Medical Marijuana is Focus of National League of Cities Webcast

June 24, 2010
Washington, DC -- The National League of Cities (NLC) will hold its first medical marijuana live webcast Thursday at 2pm EST, to address the increasing need by local governments to study and address this important public health issue.  The NLC Finance, Administration and Intergovernmental Relations (FAIR) Committee intends to host a series of medical marijuana webcasts on its Internet TV channel. Caren Woodson, the Government Affairs Director with the patient advocacy group Americans for Safe Access (ASA), will discuss the benefits of medical marijuana for hundreds of thousands of Americans and the need for localized distribution in states that permit its use. Woodson will square off with Ron Brooks, president of the National Narcotics Officers’ Associations’ Coalition, and engage with webcast participants for a Q&A session.

"In some states, medical marijuana distribution is regulated at the state level," said Woodson. "But, most medical marijuana distribution happens at the local level and requires local governments to be involved in its implementation."  States like California, Colorado, Michigan, Montana, Oregon and Washington are all grappling with localized medical marijuana distribution, whereas state like Maine, New Mexico and Rhode Island regulate distribution at the state level. The states that are currently considering laws that would regulate medical marijuana distribution include Iowa, Kansas, Maryland and Wisconsin.

Medical marijuana distribution facilities began to proliferate after the Obama Justice Department issued a policy in October 2009 discouraging federal enforcement against such state-compliant facilities. This change in political landscape has also prompted local governments to increasingly grapple with the issue. In a cash-strapped economy, local officials are also looking for ways to generate revenue and the taxation of medical marijuana is being strongly considered by a number of cities. California already imposes a sales tax on medical marijuana and receives more than $100 million in annual revenue. And, in November the Colorado Attorney General said that medical marijuana was subject to sales tax, prompting several local governments in Colorado to adopt new tax laws.

"The elements of a safe, reliable and affordable distribution plan for medical marijuana are fairly basic," continued Woodson. "Local regulations mostly deal with land use issues and meeting the needs of both patients and community members alike." Despite law enforcement claims of increased crime around medical marijuana distribution sites, ASA has found that regulations effectively decrease crime. After conducting a study of California cities with local regulations, ASA reported in January 2010 that high tech security systems and vigilance on the part of medical marijuana distributors have reduced or eliminated crime and nuisance activity around such facilities. Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck conducted his own study and found that, "banks are more likely to get robbed than medical marijuana dispensaries," and the claim that dispensaries attract crime "doesn't really bear out."

ASA is a grassroots organization that works with local activists across the country to help implement sensible medical marijuana distribution laws, among many other policy objectives. The NLC calls itself "the oldest and largest national organization representing municipal governments throughout the United States," and its mission is "to strengthen and promote cities as centers of opportunity, leadership, and governance." The NLC works in partnership with 49 state municipal leagues, and serves as a resource to and an advocate for the more than 19,000 cities, villages, and towns it represents.

Further Information:
The National League of Cities FAIR webcast page: http://www.nlctv.org/events/fair2010/default.cfm?id=12506&type=flv&test=0&live=0
ASA Report on medical marijuana dispensary regulations: http://AmericansForSafeAccess.org/downloads/dispensaries.pdf

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