Confusion About Marijuana Sales Traced To CA Law
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Confusion About Marijuana Sales Traced To CA Law
Posted by CN Staff on January 06, 2010 at 07:10:42 PT
By John Hoeffel
Source: Los Angeles Times
California -- Prosecutors in Los Angeles insist that collectives cannot sell medical marijuana at their stores and can provide it only to members who actively cultivate it together. Dispensary operators, on the other hand, argue that it is absurd to expect them to run Soviet-style collective farms and to rule out cash payments for pot.When the Los Angeles City Council finishes its marijuana ordinance, which may finally happen this month, it is likely to inflame this increasingly contentious debate over how the drug can be distributed.
The conflict hinges on the state's 2003 medical marijuana law and almost entirely on a single sentence."The law's screwed up in a lot of ways. There's big gaping holes," said Yamileth Bolanos, who runs PureLife Alternative Wellness Center and is one of the city's most politically involved operators. "It's very confusing for everyone, even the prosecution and law enforcement. It's like the Bible, everybody reads it the way they want to." No Legislative Relief   The confusion could be cleared up by the Legislature, but that body has shown no desire to revisit the law. And the attorney general, who issued guidelines on how to interpret the law, has not responded to calls to update them to account for recent court rulings that have added to the bewilderment.Instead, the issue may be left to the courts to decide, which could lead to years of costly criminal prosecutions and civil lawsuits before prosecutors and dispensaries have clear rules."What a shame that the courts have to give the clarity, when the Legislature could do it a lot more quickly and actually think it through," said San Diego County Dist. Atty. Bonnie Dumanis, who has aggressively prosecuted dispensaries for selling pot. She also said Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown "could write clearer guidelines to say exactly what a collective can do and to outline the steps to comply with the law."After watching the Los Angeles City Council struggle with the state law, Councilman Jose Huizar and Eagle Rock neighborhood activist Michael Larsen said they intend to press legislators to fix it. "I just want it to be clearer so that we're not wasting a lot of energy on something that is going to be struck down," Larsen said.Once the city's ordinance is passed, Huizar said, he hopes the council will ask lawmakers to eliminate the ambiguities. "It's a moving target, so it would behoove the city of Los Angeles to be active in this area."The law, intended to fill in blanks left by the 1996 medical marijuana initiative, has sown considerable confusion and is one of the main reasons the City Council has struggled for many months to write its ordinance.The sentence in contention, section 11362.775 in the Health and Safety Code, says that patients and their caregivers, "who associate within the state of California in order collectively or cooperatively to cultivate marijuana for medical purposes, shall not solely on the basis of that fact be subject to state criminal sanctions." It lists the actions from which they are protected, including charges of illegal sales.To marijuana advocates, that means collectives can sell. To many law enforcement officials, it means that collectives cannot be charged with illegal sales when they grow it but that they are not allowed to sell it. City in a Gray Area  The City Council, trying to accommodate City Atty. Carmen Trutanich and Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley, who contend that sales are illegal, crafted what it called an "elegant" solution: to allow "cash and in-kind contributions . . . in strict compliance with state law."But by pegging it to state law, the council did nothing to settle the issue. Medical marijuana supporters say the City Council's language allows collectives to sell marijuana, but Chief Deputy City Atty. William W. Carter disagrees. "As I read the language, it would bar sales," he said.The adversaries also debate what it means to be a collective. Prosecutors say it's not a collective if members can just sign up, hand over cash and walk out with marijuana -- which is how most, if not all, dispensaries operate. Medical marijuana advocates point out that very sick people often cannot contribute more than money.Nowhere does state law spell out what a collective is.Last month, a San Diego County jury acquitted a dispensary operator of felony charges, dismissing the prosecutor's argument that he was not running a collective but was selling pot for profit. "We had no definition of cooperative effort," Perry Wright, a juror, told reporters. "It was not defined in the law that a cooperative effort needs to be literally raking and hoeing the plants. And, because we were on the fence about that, we had to find the defendant innocent."On the same day, however, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge James C. Chalfant released a draft order that would force an Eagle Rock dispensary to stop selling marijuana, agreeing with Trutanich that collectives can only grow it. "A storefront dispensary that sells to its members, I believe, is beyond legislative intent," the judge said in court. Conflicting Advice  In August 2008, Brown, the state's top legal official, issued guidelines to clarify how medical marijuana can be distributed. He noted that dispensaries "are not recognized under state law" but expressed the opinion that "a properly organized and operated collective or cooperative that dispenses medical marijuana through a storefront may be lawful."Since then, however, there have been several court decisions that prosecutors insist reinforce their view that collectives are allowed to grow marijuana but not to sell it.Brown, who is planning to run for governor, has not responded to a request for an interview on the issue, but his office released a statement saying it "is in the process of updating its guidelines to reflect recent developments in the law, but we are still waiting for a few key court decisions to issue.""I think the pressure is on him to do that," said David Berger, a special assistant Los Angeles city attorney. "His opinion needs some revision."The debate could be resolved if the Legislature revised the 2003 law. But both sides believe the chances of that happening this year are slim, especially with a budget crisis, a statewide election on the horizon and a legalization measure likely to be on the November ballot.Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), a co-author of the law, does not believe it needs to be rewritten. The problem, he insisted, is with how prosecutors in Southern California are interpreting it. "I can tell you the intent was not to prohibit dispensaries from engaging in sales of this medicine. In fact it was to clarify the allowance of it," he said.But the law's lead author, former Democratic Sen. John Vasconcellos, said it was cautiously worded and could be made more explicit. "I would probably write it much more boldly today because the public is much more supportive."Paul Koretz, a Los Angeles city councilman who was a co-author of the law when he was in the Assembly, said he thinks the law should be clarified. "Now we've seen the pitfalls," he said. "We clearly need to come up with some things we think need to be in the state law and find an author and have the city be a sponsor of legislation."There is one lawmaker interested in marijuana legislation: Assemblyman Tom Ammiano. The San Francisco Democrat is pushing a bill to legalize pot. But he is also weighing whether to lead an effort to redo the medical marijuana law.He said he believes that Trutanich and Cooley are on "a political crusade.""I saw 'Chinatown,' " he said. "It really smells that way to me."But he worries about what will happen if the state waits for the courts to decide the issue."It's going to be really rocky," he said, "until something definitive comes down."Source: Los Angeles Times (CA)Author: John HoeffelPublished: January 6, 2010Copyright: 2010 Los Angeles TimesContact: letters latimes.comWebsite: Medical Marijuana Archives
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Comment #17 posted by The GCW on January 06, 2010 at 19:38:09 PT
More about Nevada
New Proposal Would Tax and Regulate Marijuana in Nevada in 2012"""... The campaign will need to collect 97,002 valid signatures by November 2010 in order to qualify for the November 2012 ballot. If the initiative were adopted, it would, in the words of NSML campaign manager Dave Schwartz, “give Nevada the best marijuana laws in the world.”
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Comment #16 posted by The GCW on January 06, 2010 at 19:32:20 PT
Nevada is making a move
Nevada Appeal jumps on initiative announcementThe Nevada Appeal, out of Carson City, just posted an article about tomorrow's big announcement. They described our plans to submit an initiative to tax and regulate marijuana to the Secretary of State and even included a quote conveying one of our primary messages:“We are determined to use every interaction with Nevada residents to educate them about one simple fact: Marijuana, by every objective measure, is a safer substance than alcohol,” [NSML campaign manager Dave Schwartz] said in announcing the drive.He said organizers will ask voters to consider that and “decide for themselves whether it makes sense to allow adults to use alcohol freely but punish them if they choose to use a less harmful substance, marijuana."
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Comment #15 posted by Hope on January 06, 2010 at 18:46:55 PT
Mykeyb420 and Runruff...
Great jokesters think alike. I liked it both times!
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Comment #14 posted by Hope on January 06, 2010 at 18:33:47 PT
Loved the joke!Thanks!
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Comment #13 posted by dongenero on January 06, 2010 at 13:29:41 PT
Prohibition prices will exist as along as prohibition exists. As will the associated violence.The annual amount pulled in by most of these dispensaries is probably less than the average Wallstreet bankster bonus.If the judges are shocked by the money involved in MMJ, they should get a few financial wizard cases on their docket.
Beyond staggering amounts of fraud-those cases also have actual victims.
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Comment #12 posted by FoM on January 06, 2010 at 13:16:02 PT
News Article From Psychiatric Times
The Past, Present, and Future of Medical Marijuana in the United StatesBy John Thomas, JD, LLM, MPHJanuary 6, 2010 -- Psychiatric Times - Vol. 27 No. 1URL:
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Comment #11 posted by EAH on January 06, 2010 at 12:32:09 PT:
This is what got me.
Here we have in a nutshell the problem in CA. We have law that does not adequately define a collective, nor what EXACTLY a caregiver is. Judges in CA have said in court, and one of them right in front of me, that the laws are badly written, that they do not clearly make sales absolutely and unambiguously legal and therefore your motion to dismiss is denied.Elected officials in the Bay Area for the most part have gone with the liberal and favorable interpretation. The opposite in Southern CA. DAs everywhere are eager to support and pursue prosecutions. The main motivator of is money. They want to take money. ALL OF IT. It cannabis wasn't worth so much money, they wouldn't make the time to for cannabis prosecutions.All this fuss isn't really about cannabis, it's about the money. Those who drafted the laws thought vagueness would broadly make prosecution difficult. The opposite is true. It fails to adequately protect those 
that find themselves the targets of greedy cops and DAs. Judges are 
generally very conservative and very protective of their own reputations.
