L.A. Can't Go It Alone on Pot

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  L.A. Can't Go It Alone on Pot

Posted by CN Staff on February 02, 2010 at 05:18:29 PT
By José Huizar 
Source: Los Angeles Times 

California -- The Los Angeles City Council last week finally adopted a medical marijuana ordinance. Though not perfect, it balances the needs of local communities with those of patients who truly need access to medical marijuana. And it will rein in an out-of-control situation in which a federally banned substance has been sold for the last four years as hundreds of dispensaries proliferated in the city of Los Angeles, with no local regulations and ambiguous state laws to guide us.
To make the new ordinance work as effectively as possible, legislators need to clarify the state's medical marijuana laws -- Proposition 215 and its accompanying SB 420. Both are silent or vague on critical issues for the practical implementation at the local level.As cities throughout California draft ordinances, they are grappling with issues that they have no power over and that should be handled at the state level. Moreover, they are trying to pinpoint evolving and changing court rulings interpreting state law.In Los Angeles, one of the most difficult issues was what constitutes a "sale." My colleagues on the City Council and I addressed this by stipulating that although no collective shall operate for profit, "cash and in-kind contributions, reimbursements and reasonable compensation" are allowed as long as they comply with current state law. However, we don't know how this provision will be enforced because we are relying on state law that is unclear and in litigation.It is also unclear whether the over-the-counter dispensary model was what voters intended when they approved Proposition 215. The law might have intended a much more limited distribution of marijuana, such as having either patients or their caregivers grow their own product or having collectives grow a small amount and reimburse members for their labor.Without clarity from the state, the council also had to punt on the issues of cultivation and transportation of marijuana by saying that the ordinance would abide by state law.Cultivation is important because the ordinance as written does not address where the collectives will obtain their marijuana. Will it be grown locally, imported from Northern California or bought on the black market? And are people who transport the marijuana to and from collectives immune from prosecution?Another issue that is not being addressed locally but perhaps is the biggest impediment to properly regulating dispensaries relates to the wide discretion and relative immunity that physicians have in recommending medical marijuana to patients. When most of us have a medical issue, we don't look through the pages of alternative weeklies to find a physician. We go to the doctor who knows the most about our medical history -- our primary-care physician.Yet under state law there is no requirement to curb abuse by having people see their primary-care physician first, or, as Oregon does, to require that a patient get a note from an "attending physician" with whom he or she has an established patient/physician relationship.It's interesting to note that Oregon, like several other states, only allows medical marijuana for a narrow list of conditions. In contrast, in California, marijuana can be recommended for anything from cancer to writer's cramp. So, although California voters have not (yet) directed the state to legalize marijuana for nonmedical use, the state medical marijuana law has created de facto legalization because practically anyone can become a qualified patient.Given these ambiguities, the city has provided an ordinance within existing state law that does its best to create access for medical marijuana patients while protecting local communities from potential negative consequences.The council voted to support a requirement that dispensaries be at least 1,000 feet from sensitive-use areas where children and families gather, such as schools, playgrounds and places of worship -- and from other dispensaries.We also capped the number of collectives at 70 (instead of the estimated 700-plus that exist) and required notification to neighborhood councils before new dispensaries open in their areas. To control profiteering, we also required annual audits and outlawed common ownership of multiple collectives.I, like a majority of California voters, voted in favor of Proposition 215 because I believe that patients dealing with cancer, AIDS, chronic pain and other serious ailments should have access to medical marijuana.However, I remain concerned about profiteers looking to make a quick buck, recreational users looking to use an ambiguous state law to their advantage and less-than-scrupulous doctors willing to play along by writing quick and unverified recommendations. Though seemingly innocuous to some, these unchecked activities can lead to real problems in local communities should the state refuse to further regulate medical marijuana. I encourage state legislators to immediately amend SB 420 to deal with its ambiguities.In the future, if the voters legalize marijuana for recreational use, I would hope that the state provides clear and practical rules for local implementation, unlike what has occurred with medical marijuana.José Huizar represents the 14th District on the Los Angeles City Council.Source: Los Angeles Times (CA)Author: José HuizarPublished: February 2, 2010Copyright: 2010 Los Angeles TimesContact: letters latimes.comWebsite: Medical Marijuana Archives 

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Comment #2 posted by FoM on February 03, 2010 at 16:38:17 PT

Marijuana Could Face Strict Regulation, Big Taxes

By Wyatt Buchanan February 03, 2010 
California -- Legislation is in the works at the state capitol that would dramatically change how marijuana is regulated in the state and bring in a good chunk of cash to California's beleaguered state budget.It has not been introduced yet, but the plan would require everyone involved in the marijuana industry in the state, from growers to distributors to retailers, to register with the state and pay a licensing fee. Marijuana would also be subject to an excise tax, perhaps up to 41 percent, along with other taxes.Just to help with the score keeping, this is not the proposal to legalize adult recreational use of marijuana, the Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, bill that died a legislative timeline death last month but that should be reintroduced in the next several days.The latest proposal is being pushed by Board of Equalization member Jerome Horton and to be introduced by Sen. Ron Calderon, D-Montebello (Los Angeles County). Horton sponsored tobacco regulation in 2003 to control illegal sales of cigarettes and wants that model applied to marijuana.In a released statement, Calderon said the proposal would not legalize sale of marijuana beyond the medical dispensaries, "But it will better control legal distribution and help law enforcement crack down on illegal sales," he said. In other words, law enforcement would be able to track the supply of marijuana and know if cannabis is being diverted from medical dispensaries for illegal sale.It also would ensure that all dispensaries are paying their share of sales taxes to the state. If the industry is brought under compliance, Calderon said it could bring in $1.8 billion a year to the state. We'll dive deeper into the proposal once it is introduced, so stay tuned.Copyright: 2010 Hearst Communications Inc.URL:

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Comment #1 posted by charmed quark on February 02, 2010 at 15:04:39 PT

harm of "out of control" dispensaries
I watched a public meeting in LA addressing this. Nearly all the people testifying about the problems of the dispensaries did not actually present any harm. They "worried" they might attract crime or "give the wrong message" to children.I'd like to see some real information about problems caused by the dispensaries.I'm all for regulation et al., but if there isn't a problem, why bother.
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