No Standard for Cities on Pot Issue

No Standard for Cities on Pot Issue
Posted by CN Staff on April 10, 2006 at 07:22:53 PT
By Tom Lochner, Contra Costa Times
Source: Contra Costa Times
California -- Nearly a decade ago, California voters legalized marijuana for medical purposes.The Compassionate Use Act of 1996 allows patients to grow, possess and use marijuana on the recommendation of a doctor. It has meant relief to many who suffer from chronic pain and from illnesses such as cancer, arthritis, AIDS and many others.
Today, city and county officials across the state say they are caught between the will of the voters and federal law, which classifies marijuana as an illegal drug with no medical use and a high potential for abuse -- the same as heroin.Almost 10 years since medical marijuana was legalized in the state, most local governments do not have regulations for medical marijuana dispensaries, popularly know as cannabis clubs.Some cities, such as Concord, have banned them outright, invoking federal law, under which marijuana is illegal, period.Others have enacted moratoriums as they wait to see what the courts and other cities are doing -- even as federal agents periodically raid dispensaries in the state."We don't distinguish between medical marijuana and marijuana," said Special Agent Casey McEnry of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency in San Francisco. "It's marijuana, and it is a violation."Two U.S. Supreme Court cases in the last five years have confirmed the DEA's mandate to enforce the federal Controlled Substances Act in spite of California law to the contrary, McEnry said.In June, the court affirmed that federal authorities can prosecute medical marijuana patients even if they are acting in accordance with state law. In a 2001 case, the court rejected medical necessity as a justification to use or distribute marijuana.Reacting to the 2005 Supreme Court ruling in a bulletin to law enforcement agencies statewide, California Attorney General Bill Lockyer opined that "California's Compassionate Use Act is not pre-empted by federal law" and "the use of medicinal marijuana under state law is unaffected" by the ruling."It's a fascinating kind of game that's being played out there," said Marsha Cohen, a law professor at Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco and co-author of the text "Pharmacy Law for California Pharmacists." Ongoing tensions between the federal government and the state result in a "shadow medical system" surrounding medical marijuana, Cohen said.Today, slightly more than 20 California cities have medical marijuana dispensary ordinances; an almost equal number have bans or ordinances so restrictive that critics say they amount to a virtual ban. About 50 cities have moratoriums on the opening of new dispensaries, according to Americans for Safe Access and an Albany city staff report.Martinez is the lone city in Contra Costa County with a regulating ordinance, dating to 2000, one that advocates say is too restrictive; there is no known cannabis club in that city today.Elsewhere in the East Bay, most cities did little or nothing until 2004 and 2005, which saw a flurry of moratoriums. Some cities enacted them on an urgency basis after would-be dispensary operators shopped the idea to planning departments.The moratoriums -- in most cases, a 45-day urgency moratorium followed by a 101/2-month extension -- ostensibly bought the cities time to craft an ordinance. The moratoriums can be extended for a second year.Dublin, Hercules, Livermore, Pleasant Hill, Pleasanton and San Pablo are in the first year of moratoriums. Albany, Antioch, El Cerrito, Oakley and Pinole are in their second year.Albany and Pinole extended their moratoriums just this past week. Pinole city attorney Benjamin Reyes II, has said his direction is to draft an ordinance "that won't be immediately challenged by either the federal government or the Americans For Safe Access," a patient advocacy group that has sued Concord in state court over its marijuana dispensary ban."We're still at the information-gathering stage," said Pleasanton assistant city attorney Larissa Seto, whose city is under a moratorium until August. "This is so new."Patients and advocates say cities are stalling, or worse."Any city that passed a moratorium that doesn't have an existing dispensary and hasn't taken any action to write an ordinance is clearly stonewalling," said Hilary McQuie, spokeswoman for Americans for Safe Access. "There are many good models of ordinances. It shouldn't take them a year.""They're just caving in to the federal government," said Dennis Fulkerson, 42, of Antioch. A quadriplegic since a diving accident in the Delta 20 years ago, Fulkerson uses marijuana to soothe spasms in his lower back and legs and nausea that is sometimes so intense that "I couldn't see straight." For him, medical marijuana works faster than any conventional drug."It's my right," Fulkerson said. "It was voted in by the people of the state."Deryl Bergman, 56, of Concord, suffers from fibromyalgia and osteoarthritis, but it was her foot neuropathy that drove her to seek out marijuana, she said.The Compassionate Use Act gave hope to tens of thousands of Californians for whom marijuana is the medication of choice -- if not the only affordable alternative -- for treating cancer, anorexia, AIDS, chronic pain, spasticity, glaucoma, arthritis, migraine and other ailments. Between 150,000 and 200,000 Californians were medical marijuana users as of last year, according to the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.The 1996 act also envisioned "safe and affordable distribution of marijuana" to any patient who needs it, but left out the details.The state Legislature in 