Pages tagged "Regulations"

  • 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.
  • California Gov. Brown Vetoes SB 847!

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    I am happy to report that California Governor Jerry Brown has vetoed SB 847, a bill by Senator Lou Correa (D-Santa Ana) that would have required medical cannabis cooperatives and collectives be located at least 600 feet from residential zones! The Governor’s veto comes after a groundswell of opposition from members of Americans for Safe Access (ASA) and other medical cannabis advocates. I want to say a special thank you to everyone who visited legislative offices, made phone calls, wrote letters, and sent emails. Well done!



    The veto of SB 847 shows that grassroots participation makes a difference. We have some big challenges to overcome at the state and local levels, and ASA is already working on next year’s California Campaign.  We have just finished a statewide tour to talk with organizers, and are launching a new effort to coordinate grassroots support for ASA’s draft state legislation. Our goals are to defend patients’ civil rights, authorize cooperatives and collectives, and finally protect medical cannabis cultivators.

    I need your help right now, so that we can start preparing for the next steps. Can you make a special contribution to ASA to build on today’s momentum?

    In addition to the statewide tour, ASA also launched a new Activist Training Center this summer with the goal of building skills in our grassroots base. And we have kicked off our innovative Think Tank and Policy Shop to offer unprecedented professional support to local organizers. If we can mobilize a well-trained and motivated base, the veto of SB 847 will be the first of many victories in California.

    Please take a moment right now to make a one-time or recurring donation to ASA, so we can keep the momentum going in our direction!

    Thanks again for your work to stop SB 847!
  • California Governor Signs Bill Recognizing Legality of Medical Marijuana Distribution



     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    California Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill into law today recognizing the legality of local distribution centers and the right of municipalities to regulate the much-needed provision of medical marijuana to hundreds of thousands of patients across the state. AB1300, which was authored by California Assemblymember Bob Blumenfield (D-Van Nuys), takes effect on January 1st. The bill establishes that state law:
    [S]hall not prevent a city or other local governing body from adopting and enforcing local ordinances that regulate the location, operation, or establishment of a medical marijuana cooperative or collective.

    Although Americans for Safe Access (ASA) opposed Blumenfield’s bill for not going far enough to protect the operation of more than 1,000 storefront dispensaries and delivery services across the state, it does at least recognize their legitimacy and the need of patients to access these modes of distribution.

    ASA will continue to litigate in the courts and lobby state legislators to establish a more protective policy with regard to storefront distribution. Currently, more than 50 California localities have ordinances regulating the distribution of medical marijuana, and more than 90 local governments are considering such regulatory laws. Research conducted by ASA found that dispensary regulations not only benefit the thousands of patients across the state, but also help to reduce crime and improve the neighborhoods surrounding such facilities.
  • Trial Court Denies Challenge to Anaheim Ban on Dispensaries for a Second Time



     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    In an anticipated trial ruling in Qualified Patients Association v. City of Anaheim, Judge Chafee denied a challenge to Anaheim’s ban on medical marijuana dispensaries after he was reversed by the Fourth Appellate District one year ago. In this week’s unpublished decision, which has no precedential value, Judge Chafee decided that the Medical Marijuana Program Act (“MMPA”) does not forbid a city from banning “mass distribution” of medical marijuana through storefront dispensaries. However, under the MMPA qualified patients and their primary caregivers are not subject to criminal sanctions for sales where they associate collectively or cooperatively to cultivate marijuana for medical use.

    The trial court’s emphasis on “mass distribution” has no basis in the law and is contradicted by the State Attorney General Guidelines, which interpret the MMPA as permitting storefront medical marijuana distribution facilities. When the Fourth Appellate District reversed Judge Chafee in 2010, the court held that state law was not preempted by federal law and that federal law could not be used as a means to ban local distribution, but ultimately sent the case back to Judge Chafee for further factual development. The case is expected to be appealed, leaving open the possibility of another reversal.

