Los Angeles City is in the middle of a health crisis. Seriously ill Angelenos are being provided unregulated and potentially toxic medical cannabis, from medical marijuana collectives (MMC's) with minimal oversight from the City, operated by individuals with little professional experience in health care who likely have connections to illegal activity. Not only does this extreme lack of regulation impair the public health, but it also allows profiteers to take advantage of the sick who are most in need of effective medicine. Additionally, according to a wide range of experts and white papers, these issues correlate with other adverse secondary effects.
This is an extremely critical time in the medical cannabis industry. With outdoor harvest season beginning in October, historically thousands of pounds of unregulated cannabis will be flooding the streets of Los Angeles City. This is compounded by other variables:
As the "Green Rush" gains momentum and the economy suffers, more Angelenos
are seeking profit in the medical marijuana industry. Though most of them do not comply with Trutanich's and Prop 215 guidelines, many of them erroneously believe that they are "legal" and are not properly educating themselves on legal and medical issues. 1 This lack of responsibility will likely cause problems for themselves and their communities.
Medical marijuana is a commodity and it is currently a buyer's market. There is too much medicine, grown by too many cultivators, with too little experience and not enough Angelenos to use it. Street and collective prices are reaching record lows which will lead to more competitive bids, "fronting" and increased incidences of black marketing due to inability of MMC's to intake all of the medicine.
Crime and robberies related to medical marijuana are also on the increase and are expected to continue, especially in the vicinities of MMC's where criminals watch and wait for cultivators and "vendors" leaving MMC's with backpacks filled with cannabis or simply rob the locations2.
City Attorney Trutanich, is headlining a class, presented by the California Narcotics Officers Association (CNOA), The Eradication of Medical Marijuana Dispensaries in the City of Los Angeles and Los Angeles County.3 Although, Trutanich is not fully opposed to medical cannabis and is differentiating between collectives who cultivate versus collectives that dispense, this class is increasing fear and paranoia in the medical cannabis patient community and if successful will lower prices even further as MMC's are shut down as cultivators compete for remaining MMC's.
More science and public support is coming out in favor of medical cannabis. Advocacy groups and patients are used to obtaining their medicine from storefront dispensaries and are not likely to give it up without serious legal action.4
For these reasons and many others, the WLANC Medical Marijuana Committee recommends these guidelines for regulating MMC's based on existing ordinances from other cities and counties. WLANC recommends to City Attorney and City Council to not stop at just regulating MMC's but to create ordinances that will regulate all aspects of the industry.
3 The Eradication of Medical Marijuana Dispensaries in the City of Los Angeles and Los Angeles County
In 1996 California voters passed Prop 2155, the Compassionate Use Act of 1996, which became Health & Safety Code 11362.5 which states in part:
... (A) To ensure that seriously ill Californians have the right to obtain and use marijuana for medical purposes where that medical use is deemed appropriate and has been recommended by a physician who has determined that the person's health would benefit from the use of marijuana in the treatment of cancer, anorexia, AIDS, chronic pain, spasticity, glaucoma, arthritis, migraine, or any other illness for which marijuana provides relief.
(B) To ensure that patients and their primary caregivers who obtain and use marijuana for medical purposes upon the recommendation of a physician are not subject to criminal prosecution or sanction.
This was supplemented by the California Senate Bill 420 (SB420)6 which clarified the scope and application of Proposition 215 by:
-Establishing guidelines regarding how much marijuana patients may grow and possess,
-Instructing counties to implement a Voluntary State ID Card System,
-Recognizing the right of patients and caregivers to associate collectively or cooperatively to cultivate medical cannabis,
Then August 2008, Attorney General Edmund Brown guidelines issued guidelines:
.to (1) ensure that marijuana grown for medical purposes remains secure and does not find its way to non-patients or illicit markets, (2) help law enforcement agencies perform their duties effectively and in accordance with California law, and (3) help patients and primary caregivers understand how they may cultivate, transport, possess, and use medical marijuana under California law.7
Then the City of Los Angeles Medical Marijuana Interim Control Ordinance states in part:
... no new dispensaries are allowed to open in the City, and only previously existing dispensaries are allowed to operate. The ICO is intended to control the proliferation of dispensaries while the City develops permanent regulations for medical marijuana uses.
5 Prop 215
The ICO had a clause called a hardship exemption:
The purpose of hardship exemptions is to allow exceptions from the ICO "in cases of hardship duly established to the satisfaction of the City Council." As of June 24, 2009, hardship exemption applications are no longer being accepted, per Ordinance #180749. Hardship exemption requests that have already been filed prior to 06/24/09 can be approved, denied, or not acted upon by the City Council. If the City Council decides to consider the request, there will be a public hearing on the matter.
This exemption was meant to help MMC's who were forced to relocate after the DEA sent threatening letters to their landlords. However, the term "hardship" was never legally defined, which left it open to interpretation. Lawyers specializing in medical marijuana seized on this loophole and began advertising on the internet where through PayPal:
"... you can initiate your nonprofit corporation and get your collective started in less than 5 minutes...and up and running within 2 weeks... The charge is $3777 and in about 14 days your collective will be signing up patients, growing, obtaining and possessing medicine for them, getting a tax payer's ID, a seller's permit and such licenses and registrations as may be required/available in your town depending on your intended use: whether Growing, Delivering, and Distributing Cannabis among your patient members."8
"Green Rush" entrepreneurs began opening up MMC's while their applications were pending even though according to the conditions of the moratorium, "the mere filing of a request for a hardship exemption does not authorize the operation of a dispensary that had not registered with the City Clerk by November 13, 2007."9
The City Council and Planning Land Use Management Committee were not reviewing
9 ICO FAQ
these applications and the word spread. By June 24, 2009 when the city removed the hardship exemption, over 800 dispensaries opened and were operating largely without the supervision of Department of Building and Safety (DBS), LAPD or any kind of regulatory body.
Now it is October 2009 which will potentially be the largest harvest season on record. Yet with City Attorney Trutanich's new stance on the "Eradication of Medical Marijuana Dispensaries," as well as other variables, is likely to be the most volatile one as well.
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