Pages tagged "Los Angeles City Council"


LA City Council moves to write a third medical cannabis initiative

Voters in Los Angeles will have three medical cannabis measures from which to choose when they go to the polls in May. The City Council approved a motion (11-1) by Council Member Paul Koretz on Wednesday instructing the City Attorney to write a voter initiative regulating collectives and cooperatives and raising the tax they must pay. The city’s belated effort at regulating hundreds of patients’ associations will join two community-led efforts to adopt regulations that have already qualified for the ballot.

Staff at City Hall does not expect to see initiative language from the City Attorney until just before the January 31 deadline for submitting ballot measures, so no one knows the details of City Council’s plan. Council Member Koretz’s motion instructs the City Attorney to base the voter initiative on a draft ordinance last vetted by the City Planning Commission on November 29. Known at City Hall as the “limited immunity” ordinance, that draft banned patients’ associations unless they met strict criteria, including opening before September 2007, locating 1,000 from sensitive uses, paying taxes, never having closed, and more.  Council Member Koretz’s new motion instructs the City Attorney to  add another 1% local tax on collectives and cooperatives – bringing the city’s total medical cannabis tax to 6%.



The first voter initiative qualified for the May ballot was submitted by the Committee to Protect Patients and Neighborhood (CPPN), a coalition that includes Americans for Safe Access (ASA), the Greater Los Angeles Collective Alliance (GLACA), and the United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 770. That initiative would only allow collectives and cooperatives that opened before September 2007, the date the city originally established a moratorium on new facilities. The initiative also allows the city to pursue permanent licensing for patients’ associations when there is greater clarity under state law.

A second voter initiative was submitted by a group of collective and cooperative operators recently organized under the name Angelinos for Safe Access. This organization has no connection to ASA, despite the surprising similarity of their name. The second initiative sets no upper limit on the number of facilities in the city, relying instead on location restrictions and other criteria to limit potential providers. This initiative was specifically designed to provide an opportunity for some of the hundreds of collectives and cooperatives that opened after the city’s 2007 moratorium to stay open. The second measure would also raise the existing city tax from 5% to 6%.

ASA remains committed to the voter initiative we helped create and submit as part of the CPPN patient-provider-worker coalition effort. We think it is the best option for preserving patients’ access and addressing the community’s concerns. We are confident most voters in Los Angeles will agree – including those who are ambivalent on this issue. Of course, we hope the city will create a ballot measure that we can all get behind. But we cannot afford to wait and see, especially given the City Attorney’s persistent opposition to any medical cannabis regulation in the city.

Patients and other voters will debate the pros and cons of each measure between now and May 21, when all three initiatives are likely to be on the ballot. ASA will publish more analysis and comparisons of each measure after the city publishes its version. In the meantime, there may still be time for residents of Los Angeles to influence the content of the city measure. ASA encourages patients and advocates to speak up to their City Council representative right now. Tell him or her what you do and do not want to see in a medical cannabis ballot measure. Do not wait for the City Attorney’s draft – there may be little time for debate and amendments before the submission deadline on January 31.

LA advocates submit 70,000 initiative signatures

A coalition of medical cannabis patients, providers, and organized labor submitted 70,000 signatures on Friday to qualify a voter initiative for the May ballot in Los Angeles. The Committee to Protect Patients and Neighborhoods (CPPN), which includes Americans for Safe Access (ASA), developed the voter initiative to establish sensible regulations for medical cannabis patients’ cooperatives and collectives in the city. The proposal would limit the number of facilities in the city to those that meet certain criteria – opening date, proximity to sensitive uses, hours of operation, etc.

Advocates are turning to the voter initiative process in Los Angeles because they are increasingly frustrated with the City Council’s progress on long-standing promises to protect access for patients. The City Council spent years creating an adopting a flawed ordinance in 2010, but numerous lawsuits (by patients’ associations and the city) rendered the measure unenforceable. After settlement talks with the City Attorney collapsed earlier this year, Councilmember Huizar introduced and quickly passed an ordinance that effectively banned all cooperatives and collectives in the city. CPPN mounted a successful voter referendum to force the repeal of the ban, but the city still has no regulations for medical cannabis.



Research conducted by ASA proves that sensible regulations reduce crime and complaints, while preserving safe access for patients. It is past time for California's largest city to enjoy the benefits of reasonable regulations. The City Council still has time to adopt a regulatory ordinance before the vote in May. A compromise ordinance, which would allow a small number of facilities in the city, was approved by the City Planning Commission last month. It is unclear if City Council Members are willing to approve it, and advocates want to be sure the voters are poised to act if the Council does not.

