L.A. Prepares for Clash Over Marijuana

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  L.A. Prepares for Clash Over Marijuana

Posted by CN Staff on October 17, 2009 at 11:42:08 PT
By The New York Times 
Source: Cape Cod Times  

Los Angeles -- There are more marijuana stores here than public schools. Signs emblazoned with cannabis plants or green crosses sit next to dry cleaners, gas stations and restaurants. The dispensaries range from Hollywood-day-spa fabulous to shoddy-looking storefronts with hand-painted billboards. Absolute Herbal Pain Solutions, Grateful Meds, Farmacopeia Organica. Cannabis advocates claim that more than 800 dispensaries have sprouted here since 2002; some law enforcement officials say it is closer to 1,000. Whatever the real number, everyone agrees it is too high.
And so this, too, is taken for granted: Crackdowns on cannabis clubs will soon come in this city, which has more dispensaries than any other. For the first time, law enforcement officials in Los Angeles have vowed to prosecute medical marijuana dispensaries that turn a profit, with police officials saying they expect to conduct raids. Their efforts are widely seen as a campaign to sway the City Council into adopting strict regulations after two years of debate. It appears to be working. Carmen A. Trutanich, the newly elected city attorney, recently persuaded the council to put aside a proposed ordinance negotiated with medical marijuana supporters for one drafted by his office.The new proposal calls for dispensaries to have renewable permits, submit to criminal record checks, register the names of members with the police, and operate on a nonprofit basis. If enacted, it is likely to result in the closing of hundreds of marijuana dispensaries. Trutanich argued that state law permits the exchange of marijuana between growers and patients on a nonprofit and noncash basis only. Marijuana advocates say that interpretation would regulate dispensaries out of existence and thwart the will of voters who approved medical cannabis in 1996. Whatever happens here will be closely watched by law enforcement officials and marijuana advocates across the country who are threading their way through federal laws that still treat marijuana as an illegal drug and state laws that are increasingly allowing medicinal use.Thirteen states have laws supporting medical marijuana, and others are considering new legislation. No state has gone further than California, often described by drug enforcement agents as a “source nation” because of the vast quantities of marijuana grown here. And no city in the state has gone further than Los Angeles.This has alarmed local officials, who say that dispensary owners here took unfair advantage of vague state laws intended to create exceptions to marijuana prohibitions for a limited number of ill people. “About 100 percent of dispensaries in Los Angeles County and the city are operating illegally,” said Steve Cooley, the Los Angeles County district attorney, who is up for re-election next year. “The time is right to deal with this problem.” Cooley, speaking last week at a training luncheon for regional narcotics officers titled “The Eradication of Medical Marijuana Dispensaries in the City of Los Angeles and Los Angeles County,” said that state law did not allow dispensaries to be for-profit enterprises. Trutanich, the city attorney, went further, saying dispensaries were prohibited from accepting cash even to reimburse growers for labor and supplies. He said that a recent California Supreme Court decision, People v. Mentch, banned all over-the-counter sales of marijuana; other officials and marijuana advocates disagree. So far, prosecutions of marijuana dispensaries in Los Angeles have been limited to about a dozen in the last year, said Sandi Gibbons, a spokeswoman for Cooley. But Police Department officials said they were expecting to be called on soon to raid collectives. “I don't think this is a law that we'll have to enforce 800 times,” said one police official, who declined to speak on the record before the marijuana ordinance was completed. “This is just like anything else. You don't have to arrest everyone who is speeding to make people slow down.” Don Duncan, a spokesman for Americans for Safe Access, a leader in the medical marijuana movement, said that over-the-counter cash purchases should be permitted but that dispensaries should be nonprofit organizations. He also said marijuana collectives needed more regulation and a “thinning of the herd.” “I am under no illusions that everyone out there is following the rules,” said Duncan, who runs his own dispensary in West Hollywood. “But just because you accept money