California, Long Beach

Medical marijuana by city.

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California, Long Beach

Postby palmspringsbum » Mon Dec 03, 2007 10:27 pm

The Long Beach Press Telegram wrote:Stirring The Pot
by Tracy Manzer, Staff writer

The Long Beach Press Telegram
Sun, 30 Sep 2007

LONG BEACH - Proposed legal action by the Long Beach city attorney's office is expected to ignite a new battle in the ongoing war over medical marijuana.

Police have identified 11 locations in Long Beach where medical marijuana is sold to patients by dispensaries, which, according to the city attorney's office, are operating illegally.

City records obtained by the Press-Telegram show none of the 11 locations has been issued a business license or permit to operate as a dispensary in Long Beach.

Of the 11 locations, four have licenses for unrelated businesses - including a barber and beauty shop, retail clothing store, industrial space and real estate. The remaining locations have no license or permit.

"Whether they have a license which was issued for another kind of business, which is fraudulent, or they are operating without a license, it's all ... in violation," said Deputy City Attorney Richard Anthony.

Anthony said earlier this month that the city has never issued a license to any medical marijuana dispensary since the 1996 passage of Prop. 215, the compassionate use act that legalized marijuana for California patients suffering from debilitating conditions and disorders.

Federal law still prohibits the use of the drug in most cases and questions regarding how the drug would be dispensed within California began to arise not long after the state law's passage.

The issue of dispensaries and whether or not they should be permitted came to a head in Long Beach in 2005, when the City Council placed a six-month moratorium on the issuance of licenses while city staff investigated potential legal problems.

<table class=posttable align=right width=300><tr><td class=postcell>
<span class=postcap>THE ISSUE</span>

Since 2005, the city has banned business licenses for medical marijuana dispensaries.

<span class=postcap>What's happened:</span> The Police Department has identified 11 businesses in Long Beach that it says are dispensing medical marijuana. Of those, city records show that four have business licenses for some other use, and the rest have no business license or permit at all.

<span class=postcap>What's next:</span> The city attorney's office says it is planning to take action against the dispensaries in Long Beach. Business owners say the city ban is short-sighted.

<span class=postcap>Q:</span> What are Proposition 215 and Senate Bill 420?

<span class=postcap>A:</span> Prop 215 is another term for the Compassionate Use Act of 1996. It was the first statewide medical marijuana measure voted into law in the United States. Prop 215 provides protections to seriously ill persons who have their doctor's recommendation to use marijuana for medical purposes.

Prop 215 also provides protections to physicians and primary caregivers who assist these seriously ill persons, who are known as "qualified patients" under SB 420. SB 420 requires the California Department of Health Services to create the Medical Marijuana Program, which develops and maintains an online registry and verification system for Medical Marijuana Identification Cards.

<span class=postcap>Q:</span> What serious medical condition(s) do you need to have to qualify for a card?

<span class=postcap>A:</span> A serious medical condition is any of the following: AIDS; anorexia; arthritis; cachexia (wasting syndrome); cancer; chronic pain; glaucoma; migraine; persistent muscle spasms (i.e., spasms associated with multiple sclerosis); seizures (i.e., epileptic seizures); severe nausea; any other chronic or persistent medical symptom that either substantially limits a person's ability to conduct one or more of major life activities, or if not alleviated, may cause serious harm to the person's safety, physical, or mental health.

<span class=postcap>Q:</span> When and where can you apply for a MMIC?

<span class=postcap>A:</span> Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, 241 N. Figueroa Street, Rm 128, Los Angeles. For more information, call (866) 621-2204. Hours are Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to noon, 1 to 4 p.m.

<span class=postcap>Q:</span> What documentation do you need?

<span class=postcap>A:</span> A copy of your medical records that documents the use of medical marijuana is appropriate for you.

Proof of identity, which can be a California driver's license or ID card or other government-issued photo ID card.

