More regulations for medical marijuana dispensaries in La Puente

June 15, 2010

James Wagner, San Gabriel Valley Tribune

Medical marijuana sellers are chaffing at a new set or regulations handed down by the city.

New rules want shops to open for shorter hours and require the shops to maintain patient records that must be handed over to city officials upon request.

For one dispensary operator, it was a puzzling move because the City Council has been pushing for banning the dispensaries.

"It doesn't make any sense if (later) they are going to close us down," said Jon Salman, who runs Trinity Wellness Group on Amar Road.

On Tuesday the City Council will consider a ordinance banning the nearly 10 dispensaries in the city.

Meanwhile, the new set of rules were unanimously approved by the council last week. The rules took effect immediately.

Salman and others said their shops were already following the rules even if they weren't previously written down.

"I have no problem about that because we have been doing that since day one," said Ed Esposito, an attorney who represents THC2 Cooperative on Francisquito Avenue.

The dispensaries can only be open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Monday through Saturday. On Sunday, the shops can open at noon and must close at 5 p.m. Previously, the shops were allowed to stay open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day.

Some dispensaries said they would suffer financially by the shorter business days. Other said they would manage but their patients would lose out.

The 10 a.m. start was to prevent school children from stopping at the shops, Salman said, some of which are close to schools.

"What sense does that make?" he said. "The kids aren't allowed in there in the first place."

Other parts of the ordinance limit the amount of dried marijuana and plants allowed, and forces dispensaries to track patients medical recommendation and membership. It also asks the dispensaries say where the marijuana comes from.

Dispensaries also must keep records, including maintaining "membership records on-site of have them reasonably available." The practice follows guidelines set down by the Attorney General.

A later provision states that city officials, such as code enforcement officers, and deputies "requesting admission for the purpose of determining compliance with these standards shall be given unrestricted access."

In order to buy medical marijuana, a person has to join a collective or cooperative, said Jamie Casso, one of the attorneys handling the issue for the city.

Part of the reason is to ensure people aren't joining multiple collectives or cooperatives across the city, city officials said.

"We need to ensure they are doing it for the right reasons," Mayor David Argudo said.

Salman said anyone requested the membership records would be asking him to break federal medical privacy laws known as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. He said he wouldn't hand them over.

"I would flaunt the HIPAA guidelines right in their face," he said.

Casso said the city won't ask any dispensaries to violate the privacy laws.

"We would have to be respectful ... of the requirements of HIPAA," he said.

Of the 40 cities and counties across the state with medical marijuana regulations, most don't allow free access to patients documents, said Kris Hermes, a spokesman for Americans for Safe Access, an Oakland-based medical marijuana advocacy group. Allowing access to records is a recent trend.

"I think the presumption is that people are doing bad things but that should not entitle local officials to have unfettered access to patient records," he said.

Argudo said the city wants to make sure the businesses are run safely.

"Implementing restrictions and holding dispensaries accountable for proper dispensing of marijuana products is paramount to improving our community and holding them to higher standards," Argudo said.

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