So, judges are very unwilling to make controversial precedent setting rulings.
No judge has seen language in those laws that gives them cover to rule that "sales" are protected. Such a ruling would certainly be attacked as "legislating from the bench". Given the choice between serving their careers or serving 
justice, the career wins. The biggest reason judges lack much sympathy to those involved with growing distributing and selling is the amounts of money they see being involved. The high value that prohibition created for cannabis is what makes
judges view growers and sellers as unsympathetic criminals. Growers and 
sellers didn't create the situation, they're just part of what exists, but they are the ones who get punished for it.
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Comment #10 posted by The GCW on January 06, 2010 at 11:14:26 PT
That was very good.
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Comment #9 posted by Hope on January 06, 2010 at 10:36:29 PT
Not this article in particular
But it seems we have lots to smile about these days.It's getting better and better.
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Comment #8 posted by FoM on January 06, 2010 at 10:11:50 PT
Possible Good News For New Jersey!
New Jersey Likely To Legalize Medical MarijuanaJanuary 6, 2010URL:
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Comment #7 posted by Storm Crow on January 06, 2010 at 10:01:44 PT
Simple solution......
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Comment #6 posted by dongenero on January 06, 2010 at 09:57:20 PT
clarifying law
Laws do not always have to be highly clarified or itemized. Particularly laws that are affording personal rights and freedoms. Such laws should be written in a very open-ended,generalized way, to err on the side of the individual's freedom.The US Constitution is a good example. It affords individual freedom and limits powers in a very sweeping, generalized way. That is precisely what has made that document endure the progression of American history.Can you imagine if the founding fathers had tried to micro-itemized and categorized every freedom and limitation as relevant to their day and age? After the past few hundred years of history, technology and invention since, the document would probably be all but irrelevant in our day and age. (Then again if they had, you can be certain that hemp/cannabis would be a Constitutional Right, as they grew it in abundance.)I think generalized laws of affording individual freedoms regarding cannabis are really the only laws that will really make any sense. Anything else is just confusion for the sake of confusion. 
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Comment #5 posted by FoM on January 06, 2010 at 09:55:11 PT
It's good to see you. That is a very funny joke.
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Comment #4 posted by mykeyb420 on January 06, 2010 at 09:37:40 PT
A DEA Agent stops at a ranch in Texas, and talks with an old rancher. He tells the rancher, "I need to inspect your ranch for illegally grown drugs." The rancher says, "Okay , but do not go in that field over there," as he points out the field on his left. The DEA Agent hears this and verbally explodes, saying, " Mister, I have the authority of the entire United States Federal Government with me." Then the DEA Agent reaches into his rear pants pocket, removes his badge 
and proudly displays it to the rancher. "Do you see this badge? This badge means I am allowed to go wherever I wish. On any land. No questions asked or answers given. Have I made myself clear? Do you understand what this badge means?" 
The rancher nods politely, apologizes and goes about his chores. The DEA Agent then places his badge back in his pocket and starts 
walking in the other direction. 
A short time later, the old rancher hears loud screams and sees the DEA Agent running for his life chased by the rancher's big Santa Gertrudis bull. With every step the bull is gaining ground on the Agent, and it seems likely that he'll get gored before he reaches safety. The DEA Agent is clearly terrified. The rancher throws down his tools, runs to the fence and yells at the top of his lungs:"Your badge. Show him your BADGE!" 
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Comment #3 posted by dongenero on January 06, 2010 at 09:22:13 PT
Confusion? Who's confused?
The confusion does not come from the way the legislation was written or passed.The confusion comes into play when people start trying to further restrict, re-write or regress the law that was passed. Prohibitionists "manufacture" the confusion in hopes of an opportunity for regressing the law.
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Comment #2 posted by FoM on January 06, 2010 at 07:47:44 PT
Bradbury Backs Industrial Hemp and Med Marijuana
Commentary by Tim King, Salem-News.comJanuary 6, 2010 
Salem, Ore. -- We left messages with John Kitzhaber's campaign for Governor, to ask what his position on medical marijuana is, especially now that the state has passed laws in support of it. The answer? No answer, no reply. It seems the Kitz might see this issue as a hot potato, though it seems a bit late for that.Former Gov. Kitzhaber will face longtime Secretary of State Bill Bradbury in the next Oregon Democratic Gubernatorial primary, and this equally familiar face in Oregon politics didn't flinch when asked about his position on both Oregon industrial hemp, and medical marijuana.URL:
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Comment #1 posted by runruff on January 06, 2010 at 07:47:27 PT
"how the drug can be distributed. "
Drug? I thought this discussion was about an plant, an herb?So they get caught up in their own attempts to control society by changing the language!Oh, what a tangled web we weave.....
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