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City Attorney Calls For Marijuana Dispensary Ban

Agnus Dei Farrant |
January 13, 2012 | 11:09 p.m. PST

Senior News Editor

(Photo courtesy of Creative Commons).
(Photo courtesy of Creative Commons).
The city attorney’s office proposed to the Public Safety Committee Friday morning that the city implement a “gentle ban” on medical marijuana - banning medical marijuana dispensaries while allowing the seriously ill and their caregivers to cultivate plants.

“This is a very difficult issue and it’s complicated for many reasons,” chairman Mitchell Englander said. “There are a lot of people out there that rely on the effects of, and the benefits of marijuana that are dealing with cancer and other ailments.”

City Attorney Carmen Trutanich and attorneys from his office recommended the ban.

Jane Usher, special assistant city attorney, said the city would inevitably face the same legal issues as Long Beach for its medical marijuana dispensary ordinance. Long Beach was accused of violating the Controlled Substances Act.

The Court of Appeals ruled last October that Long Beach had broken federal law by allowing the distribution of an illegal substance. The city plans to take the case to the California Supreme Court.

Long Beach’s ordinance was modeled after Los Angeles’.

Los Angeles is currently facing more than 60 lawsuits by marijuana dispensaries and patients over the ordinance as it currently is. The suits have cost the city millions of dollars to fight, Usher said. The cases would be dismissed if the ordinance would be repealed. 

“We can all anticipate that if the California Supreme Court takes up [the Long Beach case], we will have from six months to a year before that case is decided by the California Supreme Court,” Usher said. “And in that interim, we will continue to litigate our more than 60 cases.”

She said it’s a matter of time before Los Angeles faces a ruling against its ordinance on the same grounds as determined by the Long Beach case.

“You must repeal the current ordinance and the swifter that action is taken the better,” Usher said. “In addition, we recommend what we call a ‘gentle ban.’ We are proposing a ban of medical marijuana businesses and I underscore that word: businesses. We are proposing you ban the transactions that are occurring that are beyond state law’s provision of medical marijuana for seriously ill patients.”

Trutanich said his office’s proposal provides users an option.

 “Those people who are sick, who need this as it was intended to be used have the option to obtain it,” he said.

Medical marijuana advocate Sarah Armstrong said the option Trutanich mentioned is more than just that.

“The only reason that the city attorney is allowing that section where patients and qualified caregivers can grow small amounts is that’s exactly what state law says and they cannot ban state law,” Armstrong said. “It has nothing to do with being gentle or being compassionate. If that’s their ordinance, it needs work.”

Asha Greenberg, city attorney, discussed community members’ complaints about medical marijuana dispensaries: seemingly healthy patrons; loitering; smoking marijuana outside; secondary sales of marijuana, particularly by teenagers; reckless driving by customers and proximity to schools, libraries, churches and parks.

“One complaint that I received was a neighbor to a dispensary who said that he was out walking at night, and the security guard was so jumpy that he pulled a gun on him because he thought he was going to rob the dispensary,” Greenberg said.

Englander said the meeting couldn’t fulfill its obligation to a forum.

A group of medical marijuana supporters gathered outside after the committee moved to another topic, frustrated for not being heard.

Patrick Warren of Los Angeles came to the meeting to tell the committee how medical marijuana had helped his anxiety and depression, and ended his use of anti-depression medicine.

“I wanted to be here to represent all the people who couldn’t make it and advocate for the tens of thousands of good people, honest people who are going to be affected if they put a ban on the medical marijuana dispensaries,” Warren said.

He said the “gentle ban” sounds nice but city officials don’t realize how difficult it would become for users to get their prescriptions.
“It takes a lot of work to grow your own cannabis and primary physicians don’t always have ways and means of distributing and growing that themselves so it’s kind of a legal cop out,” Warren said. “It’s a way for them to try to save face so everybody will say, ‘They gave them an out, they gave them an alternative,’ but it’s not really a practical alternative.”




Reach senior news editor Agnus Dei Farrant here.

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