    Americans for Safe Access filed an amicus brief on behalf of Qualified Patients Association in 2010 and will likely be involved in the second appeal.
  • Tough year in Sacramento



    This is shaping up as a tough year for medical cannabis in Sacramento. California Senators failed to vote on a bill by Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) that would have protected legal medical cannabis patients from employment discrimination. Americans for Safe Access (ASA) is already working to build more support for SB 129 before it comes back to the Senate in January of 2012. Lawmakers also took no action on a proposal by Senator Ron Calderon (D-Montebello) that would have established a statewide task force, including a representative from ASA, to study sales tax and other regulatory issues.



    Two undesirable medical cannabis bills are moving forward in the legislature this year. The Senate approved SB 847 on Wednesday. Authored by Senator Lou Correa (D-Santa Ana), this bill will require that medical cannabis dispensing centers and gardens be located at least 600-feet from residential zones and uses statewide. Local governments can opt out of this broad restriction, but ASA fears the 600-foot buffer zone will become a de facto standard for the state. This new restriction would be in addition to the existing state law barring collectives from locating within 600 feet of a school and any local regulations. ASA is calling on members and advocates to oppose SB 847.

    A second problematic bill is Assemblymember Bob Blumenfield’s (D-Van Nuys) AB 1300, which was approved in the Assembly on Friday. ASA and other advocates succeeded in securing an amendment to AB 1300 that defined medical cannabis cooperatives and collectives as places where medicine is grown or provided. The word “or” is significant. Some lawmakers and police officers hold that patients can only grow medicine together, not provide it to other members of the collective in exchange for a monetary reimbursement (a position ASA rejects).  Unfortunately, the advocates’ amendment was removed at the last minute, leaving only the provisions in AB 1300 that authorize local government to regulate the location, operation, and establishment of cooperatives and collectives. ASA has withdrawn support for the bill, given concerns it may promote bans and criminal enforcement against patients’ associations.

    Growing ambivalence towards medical cannabis is a challenge for advocates, who are eager to see better state and local regulations. But wary lawmakers fear that support for pro-medical cannabis legislation could be used against them – especially given uncertainty about what will be a safe or vulnerable District after this year’s first-ever non-partisan re-districting. We will have to work hard to keep lawmakers focused on the needs of legal patients, instead of reacting to unlicensed dispensaries, lenient doctors, and patients who “don’t look sick.” We may know that these are misperceptions, but we have a lot to do to convince our elected representatives.

    ASA is working hard to train an army of medical cannabis advocates to support sensible regulations and oppose misguided proposals. Let’s hope our innovative Online Training Center and new Think Tank and Policy Shop help support the grassroots campaign we need statewide. You can do your part by supporting ASA. Join today and participate in action alerts aimed at protecting safe access and patients’ rights.
  • Oppose SB 847 - Don't choke off safe access in CA!

    [caption id="attachment_1513" align="alignnone" width="247" caption="CA Senator Lou Correa"]
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    UPDATE: The CA Senate approved SB 847 on June 1. Now we must work to stop the bill in the Assembly!

    The California Senate will vote soon on a bill that will make it much more difficult to establish a legal medical cannabis patients’ cooperative or collective. Senator Lou Correa’s (D-Santa Ana) SB 847 will require that all cooperatives and collectives be located at least 600 feet from residential zones or use – effectively excluding vast portions of most California cities. This would be on top of the existing requirement that facilities be located 600 feet from schools.

    Americans for Safe Access (ASA) is calling on medical cannabis patients and supporters to oppose SB 847 today. ASA's Online Action Center makes it easy to find your Senator and send a message right now.



    SB 847 is burdensome. It is already hard enough for patients to organize and operate legal cooperatives and collectives. This new rule may make it almost impossible in some cities. Most medical cannabis patients rely on cooperatives and collectives for access to medicine, so onerous restrictions like this serve to choke off safe access. That is not what voters intended when they approved Proposition 215 calling on lawmakers “to implement a plan to provide for the safe and affordable distribution of marijuana to all patients in medical need of marijuana.”

    SB 847 is unnecessary. Research conducted by ASA and more than fifteen years of experience with medical cannabis in California have taught us that sensible local regulations reduce crime and complaints. We do not need to usurp local control on medical cannabis. Instead, legislators should be cooperating with local government and other stake holders to adopt state laws that facilitate safe, reliable, and legal access to medicine.

