Pages tagged "Los Angeles"

  • 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.
  • LA at a Crossroads

    The Los Angeles City Council will choose between two competing motions concerning medical cannabis in the near future, and the outcome will have long-term implications for legal patients in the city. One path leads to an outright ban on patients’ cooperatives and collectives; while the other may settle dozens of lawsuits, complies with existing case law, and fulfils the voters’ will for a safe and regulated access program. It should be an easy choice. But everything about medical cannabis is controversial in the state’s largest city, and what happens here could have repercussions around the state and nation. That is why Americans for Safe Access (ASA) and a growing coalition of advocates, organized labor, and other stakeholders are gearing up for what may be the last battle for safe access at City Hall.



    ASA has been working with the city since 2005 to stop a ban on legal cooperatives and collectives and adopt workable regulations. This is an important, because research conducted by ASA and the experience of the last sixteen years show that sensible regulations reduce crime and complaints, while preserving access for patients. That is what voters want. A poll conducted by EMC Research last November demonstrated that seventy-seven percent of voters favor the regulation and control of medical cannabis.

    City Council Members Jose Huizar and Mitchell Englander made a motion to ban all medical cannabis patients’ cooperatives and collectives in the city – even those that have tried in good faith to comply with the city’s troubled regulatory scheme. Council Members Huizar and Englander call their motion the “gentle ban,” because it would “allow” legal patients to grow their own medicine at home. That right is already guaranteed under the Compassionate Use Act (Proposition 215) and further protected by the Medical Marijuana Program Act (SB 420). The term “gentle ban” is a face-saving euphemism. The Huizar-Englander motion would create an ordinance that bans all patients’ associations, but gives no other option to the large majority of patients who do not or cannot grow their own medicine.

    There is an alternative. Council Member Paul Koretz and Council President Herb Wesson have introduced a competing measure that would allow for approximately one hundred patients’ cooperatives and collectives distributed throughout the city. Their motion complies with a recent Appellate Court decision, Pack v. City of Long Beach, which if upheld by the California Supreme Court, will prevent cities from authorizing conduct prohibited under federal law (like providing medical cannabis). This “limited immunity” approach may also help settle dozens of lawsuit brought by the City of Los Angeles and patients’ associations. Better still, the Koretz-Wesson motion would create an ordinance that finally regulates medical cannabis provision in the city – something most Angelinos still want to see.

    Which option the City Council chooses may depend on what patients and advocates do right now. The City Council could consider one or both of the motions at any time. Public outcry has prevented medical cannabis opponents on the City Council and at the City Attorney’s office from fast-tracking the so-called “gentle ban” and derailing the “limited immunity” option so far. The growing coalition of medical cannabis allies now includes the influential UFCW Local 770, which represents workers at more than twenty Los Angeles patients’ associations. UFCW Local 770 hosted a press conference on the issue at City Hall last week, and their action alert for City Council Members is helping keep pressure on City Hall. The voice of organized labor is just one of many to join a growing coalition committed to defeating the “gentle ban” or overturning it with a voter referendum.

    This is a fight Angelinos have to fight, but everyone should be paying attention. If medical cannabis opponents succeed in banning patients’ cooperatives and collectives here, it will be a green light for other jurisdictions. We need to stop the momentum for bans in Los Angeles, before it reaches a critical mass. The City of Los Angeles is a trend setter, for better of for worse. Patients and advocates nationwide will suffer if the story of Los Angeles is one of confusion, delay, litigation, and finally a ban. The Koretz-Wesson motion is a chance to take back the momentum and get this influential city back on track. But it will not happen if those of us in the city do not dig in our heels and fight before the choice is made.

    What can you do? Use the UFCW Local 770’s online action alert to send a message to City Hall right now. Then plan to join the Los Angeles Chapter of ASA on Saturday to plan the next steps. The LA-ASA meeting is at 1:00 PM on Saturday, June 16, in the Community Room (#152) at the West Hollywood Gateway Mall located at 7100 Santa Monica Blvd. in West Hollywood, CA 90046.
  • Landmark Court Decision Affirms Legality of Storefront Dispensaries in California



     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Second District Court of Appeal rejects Attorney General’s argument that all collective members must participate in cultivation

    The California Court of Appeal issued a landmark published decision last week affirming the legality of storefront dispensaries and rejecting the argument that every member of a collective or cooperative must participate in the cultivation. Didn’t hear about the ruling? Maybe because the decision came from the Second Appellate District in Los Angeles, the domain of District Attorney Steve Cooley and City Attorney Carmen Trutanich, famously intolerant to medical marijuana dispensaries. It would be an understatement to say that the ruling jabs a large thorn into both of their sides. You’ll certainly see no publicity from their corner.