to reimburse collectives does not mean you're making profits.” For marijuana advocates, Los Angeles represents a critical juncture — a symbol of the movement's greatest success, but also of its vulnerability. More than 300,000 doctors' referrals for medical cannabis are on file, the bulk of them from Los Angeles, according to Americans for Safe Access.The movement has had a string of successes in the Legislature and at the ballot box. In the city of Garden Grove, marijuana advocates forced the Highway Patrol to return 6 grams of marijuana it had confiscated from an eligible user. Cannabis dispensaries have opened in more than 20 counties in the state. But there have also been setbacks. In June, a federal judge sentenced Charles C. Lynch, a dispensary owner north of Santa Barbara, to one year in prison for selling marijuana to a 17-year-old boy whose father had testified that they sought out medical marijuana for his son's chronic pain. The mayor and the chief of police testified on behalf of Lynch, who was released on bail pending appeal. And in September, San Diego police officers and sheriff's deputies, along with agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration, raided 14 marijuana dispensaries and arrested 31 people. In an interview, Bonnie Dumanis, the district attorney for San Diego County, said that state laws governing medical marijuana were unclear and that the city had not yet instituted new regulations. Dumanis said that she approved of medical marijuana clubs where patients grow and use their own marijuana, but that none of the 60 or so dispensaries in the county operated that way. “These guys are drug dealers,” she said of the 14 that were raided. “I said publicly, if anyone thinks we're casting too big a net and we get a legitimate patient or a lawful collective, then show us your taxes, your business license, your incorporation papers, your filings with the Department of Corporations. ”If they had these things, we wouldn't prosecute,“ she said. Marijuana supporters worry that San Diego may provide a glimpse of the near future for Los Angeles if raids here become a reality. But many look to Harborside Health Center in Oakland as a model for how dispensaries could work. ”Our No.1 task is to show that we are worthy of the public's trust in asking to distribute medical cannabis in a safe and secure manner,“ said Steve DeAngelo, the proprietor of Harborside, which has been in business for three years. Harborside is one of four licensed dispensaries in Oakland run as nonprofit organizations. It is the largest, with 74 employees and revenues of about $20 million. Last summer, the Oakland City Council passed an ordinance to collect taxes from the sale of marijuana, a measure that DeAngelo supported. DeAngelo designed Harborside to exude legitimacy, security and comfort. Visitors to the low-slung building are greeted by security guards who check the required physicians' recommendations. Inside, the dispensary looks like a bank, except that the floor is covered with hemp carpeting and the eight tellers stand behind identical displays of marijuana and hashish. There is a laboratory where technicians determine the potency of the marijuana and label it accordingly. (Harborside says it rejects 80 percent of the marijuana that arrives at its door for insufficient quality.) There is even a bank vault where the day's cash is stored along with reserves of premium cannabis. An armored truck picks up deposits every evening. City officials routinely audit the dispensary's books. Surplus cash is rolled back into the center to pay for free counseling sessions and yoga for patients. ”Oakland issued licenses and regulations, and Los Angeles did nothing and they are still unregulated,“ DeAngelo said. ”Cannabis is being distributed by inappropriate people.“ But even Oakland's regulations fall short of Trutanich's proposal that Los Angeles ban all cash sales. ”I don't know of any collective that operates in the way that is envisioned by this ordinance,“ said Duncan, of Americans for Safe Access. Christine Gasparac, a spokeswoman for state Attorney General Jerry Brown, said that after Trutanich's comments in Los Angeles, law enforcement officials and advocates from around the state had called seeking clarity on medical marijuana laws. Brown has issued legal guidelines that allow for nonprofit sales of medical marijuana, she said. But, she added, with laws being interpreted differently, ”the final answer will eventually come from the courts.“Source: Cape Cod Times (MA)Published: October 17, 2009Copyright: 2009 Cape Cod TimesURL: Articles:LA County DA Prepares To Crack Down on Pot Officials Challenge Legality of MMJ Sales