2003 sought to mend that flaw by passing SB420, which set up a voluntary patient identification system and established threshold amounts for cultivating and possessing marijuana.Contra Costa County earlier this year began to issue medical marijuana identification cards that are valid statewide.But if the state's patients and dispensers got clarity from SB420, they remain outlaws in federal eyes."Theoretically, the feds could go after a person who possesses even a single joint, or less for that matter," said Joe Elford, legal counsel for Americans For Safe Access.All of this leaves cities and counties, as well as patients such as Fulkerson and Bergman, in an uneasy legal twilight.Federal authorities, however, say the Supreme Court rulings make the situation as clear as day."Anyone who dispenses marijuana is doing so at their own legal peril," said McEnry.For Fulkerson, the Antioch patient, such words have an ominous ring. If dispensaries shut down, it could force patients to seek marijuana from illegal dealers on the street, he said."Right now, if I want to get some medicine, I have several choices," he said. "But that could change. And it makes me afraid."Note: In the East Bay, most dispensary ordinances consist of moratoriums.Source: Contra Costa Times (CA)Author: Tom Lochner, Contra Costa TimesPublished: April 10, 2006Copyright: 2006 Knight RidderContact: letters cctimes.comWebsite: For Safe Access Medical Marijuana Archives
Home Comment Email Register Recent Comments Help

Comment #15 posted by Truth on April 12, 2006 at 17:26:53 PT
Bear's link-
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #14 posted by Truth on April 12, 2006 at 17:25:12 PT
Speaking of Owsley,,
I just saw one of his belt buckels sell for $675.00 on EBay
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #13 posted by Max Flowers on April 11, 2006 at 20:20:50 PT
Thanks, I missed that. Yep, case closed so to speak.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #12 posted by runderwo on April 11, 2006 at 18:28:21 PT
Who the hell cares about a poll? Why don't they just let them vote on it? What's the poll going to do? "Oh gee, I was going to vote for this, but since everyone looks like they're against it, I better vote against it"I like their error margins too. So if it was 10% off, that could put 43% in support and 46% against.Also, what gives me the feeling the pollsters conflated "legalization" and "decriminalization" when presenting the poll?
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #11 posted by runderwo on April 11, 2006 at 18:20:08 PT
Plenty of people have the misconception that LSD does this and that, but that is all rooted in one problem. After LSD was criminalized and Bear was busted (among many others), all sorts of chemicals from PCP to speed to untested designer drugs, including cuts with other inactive (yet unhealthy) chemicals, were passed off as LSD and simply referred to as "acid". I wasn't there back then, but nobody I know has been able to find real LSD since the Kansas bust. Which is a crying shame given what controlled use of LSD has to offer society, but oh well.I am concerned very much about the people who take street "acid" without background on why they should NOT be taking it. I always recommend that they NOT take it unless the source is VERY trusted (even better if the source is confident enough to take it himself).I am also concerned that LSD's reputation has been damaged - and the expensive and unfortunately successful prohibition of LSD justified - by nothing more than the prohibition itself that is causing street "acid" to be an unknown variable. Of course, that prohibition is based in nothing more than the unsubstantiated media scare stories in the 60's. Yay for science? It's unfortunate that people take this so-called "acid" in uncontrolled settings, and whatever physical or mental harm comes out of it is automatically assigned to LSD.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #10 posted by afterburner on April 11, 2006 at 15:45:58 PT
RE Comments #4&5 (RE 'acid kills')
"Gerald FitzGerald is a writer based in New Bedford, Mass., and a *state prosecutor*.)" [emphasis added.]Consider the source. I rest my case!His colorful memory has been tainted by his current allegiances.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #9 posted by FoM on April 11, 2006 at 07:33:03 PT
Max Flowers
I never heard that Acid kills. Speed kills yes that was a common expression but never LSD. 
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #8 posted by FoM on April 11, 2006 at 07:03:25 PT
Poll: Nevadans Don't Want To Legalize Marijuana
April 11, 2006 
 Las Vegas -- A statewide poll finds Nevadans oppose a ballot measure to legalize the possession of an ounce or less of marijuana. The survey of 625 voters conducted for the Las Vegas Review-Journal found only about one in three favor the initiative backed by the Committee to Regulate and Control Marijuana. Fifty-six percent say they oppose decriminalization. The poll has a sampling error margin of 10 percent. Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #7 posted by whig on April 11, 2006 at 06:34:25 PT
Not only does LSD not have a reputation for killing people, it's essentially completely non-toxic at any realistic dose.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #6 posted by potpal on April 11, 2006 at 03:51:42 PT
special huh
"We don't distinguish between medical marijuana and marijuana," said Special Agent Casey McEnry of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency in San Francisco. "It's marijuana, and it is a violation."Special, alright, but Agent? The word I"m thinking begins with a big A also. Where do they get these guys?Meanwhile, back at the ranch... 
