Pages tagged "Carmen Trutanich"


California Supreme Court Deems Legality of Storefront Medical Marijuana Dispensaries “Final”

"The matter is now final," according to the California Supreme Court.  On Wednesday, the California Supreme Court denied requests from the League of California Cities, the San Diego District Attorney's Office, the Sacramento District Attorney's Office, the Sonoma District Attorney's Office, the Los Angeles District Attorney's Office and the Los Angeles City Attorney to depublish or review the published decision in People v. Jackson.

After years of struggling over the issue, the Court of Appeal held that storefront dispensaries are legal under California law, so long as they operate on a not for profit basis and adhere to certain corporate forms.  This decision establishes that storefront dispensaries are unquestionably legal under California law and that localities cannot continue to rely on their now-discredited view that all sales of medical marijuana are illegal in order to support their ongoing attacks on medical marijuana dispensaries.

Another important impact of the appellate court ruling is providing medical marijuana providers with a clear defense to state criminal charges. Specifically, the ruling held that in mounting a defense at trial:
Jackson was only required to produce evidence which would create a reasonable doubt as to whether the defense provided by the [Medical Marijuana Program Act] had been established.

The court further held that:
[T]he collective or cooperative association required by the act need not include active participation by all members in the cultivation process but may be limited to financial support by way of marijuana purchases from the organization. Thus, contrary to the trial court's ruling, the large membership of Jackson's collective, very few of whom participated in the actual cultivation process, did not, as a matter of law, prevent Jackson from presenting an MMPA defense.

ASA responds to LA City Attorney threats

The Los Angeles City attorney sent hundreds of letters last week threatening property owners who rent to medical cannabis patients’ cooperatives and collectives in the city. The letters tell property owners they may be subject to stiff penalties, including fines and jail time, because an ordinance passed by the City Council in July makes renting to a patients’ association a crime. Property owners are worried, and some are moving to force their tenants out. But Americans for Safe Access (ASA) Chief Council Joe Elford says the effort to intimidate property owners is premature and urges the City Attorney to wait.



In a letter to Los Angeles City Attorney Carmen Trutanich, Mr. Elford points out that the California Supreme Court will soon rule on several cases that could clarify how cities can regulate medical cannabis and if they can ban cooperatives and collectives. California’s Appellate Courts disagree on these topics, so moving forward without instructions from the Supreme Court could be risky:
"Proceeding with enforcement of the ordinance while these issues are pending is premature and may subject you to a legal response."

Mr. Elford also points out that a voter referendum sponsored by the Committee to Protect Patients and Neighborhoods, of which ASA is a part, may soon render the ordinance banning cooperatives and collectives and criminalizing property owners moot:
"… there is underway a voter referendum campaign to repeal Ordinance 182190, which is likely to have the signatures necessary to qualify for the ballot in less than two weeks. Because Ordinance No. 182190 will become ineffective once the signatures have been certified by the City Clerk, it would be a waste of the City’s time and resources to implement the Ordinance."

Patients who operate medical cannabis cooperatives and collectives should share Mr. Elford’s letter with their property owners to let them know that the ordinance making them criminals is not here to stay. Patients and advocates are going to repeal the misguided ordinance and keep working to adopt sensible regulations.

LA patients move to stop the ban



The Los Angeles City Council voted to ban medical cannabis patients’ cooperatives and collectives on July 24. Now patients are taking the case for safe access to the streets with a voter referendum to repeal the ban. If we gather 27,485 signatures from registered voters in the next thirty days, the City Council will be forced to choose between repealing the ban themselves and calling a costly special election for voters to decide. Paid and volunteer signature gatherers will be on the streets this week. City Council Members will soon learn if there is enough grassroots support for safe access to force their hand. Patients and advocates are betting there is.



Americans for Safe Access (ASA), the nation’s leading medical cannabis patients’ advocacy organization, helped organize the voter referendum and is committed to its success because the ban is bad for patients. The large majority of legal medical cannabis patients in Los Angeles rely on cooperatives and collectives for safe and reliable access to the doctor-recommended medicine they need to treat the symptoms of cancer, HIV/AIDS, Multiple Sclerosis, chronic pain and other serious conditions. Closing the facilities means patients will do without their medicine or buy it from the dangerous and unregulated illicit market. That is not what voters intended when they approved Proposition 215 in 1996, and it is contrary to polling that shows that 77% of Californians still support regulation and control of medical cannabis.

City Council Members made a commitment to regulation in 2008, but controversy and political conflict stymied their efforts. Conflicting decisions for the California Appellate Courts have confused the issue, and City Attorney Carmen Trutanich has consistently touted a ban only viable option. But City Council Members do have a choice. On the same day they approved the ban, the City Council also approved a motion by Council Members Paul Koretz and Dennis Zine asking the City Attorney to create a new ordinance tightly regulating a smaller number of facilities. The City Council would do well to expedite that effort instead of trying to enforce the ill-conceived ban.

