DPA Statement: LA's short-sighted ban of medical marijuana dispensaries puts its most vulnerable citizens at risk
LOS Angeles—Today the Los Angeles City Council voted 14-0 to ban medical marijuana dispensaries in the city. This latest disruption of safe access to medical marijuana for patients in California is a result of the vacuum of statewide regulation on this issue.
In the absence of state-level guidance and oversight, cities have struggled to develop their own structures for providing safe access to medicine, which are met with variable levels of acceptance in the communities they represent. This also leaves dispensaries vulnerable to Federal interference, without a state-level agency to defend the voter-approved system. In fact, a second appellate court ruling earlier this month found that the LA County dispensary ban was preempted by state law.
Lynne Lyman, California state director for the Drug Policy Alliance released the following statement:
“In today's City Council case, Councilman Huizar made the unrealistic claim that the allowance of three or less patients to cultivate collectively on private property is the same as safe access. Given the urban geography of Los Angeles, and the poor health of many medical cannabis patients, this assertion is simply not correct. Certainly the closing of all dispensaries in Los Angeles will have a sweeping negative impact on the patients who rely on them.
“Yes, other cities have struggled to develop effective means of providing safe access. It is difficult, especially given the lack of state oversight and the constant threat from the Feds. Yet, other cities have done it, and done it successfully since Proposition 215 was passed in 1996. It is possible for cities - even large cities - to develop regulations and guidelines that create a system that provides for patients, reflects the needs of community, and benefits all those who live there. It is unfortunate that Los Angeles feels they cannot create such a system. Surely it will be the most vulnerable citizens of Los Angeles whom are most affected.”
Press Release | 07/24/2012
SmokeTwibz added 12 Minutes and 1 Seconds later...
L.A.'S MEDICAL MARIJUANA MESS
Despite Much Hand-Wringing, the City's Latest Pot Ban Will Do Little to Settle the Issue.
The Los Angeles City Council is plainly out of its depth when it comes to regulating medical marijuana. This was already clear after years of fumbling and court-delayed attempts to limit the number or locations of cannabis dispensaries, but it became painfully obvious Tuesday when the council approved a ban on all dispensaries - along with a separate motion to draft an ordinance that would allow well-established pot shops to stay open, partially defeating the council's own purpose.
Not that we can really blame the council for being confused. We're confused about how to legally restrict a quasi-legal business too. For that matter, so is the entire state of California. And that's causing even bigger problems than usual as the federal government, which considers marijuana an illegal drug, has begun a series of raids on California pot outlets.
Is L.A.'s new ban even legal? There's no clear answer to that question, but a recent court ruling suggests that it isn't. After Los Angeles County imposed a blanket ban on pot distribution in unincorporated areas in December 2010, it was challenged by a Covina collective, which won a key victory this month in the state's 2nd District Court of Appeal. Writing for the three-justice panel, Justice Robert Mallano said the county's ban was preempted by state law and contradicted the intent of the Legislature.
Of course, it isn't that simple. The Los Angeles County ban would have closed all distribution outlets, whereas the city of L.A.'s ban would allow small collectives with three or fewer members to stay open. The city's lawyers say that key difference should persuade the courts to approve L.A.'s "gentle ban," and as ammunition they point to a separate ruling by a different 2nd District Court justice that suggested the city's approach would neither constitute a true ban nor violate state law.
If thinking about all that isn't enough to give you a migraine - which, on the plus side, is enough justification to get a medical recommendation for a dose of cannabis in California - there is the added complication that could arise if the City Council goes ahead with the separate ordinance to allow certain dispensaries to stay open. Specifically, Councilman Paul Koretz called Tuesday for staff to draw up a draft that would grant immunity from the ban to those facilities that were in place before a 2007 city moratorium on new dispensaries was approved. This brings up unhappy memories of L.A.'s years-long attempts to regulate billboards, when strict regulatory ordinances were undermined by council members carving out exemptions for certain signs in their districts. Courts tend to take a dim view of that kind of favoritism.
So let's review: L.A. has banned all but the tiniest marijuana collectives. When it attempts to enforce this ban, it will be sued. Action will be delayed for months, or quite possibly until the state Supreme Court weighs in on a series of marijuana cases next year. Mission accomplished?
Jay Bergstrom | Thu 26 Jul 2012
Los Angeles Times (CA)
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