    The case People v. Colvin involves William Frank Colvin, the operator of Hollywood Holistic Inc., who was arrested while lawfully transporting a pound of medical marijuana from one collective he operates to another. Even while acknowledging that Colvin was operating a legitimate dispensary, the trial court denied him a defense on the grounds that transportation of medical marijuana was illegal under state law. After being denied a defense, Colvin was convicted.

    On appeal, California Attorney General Kamala Harris advanced the view that under state law all members of a collective must somehow participate in the cultivation process and “come together” in “some way” for this purpose. In characterizing Attorney General Harris’s argument, the Court said:
    The Attorney General does not specify how many members must participate or in what way or ways they must do so, except to imply that Holistic, with its 5,000 members and 14 growers, is simply too big to allow any ‘meaningful’ participation in the cooperative process; hence, it cannot be a ‘cooperative’ or a ‘collective’ [in compliance with state law].

    The Court then compared medical marijuana cooperatives with food cooperatives:
    [The Attorney General’s interpretation of state law] would impose on medical marijuana cooperatives requirements not imposed on other cooperatives. A grocery cooperative, for example, may have members who grow and sell the food and run a store out of which the cooperative's products are sold. But not everyone who pays a fee to become a member participates in the cooperative other than to shop at it.

    However, the Court of Appeal unanimously rejected the stringent requirement that an “unspecified number of members to engage in unspecified ‘united action or participation’ to qualify for the protection of [state law].” Perhaps most importantly, the Court said that the “logical conclusion” of such requirements would likely “limit drastically the size of medical marijuana establishments.” Furthermore, the Court said that:
    [T]he Attorney General’s vague qualifier provides little direction or guidance to, among others, qualified patients, primary caregivers, law enforcement, and trial courts. Rather, imposing the Attorney General’s requirement would, it seems to us, contravene the intent of [state law] by limiting patients’ access to medical marijuana and leading to inconsistent applications of the law.

    It should be no surprise why Cooley, Trutanich and the other opponents of medical marijuana would want to downplay such a landmark decision. However, at a time when trial courts are denying a defense to medical marijuana dispensary operators, the Court’s decision is a welcome one that is long overdue.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • RAND Corporation says dispensaries don't cause crime



    UPDATE October 11 - The RAND Corporation bowed to politcal pressure for the LA City Attorney's Office and removed this study "until the review is complete." Ironically, the RAND Corporation's wen site says that "RAND is widely respected for operating independent of political and commercial pressures." Apparently not in every case!

    The RAND Corporation, an influential public policy think tank, issued a report today debunking the commonly-held misperception that medical cannabis dispensing centers (MCDCs) attract crime to the neighborhoods in which they are located. In what the authors call “the first systematic analysis of the link between medical marijuana dispensaries and crime,” the right-leaning RAND Corporation found no evidence that hundreds of MCDCs in Los Angeles caused an increase in crime. The report echoes research conducted by Americans for Safe Access (ASA) and the experience in communities nationwide. Policy makers should see this groundbreaking report as a green light to adopt sensible regulations to protect legal patients and communities – while preserving safe access to medicine.



    The RAND Corporation report surveyed crime statistics around six hundred MCDCs in Los Angeles County, but failed to find any correlation between the facilities and an increase in crime. In fact, the report showed an increase in crime in some communities only after MCDCs closed. This would not be a surprise for Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck, who told Los Angeles City Council Members in 2010 that "banks are more likely to get robbed than medical marijuana dispensaries," and the claim that MCDCs attract crime "doesn't really bear out."

    The misperception that MCDCs attract crime has serious consequences for patients. In California, where medical cannabis has been legal for fifteen years, lawmakers recently voted to bar legal MCDCs from locating within six hundred feet of residential uses or zones - on top of an existing statute that bars the facilities from being the same distance from schools. The rationale? Public safety. Onerous regulations in Colorado, Arizona, New Jersey, and other states stem from the same bias. The RAND Corporation report is a welcome answer to this pervasive misconception.

    Medical cannabis is legal in sixteen sates and the District of Columbia, but stigma and disinformation too often stymie regulations that could make the good intentions of voters and lawmakers a reality for patients. Policy makers should listen to what the RAND Corporation has to say today about crime and MCDCs, and to what ASA has been saying about the necessity of well-regulated community-based access to medical cannabis since 2002. We must put aside the groundless assertion that MCDCs attract crime, and move quickly to fully implement state medical cannabis laws.

    Download a copy of the RAND Corporation report, “Regulating Medical Marijuana Dispensaries: An Overview with a Case Study of Los Angeles Preliminary Evidence of Their Impact on Crime.”

