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Union answers Los Angeles City Council Questions to Legislature

Last Updated on Monday, 5 November 2012 07:52 Written by The Union of Medical Marijuana Patients Tuesday, 6 November 2012 07:00

The Union of Medical Cannabis Patients decries the City’s invitation to federal law enforcement to close all local medical marijuana patient associations, especially those which have offered their members extensive social services and have been operating for the of benefit their larger community. These raids are in violation of the will of the majority of Los Angeles residents and are depriving patients not just of their recommended medicine, but also of needed resources beyond cannabis that are sponsored by patient organizations which have developed bone fie healing centers. These raids are also driving patients back to the black market. However, a majority of City Council members have said they would like to pass a new ordinance which would provide safe access for patients and the Union has already provided Council members and the Planning Commission with drafts of ordinances which would survive challenges in court.

The Union for Medical is following up by responding to resolution by the Los Angeles City Council of Sept. 28 that asked the state legislature to clarify issues surrounding the regulation of patient associations.

“The Council apparently isn’t aware that other cities have already successfully implemented local regulation, including West Hollywood, San Francisco, San Jose, and Oakland, without resulting in excessive litigation,” said James Shaw, the Union’s director. “The questions the Council has raised have already largely been answered.”

The confusion has to do with a correct understanding of what is compelling legal authority when appellate courts differ and the California Supreme Court have not made a ruling between competing arguments, said Shaw. The high court has other ways of showing how it will eventually rule and of giving extra authority to some cases. It may cite an appellate case for support in a decision, refer approvingly to an authority, or it may refuse to accept an appeal for review. For example, the state Supreme Court has described the California Attorney General’s “Guidelines for the Security and Non-Diversion of Marijuana Grown for Medical Use” of August 2008 (which the current governor, Jerry Brown, issued when he was the state attorney general) as consistent with state law and case law. These types of statements and decisions provide what the Union’s legal team refers to as “super-authority,” which elevates these arguments over the average appellate decision.

A detailed discussion of this analysis can be found here on our web site. Among the highlights:

  • No city has the power to pass an ordinance that contradicts state law when the matter is of statewide concern, as with medical marijuana.
  • Though some claim that only marijuana cultivation is immunized from state law criminal prosecution, the law and case law clearly show that marijuana possession, transportation, sale, possession to sell, maintaining a place to sell, cultivation, harvesting, processing, and owning or leasing a building to store, sell, or serve marijuana, are all immunized from prosecution for properly organized and functioning patient associations.
  • Though some claim that marijuana sales or any financial transactions involving marijuana are not protected from prosecution, the law and case law clearly hold that financial transactions that do not involve making a profit are protected as reimbursements to cover costs and overhead.
  • A careful reading of the original legislation shows that though individuals and caregivers are not allowed to profit from the sale of medical cannabis, collectives may be able to, although the Union believes associations serve their patients best when they operate without profit.
  • The proposed State Medical Marijuana Health Board to determine through research which medical conditions can be alleviated by marijuana is preempted by federal law because marijuana is a Schedule I drug.

“The City brought past litigation on itself previously by ignoring the need to carefully craft ordinances that do not go beyond what state and federal laws allow, while also protecting patient privacy,” said Shaw. “The resulting stalemate that allowed proliferation of new collectives was unfortunate, but there is no reason all parties can’t now move forward with an agreed formula to manage the situation better. Last month, we provided the Council and Planning Commission with drafts of two related ordinances that would enable it to enforce local regulation of medical cannabis patient associations, as well as making sure they comply with the state’s Medical Marijuana Program,” said Shaw.

The Union has also referred the City to AgSite, Inc., a local company that the Union has worked with to develop compliance tools and services.

Press Conference November 7th, 2012
A press conference to discuss how the City can move forward with regulation and why the raids on patient associations are counterproductive will be held Wednesday, Nov. 7, at 9:30 a.m. (a half hour before the regular Council meeting), in the hallway leading to the John Ferraro Chamber, Room 340, at City Hall, 200 N. Spring St., in downtown Los Angeles (plan to arrive by 9:00 a.m. in order to find a convenient parking spot). Media contact: Scott Smith 310/254-4051 (or if he is not available, James Shaw 310/709-1544).
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Union Presents Cities with General Ordinances

Last Updated on Tuesday, 2 October 2012 12:43 Written by The Union of Medical Marijuana Patients Tuesday, 2 October 2012 12:41

Los Angeles, CA – Monday, October 1, 2012 – James Shaw, director of the Union for Medical Cannabis Patients, will present to the Los Angeles City Council tomorrow two draft ordinances which represent parts to a whole. “These Ordinances should enable the City to finally get a handle on regulating medical marijuana patient associations in Los Angeles, while providing the added benefit of avoiding litigation or having the law overturned by courts,” he said.

