Pages tagged "Paul Koretz"


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 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.

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.

Labor stands up for safe access in LA

Organized labor spoke up on behalf of medical cannabis patients and workers in Los Angeles today. One hundred medical cannabis patients, workers, and advocates gathered on the steps of Los Angeles City Hall for a press conference hosted by the United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 770, which represents workers at more than twenty of the most reputable patients’ cooperatives and collectives in the city. UFCW Local 770 called the press conference to oppose a motion by City Council Members Jose Huizar and Mitchell Englander calling for an outright ban on patients’ associations. The motion will be before the Public Safety Committee tomorrow, and may be before the full City Council within days.



The Huizar-Englander motion is known by the euphemism “the gentle ban,” because the Author and the City Attorney claim the ordinance created by this motion would “allow” patients to grow their own medicine at home, but ban all other access in the city. But the right of patients and primary caregivers to grow medicine is already guaranteed under the Compassionate Use Act (Proposition 215) and the Medical Marijuana Program Act (SB 420). The “gentle ban” takes away real access for most patients, but gives nothing in return. “There is nothing gentle about the gentle ban,” said UFCW Local 770 Director of Organizing Rigo Valdez.

The City Council has another option. A competing motion by Council Member Paul Koretz and Council President Herb Wesson would allow for a limited number of patients cooperatives and collectives in the city, provided they comply with as yet undetermined provisions. That motion is designed to settle numerous lawsuits and comply with the Appellate Court decision in Pack v. Long Beach, which if upheld, may bar the city from some kinds of regulation. Unfortunately, the Koretz-Wesson “limited immunity” motion is being ignored by committee members and city staff.

The voice of organized labor is a welcome addition to the long and controversial debate about medical cannabis in Los Angeles. UFCW Local 770 is using its influence and experience to help to push the City Council away from the cynical “gentle ban” and towards an option that will preserve real access to medicine and good union jobs in Los Angeles. Patients and workers in Los Angeles hope lawmakers heard the voice of labor today, and will listen tomorrow at the Public Safety Committee hearing.

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.