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Comment #29 posted by Sinsemilla Jones on October 19, 2009 at 13:15:05 PT
It's an old plant developed by the Earth!
"...then do what drug companies have to do when they develop a new product..."Sorry, guy who calls us all potheads, but it doesn't matter whether you drink or not, because you apparently are okay with our liberal alcohol laws, and our liberal tobacco laws for that matter.Plants and their natural by-products that have existed for millions of years, and have been used by humans for thousands and thousands of years are different from newly synthesized chemicals that have never been used by human beings, and were developed to make a big fat profit for investors.
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Comment #28 posted by FoM on October 19, 2009 at 08:15:32 PT
Here Come The Negative Articles
If Marijuana is ‘Medicine,’ Potheads, Then Submit It for FDA Approval Like Every Other DrugOctober 19, 2009URL:
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Comment #27 posted by FoM on October 19, 2009 at 06:55:09 PT
I heard them talk about Obama's new medical marijuana policy on MSNBC already today. Now the states with MMJ laws will be able to eliminate those who aren't following state law and those that are following state law will be able to feel a sense of relief. It's been a long time coming.
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Comment #26 posted by Hope on October 19, 2009 at 06:49:02 PT
Comment 25
That's quite an article. I wonder if any of it will get any air time on TV?
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Comment #25 posted by FoM on October 19, 2009 at 05:54:33 PT
L.A. Prosecutor Vows to Target Pot Shops
October 19, 2009URL:
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Comment #24 posted by Sinsemilla Jones on October 19, 2009 at 03:32:15 PT
Raid the theaters, museums, and universities!
Community theaters are almost all non-profit organizations, yet they charge people MONEY for tickets!Museums are almost all non-profit organizations, yet they charge people MONEY for admission!Colleges, and universities are almost all non-profit organizations, yet they charge people MONEY for tuition!In fact, I bet the City of L.A. considers itself a non-profit organization, yet they pay MONEY to the city attorney and the D.A.!Perhaps the city attorney and district attorney should raid each other.
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Comment #23 posted by EAH on October 18, 2009 at 23:29:50 PT:
Read 215
I believe the non profit status was written into Prop 215.I just read it and it does not specify anything about profit or non profit.
That cannabis distribution needs to be nonprofit is something anti cannabis 
people are trying to impose by saying it all the time.
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Comment #22 posted by Hope on October 18, 2009 at 16:30:19 PT
Those people are drug dealers.
Over two thousand outlets, not counting the hundreds of other various retail outlets. " shows listings for 1,554 drug stores, 396 Cocktail lounges, 212 night clubs for a total of 2,162 outlets, not counting the hundreds of other various retail outlets."
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Comment #21 posted by Hope on October 18, 2009 at 15:52:26 PT
John Tyler
Thank you.
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Comment #20 posted by John Tyler on October 18, 2009 at 14:35:23 PT
Hope #15
How many? shows listings for 
1,554 drug stores, 
396 Cocktail lounges, 
212 night clubs for a total of
2,162 outlets, not counting the hundreds of other various retail outlets. 
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Comment #19 posted by FoM on October 18, 2009 at 07:04:11 PT
charmed quark
That sounds like an excellent idea. Dreams sometimes do come true.
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Comment #18 posted by charmed quark on October 18, 2009 at 06:59:14 PT
cheap medical marijuana
I've been working on non-profit business plans for the New Jersey legislation.One of my favorites is a cooperative that rents an acre of so of arable land with a small house in the rural parts of the state. Mortgage and other costs would probably be less than $15,000 a year.This land could easily supply several hundred patients with enough cannabis for a year. If done as a cooperative, no labor costs.Maybe a few members could live for free in the house during the summer as the overseers and other members spend a few days each month helping out.With this model, members would only have to pay about $100 a year for all their medication.Of course, this is a pipe dream. As long as cannabis remains illegal, there is no way you could set up such an operation. The presence of all that cannabis near harvest would be extremely attractive to criminals and/or police. And the legislature would never allow it in NJ without extreme security measures that would destroy the low-cost model.How I wish we COULD do something like the WO/MENS Cooperative in Santa Cruz.
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Comment #17 posted by charmed quark on October 18, 2009 at 06:38:45 PT
FOM - NJ Governor Race and MM 3 gubernatorial candidates have said they will sign a MM bill, although the republican candidate, Christi, seems a little "ambivalent" about it. The above video shows their answers to whether or not they will sign the bill. Someone put in annotations that give their inner thoughts :-)In any case, the bill will probably cross the Governor's desk before a new governor takes office.I just hope that the senate version is the one that goes into effect. In allows home cultivation and small cooperatives.
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Comment #16 posted by Hope on October 18, 2009 at 06:25:19 PT
LA Camel Swallowing Contest!
Talk about "Straining at gnats" and "Swallowing camels"!
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Comment #15 posted by Hope on October 18, 2009 at 06:19:44 PT
Touche! GeoChemist!
"How many alcohol serving establishments are in L.A.?"Or, "Drug Stores" and "Pharmacies", for that matter.
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Comment #14 posted by FoM on October 18, 2009 at 06:16:33 PT
charmed quark 
I want so much to see people have the right to grown their own and not have to pay the prices that I read about in California. I sometimes wonder how sick people on limited incomes can afford to buy any Cannabis at all. PS: If your Governor loses and a Republican gets in will it still move forward?
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Comment #13 posted by charmed quark on October 18, 2009 at 06:00:41 PT
Too few is very bad, also
The current New Jersey legislation that will probably go into law in a month or so doesn't allow home growing and may limit the number of non-profit dispensaries to 6 for the entire state.It's estimated that eventually these dispensaries would be pulling in several hundred million dollars a year, making it one of the biggest industries in the state.As you can imagine, that has gotten the interest of some of the large drug companies based in the state.Many of us are afraid that the big pharmaceutical industries are going to be the ones who actually run these things, through non-profit branches.That would guarantee high-prices for the medical cannabis users who can't even afford the cheaper pharmaceutical drugs.At least California has a robust free market with lots of mom-and-pop grows and dispensaries that keeps cannabis widely available and competitive.
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Comment #12 posted by GeoChemist on October 18, 2009 at 05:45:39 PT
I'm just curious........
How many alcohol serving establishments are in L.A.? I would like to review the data involving these establishments to see how much crime is associated with these places. I would then compare the crime data from the recreational alcohol establishments with that of the medicinal cannabis dispensaries.....I wonder which of the two are the cause of more crimes, both violent and otherwise? Well, not really. 
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Comment #11 posted by FoM on October 17, 2009 at 20:25:13 PT
Something of Interest
Text of H.R. 2835: Medical Marijuana Patient Protection Act
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Comment #10 posted by Sam Adams on October 17, 2009 at 15:51:05 PT