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #5 posted by Max Flowers on April 10, 2006 at 23:50:39 PT
Pretty cool little piece, but then I found the very last paragraph troubling:San Francisco in '67 was like that---before it turned brittle, before we learned that acid killed---in the days when you could climb Hippie Hill and draw a deep breath of music and love and damn near anything could happen.Acid kills, eh? I think he got mixed up. The phrase from those days was "speed kills". LSD does not have a reputation for killing people. In fact, it has quite a decent reputation. Albert Hoffmann, its chemist discoverer, just celebrated his 100th birthday...
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #4 posted by FoM on April 10, 2006 at 22:03:11 PT
Off Topic: The Good Old Days on Hippie Hill
April 11, 2006Three days after we moved into our San Francisco apartment, we discovered a girl living in the hall closet. The address was 2233 Sutter St., in the Fillmore district. The girl was Sharon, and, apparently, she came with the place. The time was spring 1967. Damn near anything could happen. Complete Article:
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #3 posted by mayan on April 10, 2006 at 18:10:02 PT
A Violation
"We don't distinguish between medical marijuana and marijuana," said Special Agent Casey McEnry of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency in San Francisco. "It's marijuana, and it is a violation."The folks who pay your salary have voted to support medical cannabis time and again. You are in violation of their will! FoM, here's another piece regarding Cannasat that I posted on the previous thread...Medical marijuana hits stock market: WAY OUT...Physicist says heat substance felled WTC:,1249,635198488,00.html‘Loose Change’ tries to make sense of 9/11: Giuliani slavering witness for Moussaoui prosecution: Embassy official’s claim triggers US media interest:\04\09\story_9-4-2006_pg7_8Pakistan denies spending money to remove findings 
from 9/11 report: Martian Conspiracy:'t Have Your Cake and Eat It Too: Another 9/11 LTE: Collapse:
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #2 posted by OverwhelmSam on April 10, 2006 at 17:41:28 PT
Alcohol Junkies
We have to deal with the alcohol junkies every day, but if we smoke a little marijuana to relax, we're the big bad boogie man? The government is so ignorant. Whatever.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #1 posted by FoM on April 10, 2006 at 07:26:06 PT
MMJ Canada: Hamilton Spectator 
Campaign Promotes Medical Marijuana
 ***By Joanna Frketich, The Hamilton SpectatorApril 10, 2006A pharmaceutical company chaired by TV magnate Moses Znaimer and with ties to Burlington, is launching a campaign to get more medical marijuana users.Not everyone, including Health Canada, likes the idea.Cannasat Therapeutics Inc. researches and develops drugs derived from cannabis plants, and holds a stake in Prairie Plant Systems, the only government-licensed grower and distributor of marijuana in Canada.In the weeks ahead, it is placing ads in various media to tell cancer and AIDS patients they can get the drug legally from Health Canada to treat pain, loss of appetite and insomnia."They have no idea that Health Canada will provide a safe supply for them," said Dr. Alan Ryley, a Burlington surgeon and director of Cannasat. "I was surprised by this. I know physicians working in pain clinics who, when they suggest cannabis might be helpful, their patients look at them like they're being asked to do something illegal. They're quite horrified."Health Canada has never had a campaign to offer pot to patients prescribed the drug by a doctor to treat cancer, HIV, AIDS, multiple sclerosis, spinal chord injuries or disease, arthritis, epilepsy and other illnesses. And it would prefer to keep it that way."We're not participating in it," said Chris Williams, spokesperson for Health Canada. "We do not support it."The program gets 90 applications a month. And there are 1,306 legal users."We don't know how many are using it (illegally), we think it's quite a lot," he said. "They should know there is a legal way to do it."The Hamilton AIDS Network says the problem isn't a lack of awareness."The challenge is that a large number of physicians aren't comfortable prescribing marijuana," said executive director Betty Anne Thomas. "It's not that people aren't aware of it, it's that they can't access it."Dr. Binh Khong, a Hamilton physician specializing in the treatment of pain, has only prescribed pot once in a five-year career. He believes no doctor at the Pain Management Centre at Hamilton General has prescribed the drug in 12,000 annual patient visits."I wouldn't know where to begin with it," he said. "There's not much experience with it. I don't think people are aware you can get a prescription for it. I haven't had too many patients ask about it."A reason doctors are hesitant to prescribe pot is it has little or no scientific evidence to back it up. Cannasat hopes to change that by doing randomized clinical trials to tell MDs it's beneficial.Three of the company's five directors are local: Ryley, Burlington's Alan Torrie, former CEO of Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital and Donald Ziraldo, co-founder of Inniskillin Wines.Copyright: 2006 The Hamilton Spectator
[ Post Comment ]

Post Comment