Proof of residency, which can be a rent or mortgage receipt, utility bill or California DMV motor vehicle registration.

<span class=postcap>Source: California Department of Health Services</span></td></tr></table> Despite impassioned pleas by medical marijuana advocates, the city attorney's office ultimately decided against allowing dispensaries or clinics to operate and declared no licenses would be granted once the moratorium expired, Anthony said.

Anthony did not know why action against the city's dispensaries has not been taken since the 2005 decision, but added that Deputy City Attorney Cristyl Meyers is preparing to take action now.

Meyers confirmed Friday the action is pending, but said she could not discuss specifics until this week.

<span class=postbigbold>Timely Case</span>

At least one California city that recently enacted a similar ban was able to defend the move in the first round of litigation Friday.

The recent lawsuit filed by a dispensary against the city of Anaheim for its new ban - which was scheduled to take effect earlier this month until an Orange County Superior Court judge temporarily blocked the law on Sept. 4 - is being closely watched by Long Beach authorities and advocates.

Judge David Thompson ruled Friday that his temporary order against Anaheim's ban was to be dissolved. The lawsuit, however, remains in effect.

In Friday's ruling, the judge noted that the plaintiff - The Qualified Patients Association - failed to show the city ban on clinics violated state law or patients' rights, said Anaheim City Spokesman John Nicoletti.

Thompson also ordered both parties to return to his court on Oct. 16 to discuss the status of the pending trial, Nicoletti said.

Despite the recent push to limit medical marijuana dispensaries, advocates, local owners and staff at dispensaries insist they are operating within state law. They cite a state appellate court decision that upheld the right of medical marijuana co-operatives and collectives to provide patients with safe and reliable access.

They pay state taxes through the sale of the drug and pay federal and state taxes for employee payroll. According to an analysis by the California chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, marijuana sells for roughly $10 to $15 for a single gram, the equivalent of one or two joints.

They say they are also regulated by the Los Angeles County Department of Health, which oversees the issuance of medical marijuana ID cards - which cost $153 in Los Angeles County - to patients.

Patients seek permission to use marijuana from doctors under California's voter-approved Prop. 215 and a follow-up 2003 law, which clarified the original proposition and ordered counties to issue the identification cards to patients.

As of Sept. 22, 35 California counties - including Los Angeles and Orange counties - have signed up to participate in the identification card system and 16,421 cards have been issued statewide, far below the expected 150,000, according to the California Department of Public Health.

<span class=postbigbold>City Ban</span>

However, federal law still forbids marijuana possession in most cases, creating what Long Beach city officials, as well as many other communities, say is a conflict between federal, state and local laws.

And local authorities maintain that, in order to operate within the city, dispensaries must comply with the Long Beach ordinance as well as state law. Because Long Beach has effectively banned dispensaries, those within Long Beach are in violation of city law.

At the time the city enacted its moratorium, city officials were aware of at least two locations, said Councilman Val Lerch - who removed himself from voting on the matter two years ago because he felt he was too personally involved in the issue.

Lerch explained then, and in an interview with the Press-Telegram this week, that although he brought the matter to the council's attention - along with then Councilman Dan Baker - he did not think it would be appropriate to vote on the issue because of a personal connection.

The 9th District councilman's wife suffers from multiple sclerosis. Although medical marijuana has been shown to be extremely effective in treating debilitating symptoms of the chronic disease, she does not use it, Lerch said Thursday.

"As long as federal law prohibits it, my wife will never use it," Lerch said, adding that she was raised the daughter of a probation officer and believes strongly in following all laws.

Lerch also made it clear that if his wife were to change her mind, he would support her decision to seek treatment.

"Someone who sells drugs next to a school should be hung from the highest point," Lerch said.

"But I also support the legal use of a drug that was approved by voters and, from all accounts, has a legitimate value for patients," he added.

