Pages tagged "Bernard Parks"


LA advocates turn to the people to stop the ban

Americans for Safe Access (ASA) and coalition partners in the City of Los Angeles will submit more than 50,000 signatures on Thursday calling for a voter referendum to overturn the city’s recent ban on patients’ cooperatives and collectives. It took less than three weeks to gather the signatures, and the number collected far exceeds the 27,485 valid signatures needed to trigger a citywide vote in March. This is a major victory for patients and grassroots advocates who vowed to stop the ban when the City Council adopted it on July 24. Congratulations to everyone who helped out!



The referendum comes just in time. The ban would have become effective on September 6, but the successful petition drive puts enforcement on hold until the City Council rescinds the ban or voters have a chance to decide in March of next year. ASA and our allies on the Committee to Protect Patients and Neighborhoods hope the City Council will use the extra time to move forward with a motion by Council Members Paul Koretz and Dennis Zine to create a new ordinance that will allow for a smaller number of well-regulated patients’ associations in the city.

The City Council has been rattling sabers as the effective date of the ban approached. On August 22, the City Council approved a motion by Council Members Bernard Parks and Jan Perry instructing the Los Angeles Police Department to cooperate with the District Attorney (DA) and Drug Enforcement Administration in closing cooperatives and collectives. This would give the DA the chance to prosecute operators for felonies (as opposed to the misdemeanor specified in the ban), and raised the specter of federal prosecution. This week, the City Council referred to committee a new motion by Council Members Ed Reyes and Herb Wesson to divert funds from the City Attorney’s Community Redevelopment Agency budget to enforcement of the ordinance banning medical cannabis cooperatives and collectives.

The city’s rush to enforce is misguided. They can avoid more confusion, delay, and litigation by sitting back down at the table with stakeholders to hammer out a compromise ordinance that works for everyone. Patients and operators agree with the majority of Californians who support regulating and controlling medical cannabis. They just want a sincere effort from law makers and a realistic regulatory framework. The city failed on both front in 2010, when they approved an unworkable and byzantine regulatory scheme that even Council Members had trouble deciphering. The referendum gives new incentive to do a better job with the Koretz/Zine motion for sensible regulations. Let’s hope the City Council takes advantage of this opportunity, so the referendum campaign can be a victory for everyone.



Stakeholders who want to learn more about the referendum and what comes next in Los Angeles should keep an eye on ASA’s Access Southern California Discussion Forum and plan to attend the LA-ASA meeting on Saturday, September 15, at 1:00 PM in the Community Room (#152) at the West Hollywood Gateway Mall, 7100 Santa Monica Blvd. (at La Brea Ave.), West Hollywood, CA 90046.

Some City Council Members in LA and Long Beach Move to Ban Patients’ Coops and Collectives

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In the wake of a confusing ruling in Pack v. Long Beach from California’s Second Appellate District, efforts are under way in Los Angeles and Long Beach to ban medical cannabis dispensing centers (MCDCs) altogether. Earlier this month, the court held that federal law preempts certain provisions of the highly-restrictive medical cannabis ordinance adopted by the City of Long Beach last year. Americans for Safe Access (ASA) holds that the impact of the ruling on local regulation is limited, and the decision is already the subject of an appeal to the state Supreme Court (see our previous blog for more). Nevertheless, medical cannabis opponents on the Los Angeles and Long Beach City Councils are moving recklessly towards banning patients’ associations.



 Los Angeles City Council Members Bernard Parks and Jan Perry, who have consistently opposed medical cannabis in the city, made a motion to ask the City Attorney to “phase out” MCDCs in the city. The City Council voted unanimously today to meet in closed session with the City Attorney on Tuesday to discuss the impact of Pack v. Long Beach, a move that alarmed advocates. ASA submitted a letter clarifying the scope of the Pack decision, and City Council Member Dennis Zine praised ASA for its ongoing commitment to protecting safe access and supporting regulation.

Meanwhile in Long Beach, the City Council also voted to meet with their City Attorney in closed session for a similar conversation. Long Beach City Attorney Robert Shannon told reporters that he has been instructed to appeal Pack v. Long Beach to the California Supreme Court. The outcome of that case may have serious implications for the right of local governments to implement California’s medical cannabis laws. But the appeal may also confuse efforts to use the decision as a rationale for banning MCDCs. Keep an eye on ASA’s mailing lists, web page, and this blog for developments.

Patients and community members should hope that efforts to ban MCDCs in Los Angeles, Long Beach, and other cities that may follow suit fail. Research conducted by ASA and fifteen years of experience in providing safe access show that sensible regulations reduce crime and complaints around MCDCs, while preserving safe access for legitimate patients. Banning MCDCs would deny these proven benefits for both cities. ASA is committed to defending safe and well-regulated access for patients – in the courts, at City Halls, and if necessary, at the ballot box. Lawmakers in Los Angeles and Long Beach should remember that voter referendums have stopped bans in the City of San Diego, Butte County, and Kern County. Voters still believe in medical cannabis, even if some cynical lawmakers do not.

Los Angeles Votes on Medical Cannabis Tax

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On Tuesday, Angelenos will decide whether or not to put an additional 5% tax on medical cannabis and vote in seven City Council races. Medical cannabis patients have a lot at stake in the Primary Election. Americans for Safe Access (ASA) is calling on patients and advocates in Los Angeles to reject a “Sin Tax” on medical cannabis by voting no on Measure M, and to consider  City Council Members’stance on medcial cannabis before casting a ballot.