The NYTimes has gone into propaganda OVERDRIVE!it's almost laughable once you're onto them - look at the picture they run - it features not one but TWO black men. Then, the first sentence immediately mentions "public school" - why? Why on earth would it matter if there's more medical cannabis stores then school? They just want to continually juxtapose cannabis and schools CHILDREN CHILDREN CHILDRENThe very title of the article is clearly trying to help prepare the population for the shock of militarized law enforcement raiding and looting civilians and sick people being taken away in handcuffs.I have to say I am firmly on the far left of the political spectrum but I almost agree with the wacko right-wingers on the subject of the NYTimes. It's like the journal of the aristocracy, the arrogance and elitism is unblieveable. this article still has me seething hours later. this is in a state where dozens of prisons have been built since the last public university was built! A state that has been driven nearly to bankruptcy by its prison system. in a country where pain is chronically undertreated. And the Times can only keep talking schools and and kids, ignore the man behind the curtain!
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Comment #9 posted by FoM on October 17, 2009 at 14:52:33 PT

 New York Times Article
Los Angeles Prepares for Clash Over MarijuanaURL:
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Comment #8 posted by FoM on October 17, 2009 at 14:20:53 PT

I believe the non profit status was written into Prop 215.
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Comment #7 posted by EAH on October 17, 2009 at 13:15:02 PT:

legal clusterf**k
This LA situaion was bound to happen. A politically chicken board of supervisors
failed to enact sensible functional ordinances, and look what filled the vacuum.
They stuck their heads in the sand and seem shocked to find the situation developed on it's own. Can somebody please tell me why there exists this notion that production and distribution of cannabis MUST be nonprofit? 
Is it to insure that those in that are involved cannot accumulate the financial resources to influence politicians? Why are ALL other areas of medicine for profit,
including the production and sale of powerful painkilling narcotics but cannabis can't be.
The promulgation of this idea promotes and enables prohibitionist ideas of cramped onerous restrictions. There is no reason that cannabis should be shackled by these restrictions, except for that it feeds into what DAs want to 
continue to promote.By the way, just how does LA have the resources to pursue the closing and/or prosecution of even 100 of these dispensaries? How many actual crimes will
not be prosecuted in order to pursue this? I hope the dispensary owners refuse to comply voluntarily thus forcing the authorities to have to go after each an every one. They won't be able to. If the dispensaries unify to resist,
the county will be forced to rethink the policy.
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Comment #6 posted by FoM on October 17, 2009 at 13:11:07 PT