<span class=postbigbold>Owner Talks</span>

Staff at several of the dispensaries in the city said they received letters threatening federal legal action by the U.S. Attorney's Office at the beginning of the year. The letters were followed with Drug Enforcement Agency raids at 10 medical marijuana clinics in Los Angeles and West Hollywood and more than 13 dispensaries in San Diego.

None of the staff at any of the Long Beach dispensaries who agreed to speak with the Press-Telegram was aware of pending action by the Long Beach city attorney's office, however.

All of the locations cited by police were contacted for interviews. Only one owner and manager was willing to speak with the Press-Telegram and asked that only his first name, Mark, be used, citing concerns of federal prosecution.

Mark has managed Herbal Solutions Compassionate Caregivers in Naples for about a year and a half. He started the dispensary after struggling to find safe and reliable locations to purchase medical marijuana for his terminally ill grandfather.

City records show that he does not have a business permit for the location.

"I did this because of my grandfather, who died of colon cancer," he said. "When I tried to find (medical marijuana) ... I had to go find it illicitly and it was scary."

His patients regularly thank his staff for providing a safe place to get their prescriptions filled, he said.

They are also constantly aware of the threat of raids and other legal action by federal authorities, he added.

"I can't tell you how many patients ... walk in crying, talking about their fear that they could lose their ability to get their medicine."

Mark criticized the city's ban, saying he and the other dispensary owners would pay any business permit fees and could be a valuable contributor to local sales tax coffers, he said.

"By not allowing us to apply for business permits they are forcing us to operate illegally, that's not what we want to do," he said. "We pay our taxes to the state, we also pay taxes to the federal government through our payroll."

<span class=postbigbold>Doctor's Office Feel</span>

Herbal Solutions sits at the back of an office and retail complex on Second Street.

There are no signs outside the business. The first thing that tips a visitor to what is inside is the security camera bolted next to the front door.

Inside the lobby are signs prohibiting access to those without prescriptions, but it otherwise looks like a typical doctor's waiting room with the requisite outdated magazines and minimal furniture.

The notable exception to the otherwise generic doctor office vibe is the powerful odor that envelopes everything in the office and the very large, and very polite, security guard.

Some neighbors who live behind Herbal Solutions, as well as some surrounding businesses, said the dispensary's owner is abusing the compassionate-use law for a tidy profit.

"I voted for Prop. 215 and I can tell you that what they are doing is not what I or most of the other voters had in mind," said Naples resident Bill Hearn.

About two blocks west on Second Street, another dispensary - GJS Medical Service/United Caregivers - that was preparing to open was denied a lease when a neighboring business owner complained to the landlord.

There is no business permit registered for the site, according to city records.

"Most of the (patients) are college kids who know where to go to buy their prescription card for about 150 bucks," said the business owner, who asked that his name not be used.

"I didn't get out of college that long ago; I can tell you where to get the cards," he said. "This isn't about people with cancer or AIDS, these are teenagers and college kids scoring some pot."

<span class=postbigbold>Already Gone</span>

In the case of another dispensary - B/C/C, 1824 E. Broadway - the federal warning, along with pressure from some neighbors upset about the clientele who frequented the business, resulted in the landlord evicting the dispensary, according to neighboring businesses and residents.

City records show the property is licensed for commercial space rental.

Quality Discount Caregivers sits in a strip of businesses on San Antonio Drive on the edge of Bixby Knolls. It has a comfortable atmosphere with better coordinated furnishings than most of the other dispensaries, a detailed sign on its front window and an ATM machine - which was out of cash on a recent visit.

City records show that there is no business permit registered to the site.

One of the managers there said customers have commented they are more professional than some other co-operatives, and they have no problems with police or neighbors.

"I've seen a lot of kids, a lot of young guys, go in there. I haven't seen any old people," said Stacy Lin, who works in the area and lives in Long Beach. "But they don't bother anyone, they're real mellow."

Quality Discount Caregivers also advertises in the back of the OC Weekly, along with massage therapists and alternative businesses geared toward youth. In the ad, the dispensary offers a 25 percent discount to first-time patients.