It is not acceptable to close all of the patients’ associations in the city just because some are located or operated in a manner that is problematic. Instead, the City Council should work with stakeholders to develop workable regulations. Research shows that cooperatives and collectives do not cause crime. In fact, research conducted by ASA shows that sensible regulations actually reduce crime and complaints around access points. Los Angeles can join more than fifty other cities and counties in finding a way to protect patients’ access and neighborhoods – if they have the political will to do it. Let’s hope a successful referendum and vote to repeal the ban is just what they need to make it happen.

ASA is joined on the Committee to Protect Patients and Neighborhoods, the referendum’s campaign committee, by representatives from the Greater Los Angeles Collective Alliance (GLACA), which represents some of the city’s oldest and most reputable patients’ associations, and the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 770, which represents workers in local cooperatives and collectives.

Please join me on a conference call to discuss the referendum campaign and how you can help on Monday, August 13, at 6:00 PM.  Call (832) 431-3335 and dial 1618568 to join the conversation.

Make plans to join the Los Angeles ASA chapter on Saturday, August 18, to get the latest updates on the referendum and the ongoing effort to adopt a good ordinance in Los Angeles. The LA-ASA meeting is between 1:00 and 3:00 PM in the Community Room (#152) at the West Hollywood Gateway Mall located at 7100 Santa Monica Blvd. (at La Brea Ave.) in West Hollywood, CA 90046.

RAND Buckles to Political Pressure on Medical Marijuana



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Los Angeles-based study issued less than a month ago by the RAND Corporation, which analyzed levels of crime around the city’s medical marijuana dispensaries, has been pulled as a result of political pressure. Warren Robak of the media relations department at RAND recently said:
We took a fresh look at the study based in part upon questions raised by some folks following publication.

One of the loudest voices to question the RAND study was staunch medical marijuana opponent, Los Angeles City Attorney Carmen Trutanich. RAND said that:
The L.A. City Attorney’s Office has been the organization most vocal in its criticism of the study.

Indeed, in media interviews the City Attorney’s Office called the report’s conclusions “highly suspect and unreliable,” claiming that they were based on “faulty assumptions, conjecture, irrelevant data, untested measurements and incomplete results.”

Evidence of the influence and pressure of “politics” over “science” is no starker than this.

On September 20, RAND issued a study that analyzed crime data from more than a year ago. According to a statement from RAND, the study “examined crime reports for the 10 days prior to and the 10 days following June 7, 2010, when the city of Los Angeles ordered more than 70 percent of the city’s 638 medical marijuana dispensaries to close.” Researchers analyzed crime reports within a few blocks around dispensaries that closed and compared that to crime reports for neighborhoods where dispensaries remained open. In total, RAND said that, “researchers examined 21 days of crime reports for 600 dispensaries in Los Angeles County -- 170 dispensaries remained open while 430 were ordered to close.”

If that doesn’t seem thorough and “to-the-point” enough, RAND senior economist and lead author of the study Mireille Jacobson concluded that:
[RAND] found no evidence that medical marijuana dispensaries in general cause crime to rise.

Notably, this conclusion directly contradicted the claims of medical marijuana opponents such as Trutanich.

However, this is not the first time politics has trumped science with regard to medical marijuana. There has been a long history of this in the United States. One of the more recent examples occurred only a few months ago when the National Cancer Institute (NCI) revised its website on medical cannabis after being pressured by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), a federal agency which is responsible for obstructing meaningful research into medical marijuana. After adding cannabis to the list of Complementary Alternative Medicines (CAM) and recognizing the plant’s therapeutic qualities, NCI was urged to revise its statements. As a result, references to research indicating that cannabis may be helpful in subduing cancer growth were removed.

Although RAND called its study “the first systematic analysis of the link between medical marijuana dispensaries and crime,” Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck previously conducted his own study a year earlier. Chief Beck compared the levels of crime at the city’s banks with those around its medical marijuana dispensaries. 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. Beck at the time concluded that, “banks are more likely to get robbed than medical marijuana dispensaries,” and that the prevalent law enforcement claim of dispensaries inherently attracting crime “doesn't really bear out.”

The RAND study also affirmed what Americans for Safe Access (ASA) had already concluded by way of qualitative research, that crime is normalized or reduced in areas near medical marijuana dispensaries. Numerous public officials interviewed by ASA stated in a report re-issued last year that by regulating dispensaries their communities were made safer.

When will objective science on medical marijuana be honestly and thoroughly considered without the intrusion and constraints of politics? As a decades-old institution, RAND should stand by its research and not buckle to political pressure.