A separate medical cannabis voter initiative is in the signature gathering phase right now. It is possible that the City Council will be debating the compromise ordinance while advocates are gearing up to campaign for two separate measures. If either measure is approved, it will replace the city’s ordinance. If voters approve both measures, the initiative with the highest number of votes will prevail.

Stay tuned for an eventful winter and spring in LA!

City Council Repeals LA Ban, Now It’s Time to Regulate

The Los Angeles City Council voted to repeal an ordinance banning medical cannabis patients’ cooperatives and collectives yesterday, clearing the way for a new ordinance to regulate hundreds of facilities in the city. The City Council adopted the ban in July after negotiations to settle dozens of lawsuits resulting from the city’s 2010 regulatory ordinance failed to produce a settlement. The repeal is the latest development in a struggle to regulate medical cannabis that dates back to 2005, when Americans for Safe Access (ASA) first engaged city staff and Council Members asking for sensible regulations to protect patients’ access and the community.

In a separate motion authored by Council Members Herb Wesson and Jose Huizar, the City Council adopted a resolution asking the state legislature to “address inadequacies of state law” regarding medical cannabis. Some of the provision in the resolution call for the legislature to declare that financial transactions (sales) are not legal and that cooperatives and collectives must have local authorization to operate. Both of these were contentious issues in the long debate about regulations in the city, and both issues are currently before the California Supreme Court. The resolution also calls for enforcement against lenient medical cannabis doctors and a “finite list of conditions” for which cannabis can be used – a proposal that clearly violates the language of voter-approved Proposition 215. The resolution is not binding as law, and the state legislature is under no legal obligation to respond.

I want to say a special thank you to the ASA members and friends who helped gather more than 49,000 signatures to call a voter referendum on the ban, donated their time and money, and kept believing we could win. Thanks to grassroots persistence, we have another chance to secure the proven benefits of regulations for Angelenos. Special thanks is in order for our coalition partners – the United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 770 (UFCW), which represents works at dozens of local facilities; and the Greater Los Angeles Collective Alliance (GLACA), the state’s oldest medical cannabis trade association. Both did a great job in gathering signatures, talking to City Council Members, and more.



Patients and advocates hope that the repeal will encourage City Council Members to adopt a new ordinance with which everyone can live. Otherwise, the city may have no tools to protect patients and neighborhoods from real and imagined harm. The City Council voted to create a new regulatory ordinance when they approved a motion by Council Member Paul Koretz on the same day that they voted for the ban. Now we need city staff to move quickly to finish the ordinance, get it to committees, and back to the City Council. There is no need for further delay. The voters of Los Angeles clearly want regulations, not a ban. The debate about this ordinance may be contentious, but it is past time to live up to years of promises to regulate medical cannabis in Los Angeles.

Enforcement actions against medical cannabis cooperatives and collectives in Los Angeles has already begun. There is no reason to believe that the ban’s repeal will stop the pressure. The Los Angeles City Attorney and District Attorney (DA) regard all of the city’s collectives and cooperatives as illegal, with or without a ban, and they are working to close them down. The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) routinely raids facilities, and DA’s office has already prosecuted some operators. The City Council turned up the heat last month when they called in the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to help out. LAPD and DEA agents raided three collectives, filed civil asset forfeiture cases against three property owners who rent to medical cannabis tenants, and sent nearly seventy letters threatening other property owners.

ASA urges cultivators, providers, staff, and patients to know your rights and be prepared to assert them in the event of a raid by the LAPD and DEA. We are going to see a lot more of that before the dust settles in Los Angeles. Patients and advocates will hold a lively and peaceful protest of the recent attacks in front of the federal building on Thursday. You can meet ASA , UFCW Local 770, and GLACA in front of the Edward Roybal Federal Building in downtown Los Angeles at 1:30 PM. The federal building is located at 255 East Temple Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012.

Thanks again for helping stop the ban. Now let’s roll up our sleeves and keep doing the kind of effective grassroots work that makes a difference. We will need you back on the phones, at City Hall, protesting on the streets… maybe even gathering signatures for a new voter initiative. Be sure to join ASA’s email list to stay up-to-date, and join us in person at the LA-ASA meeting on Saturday, October 20, in the Community Room (152) at the West Hollywood Gateway Mall located at 7100 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood, CA 90046.

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.

[caption id="attachment_1114" align="alignleft" width="150" caption="Jan Perry"]
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[caption id="attachment_1115" align="alignleft" width="150" caption="Bernard Parks"]
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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.