All 11 locations listed by the Police Department came up after simple Internet searches for medical marijuana dispensaries.

Narcotics Division Sgt. Paul LeBaron said the department's list of dispensaries was compiled on the basis of community complaints.

"The Long Beach Police Department respects the right of patients who are legally prescribed medical marijuana," LeBaron said. "The problem is with drug operations abusing the spirit of the law and using the law to legitimize ... drug dealing."

<span class=postbigbold>Advocates Respond</span>

Even medical marijuana advocates acknowledged co-operative and collective models can be and are abused.

"I am not a big supporter of co-ops because I've seen too many of them fail to do what they are intended for, which is to serve the community as a true co-operative," said David Zink, a local advocate.

"I'm also not in favor of law enforcement using any excuse to go after patients and care-givers," Zink added.

"And I'm disappointed in Long Beach and the City Council for not recognizing the potential (gain)," he said. "This is not something that is going to go away, and the city is passing up financial opportunities that other communities are benefiting from."

A Huntington Beach man who uses medical marijuana to treat nerve pain from an automobile accident echoed Zink's statements. He said he knows a number of local owners of dispensaries.

"Yeah there are cartels who abuse it," said John, who asked that only his first name be used. "We know there are people out there who abuse it, but that's still better than having people who really need it being forced to go to the streets."

The community would be better served if authorities would prosecute pharmaceutical companies who sell highly addictive medications that do more damage than cannabis, he said.

The true co-operatives, John and others insisted, would be happy to open their books to authorities and comply with any regulations deemed necessary.

By shutting down the dispensaries, the city will be hurting the patients in most need of a safe access, said Diana Lejins, president of Advocates for Disability and a supporter of medical marijuana patients and right.

Lejins predicted such action will lead to a rise in crime, saying patients will be forced to turn to illicit street dealers.

She questioned why the city was taking action now, after two years, and suggested the city adopt a policy of only prosecuting locations where complaints are lodged.

"The bottom line is we have this opportunity to regulate the situation," she said. "To just eliminate them is downright cruel."

<span class=postbigbold>Problems ahead?</span>

If dispensaries are prosecuted, they must prove they are true nonprofits to operate under the state law, said Bruce Margolin, a West Hollywood criminal defense attorney who specializes in medical marijuana cases and who is the director of Los Angeles NORML.

But Margolin added that the law protects patients' rights not only to use medical marijuana but to have safe access to the drug.

The veteran lawyer also warned that Long Beach could open itself up to potential lawsuits, much like those filed against Anaheim, if it pursues legal action against the local dispensaries.

"One could easily argue this is a denial of due process," Margolin said, referring to the ban on business licenses.

"(The city) just can't arbitrarily take away their business," he said.
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Our View - Pot raids make no constitutional sense

Postby palmspringsbum » Sat Dec 08, 2007 10:06 pm

Our View - Pot raids make no constitutional sense

EDITORIAL, Daily 49er (Cal State Long Beach)
September 18th, 2007


Is everybody ready to play the Cal State Long Beach Daily Forty-Niner version of "Cool Edge Jeopardy?" This string of seemingly meaningless capital letters CA, AK, CO, HI, ME, MT, NV, NM, OR, RI, VT and WA have this in common.

Rrring. "They are all states, Alexis Nexus."

Rrring. "What is, they are all post office designations, Alexis Nexus?"

Buzzzzzz. "No, that's a good guess, but that also is incorrect."

Rrring. "Who are the 12 states that passed laws legalizing medical marijuana?"

"That is the right answer, progressive and compassionate CSULB health care advocates."

This trivia game is too cool not to be in school, but an editorial on a topic this serious shouldn't need to be "cute" to raise your social or political consciousness.

The recent flurry of raids on medical marijuana dispensaries across California by the federal Drug Enforcement Administration should be important to multiple disciplines, not just on the health care level.