"Impatience and frustration" in LA

Special Assistant City Attorney Jane Usher told the Los Angeles Times that medical cannabis collectives in Los Angeles are experiencing "impatience and frustration” due to ongoing legal controversy surrounding the city’s tough new regulations. That may be the first thing Ms. Usher and medical cannabis advocates have agreed on in years. Don’t expect the amity to last long. The City Attorney Carmen Trutanich is trying to close more than one hundred legal collectives deemed ineligible to register under the city’s ordinance based on broad interpretive leaps. Los Angeles Times reporter Sandy Banks said she understands why the collectives feel like this is an “underhanded trick.”

READ: LA Timnes - "Some compassionate pot shops caught in L.A. law's red tape" (Sandy Banks, October 19, 2010)



The Los Angeles City Council delayed a vote on an amendment that might have settled some of the controversy this morning. Councilmembers want more clarity on constitutional issues raised in hundreds of lawsuits now consolidated in Los Angeles District Court. Delay in unfortunate. Some small improvements in the ordinance now could do a lot to diffuse the impatience and frustration felt by collective operators who have tried to support and comply with the city’s convoluted regulatory process. Unless the City Council stands up to the City Attorney’s capricious interpretation of the law, the there may be little goodwill left for implementation after the dust settles in the courtroom.

LA City Attorney Turns Up the Heat

The Los Angeles City Attorney’s office has filed a complaint (download sections 1- 2 -3 - 4) asking for a Temporary Restraining Order and Permanent Injunction closing 135 pre-moratorium medical cannabis collectives deemed ineligible to register under the city’s new ordinance. The complaint is City Attorney Carmen Trutanich’s latest escalation in his campaign to roll back safe access to medical cannabis in the city. His aggressive posture has already raised the ire of patients, legal collective operators, and advocates in the state’s largest city – including many who played an instrumental role in developing and promoting regulation in the city. Yesterday, the City Clerk’s office surprised collective operators by publishing a “Preliminary Priority List,” which indicated that less than 25% of the collectives which applied to register with the city were eligible to do so. Each ineligible collective will receive a letter explaining why they were excluded this week. Early reports indicate that unauthorized relocations, changes in ownership or management, and problematic background checks are leading causes for ineligibility. That only 25% of the collectives survived the initial vetting speaks to the severity of the city’s ordinance and the narrow interpretation championed by the City Attorney. City Councilmembers can expect renewed controversy over the escalation when they return from recess in September. There will also be new litigation, as “ineligible” collectives seek relief based on a myriad of individual circumstances. The development and implementation of medical cannabis regulations in Los Angeles has been a case study in what not to do. The long delay in writing regulations, botched moratorium, indecision on interim operating policies, reckless 11th-hour amendments, and absolute breakdown in enforcement have left patients in a state of confusion and fear. It did not have to be this way. Other cities and counties have successfully regulated medical cannabis already. Angelinos hope that their elected officials will realize that there is a better way to achieve the proven benefits of regulation – reduced crime, fewer complaints, and increased revenue – and abandon this costly path of obstruction and delay.

City Attorney Joins Vigil for LA Victims

Los Angeles City Attorney Carmen Trutanich was one of more than sixty people who gathered last night for a candlelight vigil for the victims of two violent attacks at medical cannabis collectives this week.  Two people were killed and one was seriously injured in two separate incidents on Thursday. The tragedies occurred in the midst of ongoing controversy about the city’s tough new medical cannabis ordinance. Trutanich told a reporter from West Coast Cannabis Magazine that he understood this was “not something [the victims] brought on themselves,” and said the police department would not rest until the murderers were brought to justice. Trutanich’s words are reassuring for patients and the victims’ loved ones, who fear this human tragedy may be politicized by medical cannabis opponents in the often emotional debate about regulating safe access in Los Angeles.  Fear of crime around medical cannabis facilities fueled efforts to adopt the state’s toughest medical cannabis ordinance earlier this year, but Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck told City Councilmembers and the media that reports of increased crime around collectives did not bear out. Unfortunately, Thursday’s tragedies differ little from similar crimes that occur at convenience stores, gas stations, or grocery stores in Los Angeles. These murders are not medical cannabis crimes. Trutanich is correct to keep the blame on the perpetrators, instead of the victims. His presence at last night’s vigil and sensible comments speak volumes to patients and advocates, most of whom take issue with his adversarial posture towards medical cannabis. Americans for Safe Access (ASA) would like to commend the City Attorney on his presence, and extend our heart-felt sympathies to the families of the victims. We call on the Los Angeles Police Department and City Council to do everything in their power to bring the murderers to justice, and ask that anyone who can help in their arrest or prosecution cooperate fully in that effort.