Tuesday’s Primary Election is a great opportunity to make a difference for patients in a city that is still struggling to implement its medical cannabis program. Less than sixteen percent of registered voters showed up for the last Primary Elections in 2009. That means medical cannabis patients and advocates can make a big difference in the election – if they turn out in larger than expected numbers.



Measure M will impose a business license tax on patients’ collectives and cooperatives of $50 per $1,000 in gross receipts (5% on top of 9.75% sales tax). This is disproportionate with existing business license taxes in Los Angeles, which range from $1.07 to $5.07 per $1,000 in revenue. Why should legal patients pay almost ten times more tax than anyone else in the city? Is that the legal patients' fair share? Public ambivalence and media bias make medical cannabis an easy revenue target, but that does not make a “sin tax” on medical cannabis fair or reasonable.

Some proponents argue that the city needs the money from Measure M to offset the cost of implementing the city’s controversial Medical Cannabis Ordinance. However, Measure M funds are not ear marked for that purpose; and the ordinance already requires the collectives and cooperatives to pay for registration, inspection, and enforcement. In reality, Measure M is simply an attempt to raise revenue during tough economic times.

ASA calls on the Los Angeles City Council, which voted to place Measure M on the ballot,  to shift the tax burden away from legal patients, and to find fair and reasonable solutions to the city’s budget shortfall. ASA and medical cannabis patients are not alone in opposing Measure M. The Los Angeles Times and the Los Angeles Daily Breeze have both urged voters to reject the measure.

Voters will also cast ballots in seven City Council races, and frustration with the protracted regulatory process in the city will be a factor for voters in several districts. City Council Member Bernard Parks (District 8 ) co-sponsored a motion, seconded by Council Member Greig Smith (District 12) to ban medical cannabis collectives and cooperatives outright in December. Medical cannabis patients and advocates in those districts should feel justified in voting for opponents in either race, although neither district is considered “in play” in Tuesday’s election. Medical cannabis voters in District 14 have organized a campaign called “No Way Jose” to unseat incumbent City Council Member Jose Huizar in the city’s closest and most controversial race.

ASA urges Angelenos to making voting on Tuesday a priority. A relatively small number of voters will decide Measure M and the City Council races, so this is a great opportunity to be influential. So find your polling place and vote no on Measure M on Tuesday.

LA Court Rejects Strict Dispensary Ordinance, Officials Respond with Greater Restrictions

On December 10th, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Anthony J. Mohr ruled in the case Americans for Safe Access v. City of Los Angeles, which involves more than 100 plaintiffs, that the city's medical marijuana dispensary ordinance was too restrictive. Relying on the recent landmark decision in Qualified Patients Association v. City of Anaheim, Judge Mohr held that state law forbids such onerous restrictions on local distribution. However, some LA City Council Members must not have read the decision.



Judge Mohr's 40-page ruling was a shot in the arm for advocates of safe access to medical marijuana. Though unpublished, Judge Mohr's ruling clearly emphasized the need for local distribution and called for a functional regulatory scheme in Los Angeles to implement it.

Specifically, Judge Mohr found that:
"[T]he State of California authorized certain people to operate collectives," and "the [Los Angeles] Ordinance denies without due process of the law the statutorily conferred right to operate a collective."

Going out of his way to make the point, Judge Mohr warned all California cities that wholesale or de facto bans against local medical marijuana dispensaries are in violation of state law:
"[I]n discharging its powers and duties under the police power, the City must not lose sight of the fact that the People of the State of California have conferred on qualified patients the right to obtain marijuana for medical purposes. No local subdivision should be allowed to curtail that right wholesale or regulate it out of existence."

The ruling also weighed in on the issue of "sales," or reimbursements for the cost and expense of running a medical marijuana dispensary. Contrary to the position that "sales" are illegal under state law held by staunch medical marijuana opponents like Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley who recently lost a bid for State Attorney General, Judge Mohr pointed to the 2008 Attorney General Guidelines, stating that:
"[U]nder proper conditions…a storefront dispensary can be a legitimate medical marijuana collective. The Guidelines also suggest that under proper circumstances, an exchange of money for medical marijuana is allowed."

In granting the preliminary injunction against enforcement of the city's ordinance, Judge Mohr also struck down the sunset clause banning dispensaries in two years unless the ordinance is reauthorized, and barred the city from disclosing to police the personal information of patients as a violation of their privacy rights.

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However, instead of embracing Judge Mohr’s order, and his rejection of an overly restrictive ordinance, Los Angeles City Council members Bernard Parks and Jan Perry introduced a motion to completely ban distribution within the city limits. Completely ignoring Judge Mohr's ruling issued five days before the ban motion was filed, Parks and Perry claimed that it was "in the best interest of the City…to ban medical marijuana dispensaries," pointing to crime as the rationale.

Parks and Perry also apparently ignored the crime data of their own Police Chief, Charlie Beck. In a 2009 study, Chief Beck found that 71 robberies had occurred at the more than 350 banks in the city compared to 47 robberies at the more than 500 medical marijuana facilities. In response to his report, Chief Beck observed that:
"banks are more likely to get robbed than medical marijuana dispensaries,"

and the claim that dispensaries attract crime:
"doesn’t really bear out."

Parks, Perry and the rest of the Los Angeles City Council ought to reconsider what’s in the best interest of the City and heed Judge Mohr's order. Furthermore, the Council should work better with the patient community to craft an ordinance that will meet their needs and one that is not overly restrictive or simply a sweeping reaction to sensationalized safety concerns.

The case will now proceed to trial as long as Judge Mohr’s decision isn't appealed by the City of Los Angeles, an action that is unwarranted but likely.