The hegemony of our current administration is an blatant attack on the autonomy of individual states.

California has become the abused child of an oppressive regime. Rather than conducting these raids in all states with legislation similar to California's Proposition 215 (enacted to allow using cannabis as an alternative form of treatment for a host of chronic ailments), the feds have decided to flex their muscles here, on our turf.

Clinics up and down the state have been raided with aggression, similar to the "Shock and Awe" military doctrine of 1996. The "doctrine of rapid dominance" was employed in the invasion in Iraq four years ago.

From that now-famous attack evolved codified terminology we should be appalled with. Among the most significant is the term "collateral damage."

That term is the politically correct militaristic phrase incorporated to convey innocent-people-will-be-hurt-by-this-but "c'est la vie (that's life) and c'est guerre (that's war).

Doesn't that seem like a callous way to treat your own citizens?

The Articles of Confederation, deemed by most historians as the original draft of the U.S. Constitution, states, "Each state retains its sovereignty, freedom, and independence, and every power, jurisdiction, and right, which is not by this Confederation expressly delegated."

The phraseology demands that each state has certain autonomy to create legislation appropriate for its citizens, independent of federal intervention.

Over the 10-year span from 1996 to 2006, the postal abbreviations in the first paragraph have passed compassionate use laws to offer alternatives to traditional treatment for a variety of medical issues, including, but not limited to the inevitable loss of appetite associated with chemotherapy.

Rather than connecting the dots of evidence of wide range benefits of cannabis offered by such esteemed organizations as the American Medical Association, the feds opt to wage a campaign of terror, or "Shock and Awe."

"Article 2.5 of the California Health and Safety Code, relating to controlled substances" - the foundation of Prop 215 - means squat to the current administration.

Sovereignty and autonomy to separate states means nothing to these clowns. They have proven that it's "OK" to use the Constitution as toilet paper.

Unfortunately, the powerful lobbyists from the pharmaceutical industry don't want Americans to have those "certain inalienable rights," a term in another famous American edict. The problem is, they can't tax and control the distribution and manufacture of the vile weed.

It's time to connect the dots between what the people want and what George W. Bush seems to not want us to have'- autonomy.

This isn't a drug war, it's a power struggle.

We think it's time to push back and reclaim our guaranteed rights - starting with postal designation "CA"- where battle lines have already been drawn by the DEA.

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A patient pleads for access

Postby palmspringsbum » Wed Dec 12, 2007 1:12 pm

The Long Beach Press-Telegram wrote:A patient pleads for access

by Tom Hennessy, Columnist, Long Beach Press-Telegram
October 4th, 2007


"My husband has terminal lung cancer," said the woman on the phone.

That was her introduction to a complicated, sometimes harrowing story about trying to obtain the only medicine that gives her husband relief.

The medicine is marijuana.

She called a day after Tracy Manzer's Sunday story listing 11 Long Beach locations where, police say, marijuana is sold to people in medical need, and perhaps to people pretending to be in medical need.

Manzer's story also quoted aides to City Attorney Robert Shannon as saying those places were about to have some form of legal action taken against them. Shannon has since announced that such action is on hold pending future developments by the state attorney general and a court of appeals.

The suggestion in Sunday's story that the marijuana sellers might be shut down left the woman fearful that her husband would be unable to purchase the drug to relieve his cancer.

"We have not been pot or drug abusers or anything like that," the woman told me. "But it has become obvious that the only way he can get any relief for his breathing is from marijuana. The other things they give him just do not work.

"He has a (Long Beach) place he goes to get it. The first time we went we felt like we were in a dark alley; like we were illegal. The whole thing felt so bad to us," she says.

In time, however, she decided her guilt feelings were not appropriate. After all, wasn't California law on her side? Well, yes. In 1996, Proposition 215, legalizing the sale of medical marijuana, was approved by 56 percent of state voters.

But this is where the situation becomes more complicated.

