Marijuana Collectives Catch A Break
Marijuana advocates needed to collect 28,658 signatures for a referendum that would halt Ordinance 182190 and allow voters to decide.
Advocates were able to collect 50,000 signatures, which was received by the L.A. City Clerk's office on August 30, to overturn the L.A. City Council's July 24 decision to shut down marijuana collectives.
"The suspension makes alot of sense given that the ban adopted was in jeopardy of being overturned. We've been making statements since the referendum campaign was initiated that the city should reconsider its tough stance," said Kris Hermes, spokesperson for Americans for Safer Access.
According to the ordinance filed by the City Council, the "Gentle Ban" would eliminate dispensaries but allow patients to grow their own marijuana in groups of three or fewer. Yet, Hermes counters that the "gentle ban" is an illusion.
"The fact that the city is allowing patients to cultivate their own [marijuana] is something that's been a right granted to patients under the Compassionate Care Act 15 years ago. So, the city is not only reiterating rights patients already have it is indeed limiting them," said Hermes.
Marla James, who heads the Orange County chapter of Americans for Safer Access, believes the city is underestimating the importance of collectives for legitimate patients.
"It takes 90 days from start to maturity [to grow marijuana]. If you're a person that needs different types of marijuana then you're out of luck or if you live in an apartment then you're out of luck," said James. "I'm legally blind and in a wheelchair. I can't grow for myself," she said.
Councilman Jose Huizar's office said he was unavailable for a comment, but Huizar has been an outspoken opponent of medical marijuana dispensaries. Hillel Aron of LA Weekly cited the councilman as saying that if the ban is placed on hold until March elections, then they would "enforce state and federal laws on marijuana."
While Huizar is completely against dispensaries, Councilman Paul Koretz is pushing for regulation.
Christopher Koontz, planning deputy for Councilman Paul Koretz, said marijuana advocates have been able to legally suspend the ordinance, but "even if they won it doesn't really solve their problem."
Hermes and James of Americans for Safer Access are both open to regulation of marijuana dispensaries. According to Hermes, regulating a certain number of dispensaries would be acceptable and something he could support "wholeheartedly."
"The city has already come up with a framework. It's just the details adopted were so restrictive that it would have amounted to a de facto ban, instead of fine tuning," said Hermes.
Koonpz countered that every attempt by the city council to regulate dispensaries has led advocates to file a lawsuit in protest. The regulations may not have been perfect, but Koonpz says they are partly to blame for continuing battle over collectives.
"I think the big point is that we want to have some access to legitimate patients, which is what the voters meant, but we don't want it out of control. In our district, on Melrose you'll see four [collectives] on a block," said Koonpz.
Koonpz acknowledges that not every dispensary is illegally operating for profit. He said there are some like those opened in 2007 that have been trying to follow every rule and are interested in the needs of legitimate patients.
He said they are currently working on a proposal that would merge together the needs of the patients with dispensary regulation.
James points out that it is possible to implement effective regulation and that it is something the city must do. If the city council pushes for a ban on collectives they risk an underground market that could cause more crime and higher prices for patients such as herself she said.
"Things are in limbo, but they're going to have to do something different," said James. "This is an industry that's not going to go away."
For more of Neon Tommy's coverage on medical marijuana, click here.