that do it right by making it easy for people who truly need the drug to get it while preventing recreational users from abusing the system to get the drug.

Health and Senior Services need not waste time reinventing the wheel while legitimate sufferers with chronic and even fatal conditions are denied a pain medication that has been shown to work. For many, marijuana has far better results in suppressing nausea, restoring vision and easing pain than any pill or liquid the pharmaceutical industry has come up with.

There are workable medical marijuana programs out there in states that legalized marijuana for this use years ago. Copy how these programs work and get it going in this state quickly. Patients ought to be able to legally obtain marijuana through the state by the end of this year.

2 marijuana dispensary workers killed hours apart; LAPD probes possible links

Los Angeles Police Department detectives Friday morning were trying to determine whether there was any connection between two robberies hours apart Thursday at two medical marijuana dispensaries that left two employees dead.

The first robbery occurred on Sunset Boulevard in Echo Park. The second at 9:15 p.m. a few miles away on El Centro Avenue in Hollywood. The killings come as Los Angeles authorities are in the process of cracking down on pot businesses, resulting in the closure of dozens of the outlets.

LAPD sources told The Times that detectives were looking at all possibilities, but stressed they were not sure if the two crimes were linked. The victims at both locations were shot, they said, but a knife might have also been used in one of them.

Me.pot-photoAt the marijuana dispensary in Echo Park, one worker was killed and another was wounded. Officials said the store was ransacked.

[Updated at 6:56 a.m.: The worker killed in the Echo Park shooting was identified Friday by the L.A. County Coroner's office as Matthew Benjamin Butcher, 27, of Los Angeles.]

An unknown number of suspects stormed into the Higher Patch Holistic Care store at 1302 Sunset Blvd. In Hollywood, the employee was discovered dead in that store when someone entered the establishment. The shootings are sure to increase debate about medical marijuana businesses around L.A.

Critics say there are far too many and claim the businesses generate crime.

-- Andrew Blankstein and Robert J. Lopez