<span class=postbigbold>Agencies at odds </span>

Diana Lejins, who is with Advocates for Disability Rights and will figure further in this story, says 215 guaranteed seriously ill Californians the right to obtain and use marijuana for medical purposes.

A dozen other states have enacted similar laws, all of which are being ignored by the federal government. The result is a standoff, with the chronically ill caught in the middle.

The man and wife cited above are Long Beach residents. She has given me permission to use her name. However, I will not do so because the federal Drug Enforcement Agency has a history of making raids on people using marijuana for medical relief.

Frustrated by her husband's being unable to buy marijuana legally, Mrs. X is also bothered by what she says is her inability to present his dilemma to officials: "Where can we go to lodge our viewpoint?"

I suggested the City Council, even while feeling this is not likely to do her any good.

For all her troubles and those of her husband, Mrs. X says she understands the city's position: even if medical marijuana sales were sanctioned by the federal government, it would be difficult to prevent ineligible marijuana users from abusing the system.

"I agree there are people who are getting marijuana and are not eligible for it," she says. "How do we stop that? How do we get that under control?"

<span class=postbigbold>An advocate's view </span>

Before hearing that Shannon was not ready to close marijuana outlets in Long Beach, Lejins said this, "Closing down the medical marijuana cooperatives in Long Beach would be cruel and inhumane to those in dire need of this medicine."

Allowing patients to grow their own marijuana in restricted amounts is one possible solution. But Lejins notes that not all patients are physically able to do that.

She adds, "Forcing patients who cannot grow their own medicine to seek it on street corners puts them at considerable risk. The quality of the marijuana from these sources is often poor and not as effective as higher grade cannabis. Also, the locations of these sources are often dangerous."

Recognizing there may be neighborhood resistance to marijuana dispensaries, as they are called, Lejins sees a need to limit the number of such facilities, and adds, "This is a golden opportunity to create guidelines for the co-ops that would benefit the health and welfare of patients rather than driving them underground."

"Most co-ops wish to be good neighbors and would appreciate the opportunity to work with local government toward that endeavor. It is ludicrous to deny them a permit to operate, then close them down because they don't have a permit," she says.

Addressing the compassionate aspect of medical marijuana, Lejins adds, "Who would ask their 80-year-old grandmother, dying of liver cancer, to go to a perilous street corner begging for a medicine that could help alleviate her suffering?"

Please do not interpret this column as an argument to legalize marijuana. That is a different debate.

The column is actually a plea on behalf of one cancer patient, and thousands of others who, like him, are seriously ill.

Are they to suffer because the government cannot devise a system whereby those in pain can be helped, and those seeking to get high can be turned away?

Not even the government can be that stupid and that lacking in compassion. Or can it?

<hr class=postrule><center><small>Tom Hennessy's viewpoint appears Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.
He can be reached at (562) 499-1270 or by e-mail at Scribe17@mac.com.</small></center>
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Shannon denies pending action vs. pot clinics

Postby palmspringsbum » Wed Dec 12, 2007 1:45 pm

The Long Beach Pres-Telegram wrote:Shannon denies pending action vs. pot clinics

<span class=postbigbold>City attorney says his office is monitoring process.</span>

by Tracy Manzer, Long Beach Press Telegram
October 3rd, 2007


LONG BEACH - In a memo issued to the mayor and City Council Tuesday, the city attorney denied his office is taking formal legal action against a group of medical marijuana dispensaries operating in the city without business licenses.

City Attorney Robert Shannon said his office was never preparing legal action against nearly a dozen medical marijuana dispensaries operating in Long Beach without business licenses.

"What they're working on is monitoring the progress, we're working to see what's finally decided," Shannon said, referring to the state attorney general's office and the court of appeals, neither of which has ruled on the issue of medical marijuana dispensaries and whether they are legal under current state law.

Shannon's comments Wednesday contradict those given by two deputy city attorneys in his office during interviews with the Press-Telegram conducted over the past three weeks.