Shaw explained further: “The efforts to sensibly regulate the medical marijuana associations that have been serving upwards of a quarter million patients in the City of Los Angeles have failed. The ban on allowing any dispensaries to continue to operate recently passed by the Council has now been put on hold by a referendum and held in check by a CEQA lawsuit, but otherwise would be decided by voters next March. The City has discussed end-running this by bringing in federal authorities to close down medical cannabis dispensaries, while the majority of residents want patients to have safe access to their medicine and don’t want them forced to go back to the black market. Meanwhile, activists are discussing new local and state initiatives that don’t take into account court decisions that have recently been made or are anticipated.

CEQA is the California Environmental Quality Act, which requires a study of the environmental impact of any legislation before it can be implemented.

Shaw said that the Union’s legal team has spent years studying these cases in the context of state and federal law and has come up with a formula for Los Angeles—or any other city in the state—which would enable regulation while withstanding legal challenges. The proposal to the City Council consists of two draft ordinances that address local and state issues. These have been already been submitted to the City Planning Commission, which has been tasked by the Council to come up with a new framework for regulation. Because this is a highly politicized issue and a further mistaken direction would result in more litigation, it’s important that the Council give the planners guidance, he said.

“One of the keys to making regulation work is to have medical cannabis associations operate in a more transparent way,” Shaw noted. “But patient associations have been afraid of being more open with law enforcement, which has sometimes resulted in prosecution under federal law, and they also need to protect patient privacy. Yet their secrecy makes law enforcement suspicious that they’re not operating as not-for-profits, as state law requires, but might be diverting medicine to the black market. We have been working with a private local company, AgSite Secure, that would be trusted by both sides to operate as a third-party verification service to ensure that the patient associations are in compliance with state and local law, while not compromising patient privacy.

Shaw added that the Union believes this approach would encourage patient associations to play an important positive role in their communities and attract fewer complaints. “This is a win, win, win—for patients, their associations, and neighborhoods,” he added. “Instead of fruitlessly trying to manage by quantity by limiting the number of associations, we should be regulating for quality. We’ve done the heavy-lifting in figuring out how to make regulation work, while avoiding further litigation, and we invite the City and the patient associations to study our proposals.”

The Los Angeles Times in an editorial on September 24 called on the L.A. City Council to come up with a new medical marijuana ordinance that would provide safe access through regulation that would avoid legal challenges. The Union is providing the Council and Planning Commission with a formula for exactly this type of legislation.

A press conference to discuss the proposed ordinances and the related issues will be held in the hallway leading to the John Ferraro Council Chamber at City Hall, 200 N. Spring St., Room 340, tomorrow (Tuesday) at 9:30 a.m., a half hour before the Council meets (note that finding a convenient parking place requires arriving in downtown L.A. before 9 a.m.). Media contact: Scott Smith 310/254-4051.

For copies of the two ordinances and the two cover letters to the City Council and the Planning Commission: www.unionmcp.org or 213/626-2730 or info@unionmmp.org (note that web site and email address are slightly different). For further information about AgSite Secure, visit http://Agsite.org or call (855)-2AGSITE. An online presentation about AgSite for law enforcement is available on request.

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Why a Ban on Medical Marijuana Dispensaries in Los Angeles is a Bad Idea

Last Updated on Friday, 24 February 2012 10:16 Written by James Shaw Sunday, 15 January 2012 12:50

The Daily News editorial Jan. 15 called for a ban on medical marijuana dispensaries in the City of Los Angeles, based on arguments put forth by the City Attorney’s office. The Union of Medical Marijuana Patients warned the City Council two years ago that the City Attorney had provided fatally-flawed advice on the then-new ordinance and, indeed, Superior Court Judge Anthony Mohr ordered it to be amended several times before he ruled in its favor last October. Now, we’re asking the Council to be very skeptical about the advice that there is no problem with banning dispensaries.

Let’s start with the fact that Daily News says that according to the recent Pack v. Long Beach decision by the 2nd District Court of Appeals,

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