We were in the video rental business when it was just getting going. To make a long story short it was very good for us and then the big boys got in it and made it hard to make a good living. That's what Walmart did. Capitalism is heartless. The LOVE of money isn't a good thing for our country in my opinion.
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Comment #5 posted by Sam Adams on October 17, 2009 at 12:56:47 PT

wal mart
I think that the nature of the cannabis business is exactly why it's being suppressed so hard.When Walmart destroyed the nation's small shopkeepers and other competition, they became huge. A large entity has a lot more cash available to pay off politicians and regulators.The middle class is disappearing because our system has become hostile to it. A huge labyrinth of regulations and laws becomes impossible for a small merchant to navigate. A huge company can just let their legal dept. handle everything.These small businesses, retailers and growers, infuriate the current regime that holds power. These politicians are getting bribed by all the big industries. Cannabis hasn't bribed them a dime. Wait, in a way it has - LEO is of course always sending money up the ladder.That is what drives me crazy about this article. It demonizes the very process that is at the core of our society. Look at the hundreds of entrepeneurs starting 1000 new profitable businesses! That should be a huge success. A whole new, entirely American economy has developed with thousands of workers and millions in tax revenue.How do we react? We try to shut it down.  Even as we borrow ourselves into oblivion to pay off banks, car makers, insurance companies, that have failed miserably. Everything has become backward, just as Orwell predicted. Up is down, bad is good.  EVERYONE agrees that 1,000 brand new businesses are WRONGthe very fact that 1000 businesses exist contradicts that statement.  These people are being paid off like AIG and Bank of America, they actually EARNED their money! Imagine!
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Comment #4 posted by FoM on October 17, 2009 at 12:43:20 PT

What I hope happens is that they can fix it so growers aren't targets or that a new shop can open on a wing and a prayer and that no one gets gobbled up by those who have the most money like Walmart did to so many mom and pop stores.
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Comment #3 posted by Sam Adams on October 17, 2009 at 12:36:37 PT

Los Angeles
btw, I love the feigned naivete - of course the city government wanted the dispensaries to open. Why else would they have passed a "moratorium" that allowed 800 to open? there are just so many inconsistencies that come with yellow journalism. The great unwashed masses are so helpless and "shabby" that we need a firm government hand to direct EVERY aspect of our lives. yet, they tell us that the government is so bumbling that over 10 years and passing several new laws, they allowed 800 dispensaries to LEGALLY open. So which is it? Omnipotent government that knows best? Or incompetent fools that can't even write a simple rule against dispensaries? it's classic doublethink - they want you to simultaneously hold two beliefs that direct contradict each other. 

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Comment #2 posted by Sam Adams on October 17, 2009 at 12:32:23 PT

nearly pure propaganda
so elitist, so fascist. "EVERYONE" agrees there's too many dispensaries?  Sure, everyone except the people that invested the money to open them, and the thousands of customers that patronize them.It used to be called "capitalism". The NYTimes never met a DA, or politician, they didn't like. Anyone who wants to control the teeming ignorant masses. Of course this includes everyone who can't afford a million dollar condo in Manhattan.some are shabby, some are like fancy spas...well, that sounds an awful lot like every other business that currently exists, doesn't it?The NYTimes expects you to have enough money to buy a huge house and servants and lawyers. For everyone else, there is a gigantic, fascist state that must control EVERYTHING we do. Otherwise the whole world would just become SHABBY! 
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Comment #1 posted by FoM on October 17, 2009 at 12:17:08 PT

San Francisco Cracking Down on Pot Growers
October 17, 2009Audio:

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