    Email your California Senator today and ask him or her to vote no on SB 847.

    Thank you for helping!
  • MT Governor vetoes repeal, but the fight continues

     

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    Medical cannabis patients in Montana scored a victory yesterday, when Governor Schweitzer vetoed a bill that would have repealed that state’s seven-year old medical cannabis law, but there is little time to celebrate. The state House of Representatives just approved SB 423, a bill that would gut the state’s medical cannabis law and severely limit patients’ access. The bill is now in a joint committee for final revisions before going to the governor’s desk, so we must work for another veto.

    The debate in Montana matters for medical cannabis patients nationwide. Powerful out-of-state lobby organizations are using the effort to repeal or severely curtail the state’s law as a rallying point in a nationwide push against safe access. If we do not draw the line in Montana, patients may soon be fighting to hold ground nationwide. ASA needs your help to ensure we keep moving forward, not backward.



    It doesn't have to be this way. I was in Montana in March, when Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents raided 26 dispensaries, gardens, and homes. I toured the state organizing local resistance and energizing grassroots action. Newly trained and empowered patients in Montana are pushing back and making a difference.

    If ASA had the resources, we could do the same in every state where medical cannabis opponents are attacking safe access. We need your help now more than ever to fight for medical cannabis in the states. Will you make a special contribution to ASA today?

    Thank you for supporting ASA and helping us fight for safe access nationwide!
  • 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.

    [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.
  • "Driven to the back alleys"

    LA County Supervisor Don Knabe and his colleagues on the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum Commission just overturned a ban on raves at the LA Coliseum. The Commission enacted a ban this summer after a 15-year old girl died of a drug overdose at a dance party with over 185,000 attendees. The LA Times reported Supervisor Knabe’s rationale for lifting the ban:
    "There's a way to do it right where we protect the public and allow this opportunity to take place," said Supervisor Don Knabe, who serves on the commission and said he preferred regulating raves at the publicly owned venue rather than see them "driven to the back alleys."
    Supervisor Knabe’s logic is sound, but his actions are inconsistent. Just nine days earlier, the Supervisor voted to ban medical cannabis patients’ collectives in the unincorporated communities of the county. He and his colleagues adopted the ban despite overwhelming opposition from community members, who asked instead for tighter regulations (the same kind the Commission will impose on raves). The advocates’ rationale was the same as the Supervisor’s. A ban just pushes medical cannabis back into the shadows, and that is bad for legal patients and their communities. So what is going on? Massive dance parties, where dangerous drug use is commonplace, are better regulated than banned. But legal medical cannabis patients’ collectives are too dangerous to regulate? That does not make sense. Research conducted by ASA and our experience over the last fourteen years tell us that sensible regulations for collectives reduce crime and complaints.  In fact, collectives can make a neighborhood safer. Oakland City Administrator Barbara Killey says the neighborhoods around her city’s regulated collectives are “some of the safest areas of Oakland now… since the ordinance passed." So why should legal collectives be “driven to the back alleys,” as Supervisor Knabe says? They should not. If Supervisors are worried about public safety, they can do what the Commission did – improve regulations. If they are worried about the small number of non-permitted collectives now operating in the county’s jurisdiction, they can take appropriate enforcement action. An outright ban, however, does nothing to protect public safety of stop non-permitted facilities. It only prevents legal patients’ collectives from obeying the law. The City of Los Angeles is slowing winnowing the number of collectives inside city limits, and many other cities in the county have bans or protracted moratoria on new collectives. There has never been a better time for the county to issue permits for qualified and well-vetted applicants pursuant to the sensible regulations adopted in 2006. Unfortunately, the decision to ban collectives raises doubt about whether or not legal patients and unincorporated communities will ever realize the proven benefits of regulations. That is a shame. At the end of the day, it will be legal patients who are “driven back to the alleys,” and that is not what LA County voters want. Los Angeles County patients and advocates will protest in front of the Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday, December 7, when the Supervisors will vote on final approval of the ban.