    Download a copy of ASA’s report, “Medical Cannabis Dispensing Collectives and Local Regulation.”
  • 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.
  • Montel Williams in LA



    Talk show host and medical cannabis patient Montel Williams told the Los Angeles City Council on Friday that an amendment to the city’s Medical Cannabis Ordinance (MCO) establishing a lottery to select one hundred patients’ collectives will do little to identify the best qualified applicants. The Los Angeles Times reports that Mr. Williams met privately with City Council Members on Thursday.



    At Friday’s meeting, Special Assistant to the City Attorney Jane Usher told City Council Members that they must adopt the amendments – including the lottery – in response to a Preliminary Injunction blocking enforcement of portions of the MCO. Ms. Usher said the judge has “put our feet to the fire,” and she urged the City Council to adopt the unpopular provision. Mr. Williams, who uses medical cannabis to treat the symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis, responded:
    "Holding feet to the fire? Let me explain something to you. For the last 10 years, from morning til night, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, I have absolute neuropathic pain through my feet, my shins, my side and my face," he said, his voice quavering. "You walk in and out of here every day and don't think about your feet. Mine I have to think about every second of the day."
    (quoted from the LA Times)

    Mr. Williams is to be commended for reminding City Council Members that patients need and deserve the best possible collectives. It is unfortunate that Council Members deferred again the City Attorney, and adopted a selection process that ignores longevity, performance, and goodwill. Time will tell if patients get lucky in the lottery.

    There is some good news for patients. Friday’s amendments removed the two-year sunset clause, which might have forced every collective to close in 2012. The changes also provide more protection for patients’ medical records. These are hard-won victories in the multi-year struggle to regulate safe access in the state’s largest city.

    Most importantly, the latest amendments should make a motion by City Council Members Bernard Parks and Jan Perry to ban collectives outright unnecessary. Like his predecessor, Rocky Delgadillo, City Attorney Carmen Trutanich has steadfastly supported a ban on collectives. But the Parks/Perry motion, seconded by Council Member Greig Smith, is the first sign that banning collectives has any traction on the City Council. The latest amendments should reassure City Council Members that they can successfully regulate access to medical cannabis – without banning collectives.

    Americans for Safe Access (ASA) has worked with officials in Los Angeles to promote sensible regulations since 2005. The adoption of an ordinance, despite its flaws, is a victory for patients. Our research and experience show that regulations reduce crime and complaints around collectives, while preserving access for legal patients. We know that this work is not finished. New lawsuits by disenfranchised collectives are inevitable, and there are still improvements to make in the state’s toughest ordinance. ASA is committed to standing up for patients in Los Angeles at City Hall and in the courtroom until this work is finished.
  • 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.
  • Persistence pays off in Los Angeles

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    (UPDATE October 19 - The Los Angeles City Council delayed a vote on the Hahn-Koretz amendment to the Medical Cannabis Ordinance this morning, apparently because Councilmembers want more clarity on constitutional issues raised by post-moratorium collectives. A District Court judge will hear oral arguments in the consolidated medical cannabis lawsuits on November 3. A vote on the amendment is scheduled for November 4, but advocates expect further delay.)

    Sometimes it is hard to see the results from grassroots advocacy, but medical cannabis supporters in Los Angeles just got some concrete evidence that persistence pays off. In response to pressure from constituents, Los Angeles City Councilmembers Paul Koretz and Janice Hahn introduced a motion on Friday to make an important change in the city’s controversial medical cannabis ordinance. If adopted, the motion will allow dozens of legal collectives deemed ineligible by the City Clerk to seek registration – and that means more access to medicine for patients.



    The controversy stems from a narrow interpretation of the ordinance, which prohibits changes in ownership or management. The City Clerk ruled last month that dozens of collectives were ineligible to register because they “changed” management. In most cases, however, the only “change” was in how many people were listed on different forms – including paperwork dating back to 2007. The City Attorney promptly filed lawsuits to close the collectives. Advocates have been talking with staff and City Councilmembers for weeks about the need to reinstate legal collectives that can show continuity of management.  

    Americans for safe Access (ASA) invests a lot of time and resources in grassroots advocacy because we know it pays off. A small army of lobbyists and lawyers are working to make changes to the ordinance to benefit their clients. Until now, City Councilmembers have been steadfast in resisting calls for amendments. But grassroots pressure has succeeded in creating the first opportunity for progress. We have to keep up those phone calls, emails, and letters. We need to keep making our voices heard inside and outside City Council Chambers. This motion must still be approved by the City Council, and there are many more changes that need to be made to make this ordinance work for medical cannabis patients.

    Read more about being an effective grassroots advocate in  ABC’s of Citizen Advocacy.