What's the Rush?

October 21, 2009

Jonathan Lloyd, NBC TV

That didn't take long. Just days after Los Angeles Superior Court Judge James Chalfant ruled that the temporary ordinance banning new medical marijuana dispensaries was invalid, a proposed ordinance is on its way to the city council.

The City Attorney's Office finished the proposal Tuesday, one day after the judge's ruling. On Thursday, Councilman Greig Smith announced that he would waive a hearing on the  proposed ordinance before his committee.

That clears the way for council consideration on Nov. 3.

Under the proposed ordinance, only medical marijuana collectives --  groups of qualified patients and their primary caregivers -- would be allowed  to cultivate the drug to relieve pain from serious illnesses.

Over-the-counter sales of the drug would be outlawed.

If the council approves the proposed new ordinance, and Mayor Antonio  Villaraigosa signs it, enforcement usually begins 30 days later. It was unclear  if the council would adopt the ordinance with an "emergency clause," under  which it would take effect immediately after being signed by Villaraigosa.

Under the proposed permanent ordinance, the medical marijuana produced  by collectives must be in strict accordance with Health and Safety Code. Recent  studies have shown that some of the marijuana sold at dispensaries may be  contaminated with pesticides and other chemicals.

Also, collectives must be at least 1,000 feet from other collectives,  schools, playgrounds, child care facilities, religious institutions, public  libraries, public parks, hospitals and rehab centers. They must also have  strict security measures including closed circuit cameras and bars on their  windows.

Medical marijuana may be distributed to members only between 10 a.m. and  8 p.m., according to the proposed permanent ordinance. And no collective can  have more than than five pounds of dried marijuana, or more than 100 plants, at  any given time.

"By limiting the medical marijuana to such a small amount, that may  make it very difficult for the collective to supply members," Duncan said. "That's going to encourage people to look back at dealers and we certainly  don't want that."

The proposed permanent ordinance states that marijuana shops which began operating before Sept. 14, 2007 and registered with the City Clerk's Office  before Nov. 12, 2007 will be given 180 days to comply once the ordinance takes  effect.

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

Before collectives can operate, they must have their location inspected  by the Department of Building and Safety. They must also register with the  Office of Finance, and provide information about their members to their City  Council representative and their Neighborhood Council.

Don Duncan, a primary caregiver for a medical marijuana patient, and an  official of Americans for Safe Access, which bills itself as the nation's  largest organization promoting access to marijuana for medical reasons,  criticized portions of the ordinance.

"The primary concern we have with the city attorney's regulations is  that they don't have the adequate protections that we need for the patients'  privacy," Duncan said.

"Turning over lists of patients can be problematic. However, if there's  some protection in place for that information, then we can work with it, but  it has to ensure that patients won't be targeted by federal law enforcement or  rogue elements in local law enforcement."

The proposed ordinance defines collectives as "an incorporated or  unincorporated association, composed solely of four or more qualified patients,  persons with identification cards, and designated primary caregivers of  qualified patients and persons with identification who associate at a  particular location to collectively or cooperatively cultivate marijuana for  medical purposes, in strict accordance with the California Health and Safety  Code."

Anyone convicted of a felony or a crime of moral turpitude within the  last 10 years, or who is on parole or probation for the sale or distribution of  a controlled substance, would be forbidden from managing a collective or  handling its finances.

City officials estimate that as many as 800 marijuana dispensaries are  operating in Los Angeles.

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