In September, the Press-Telegram obtained city records for 11 locations cited by the Long Beach Police Department as medical marijuana dispensaries. They showed four dispensaries had licenses for unrelated businesses - including a barber and beauty shop, a retail clothing store, industrial space and real estate business - while the rest were operating with no license or permit of any kind.

Records also showed the city attorney's office decided in July 2005 that the city would not issue licenses to dispensaries, citing the conflict between state and federal law on medical marijuana.

Deputy City Attorney Richard Anthony confirmed last month that all the businesses were in violation of city law.

Since the 1996 passage of Prop. 215 that legalized marijuana for California patients suffering from debilitating ailments, the city has never issued a license to such a dispensary, he said.

Anthony also said he did not know why the city failed to take action against the dispensaries operating illegally in the city for the last two years, but added that Deputy City Attorney Cristyl Meyers was in the process of setting up administrative hearings.

He referred all questions about the specific nature of the action to Meyers, who said she could not discuss the specifics until the city attorney signed off on the plan. Shannon said Meyers was merely tracking a current case in Anaheim, not working on legal action.

"I knew nothing about this until I read about it in the newspaper," Shannon said Wednesday.

Neither Anthony nor Meyers returned calls seeking comment Wednesday.

In the memo to the council, dated Oct. 2, Shannon notes his office issued a memorandum on July 5, 2005, to the council stating that his office would direct the Business Licensing Department not to issue any business licenses to medical marijuana dispensary applicants, "reasoning that the City should not affirmatively sanction and regulate activity which is illegal under federal law."

At that time, Shannon said in Tuesday's memo and in a telephone interview on Wednesday, his office was awaiting direction from the California attorney general's office, which has yet to take a position on the matter.

In the memo, Shannon noted the Supreme Court ruling in Raich v. Ashcroft that found "the possession and sale of medical marijuana remained illegal under federal law, notwithstanding California law legalizing such use."

The memo also noted Anaheim's recently adopted ordinance banning medical marijuana dispensaries and Friday's decision by the Orange County Superior Court that found the ban constitutional.

"We are monitoring this case in the hope that an appellate decision will clarify and attempt to reconcile the inherent inconsistencies in state and federal law," the memo states. "In the meantime, as in the past, we will periodically review the law in this area, but do not intend any legal enforcement action."

<span class=postbigbold>Laws inconsistent</span>

It is because of the inconsistencies in the state and federal law, Shannon said Wednesday, that the city has not and will not take action against the dispensaries operating illegally in Long Beach.

"It's permitted by state law, it's illegal by federal law, we're awaiting clarification," Shannon said.

Of the 11 locations cited by police, the Press-Telegram found at least three - B/C/C at 1824 E. Broadway, GJS Medical Services/United Caregivers, 5544 E. Second St.; and Patient Research Center, 757 Pine Ave. - have closed their doors within the last year.

Neighboring residents and businesses said the closures were due largely to complaints and threats of legal action by feds.

Very few staff and owners of the remaining locations would comment for the story. Only one owner and manager was willing to speak on the record, although he asked that only his first name, Mark, be used, citing concerns of federal prosecution.

Mark has run Herbal Solutions Compassionate Caregivers in Naples for about a year and a half without a business license because the city has given the dispensary no choice, he said.

"By not allowing us to apply for business permits they are forcing us to operate illegally, that's not what we want to do," Mark said.

He and other dispensary owners argued they pay taxes to the state on the sale of medical marijuana, and they pay state and federal taxes through payroll, therefore they would be willing to pay any processing fees for the city.

Several proponents said legitimate cooperatives would open their books to authorities and abide by any restrictions the city may deem necessary and that the city is failing to capitalize on revenue generated by the dispensaries.

Crystal Gray, a Cerritos resident who gets her prescription marijuana from Quality Discount Caregivers at 1150 San Antonio Drive, lashed out at city authorities for not issuing the business licenses.

Gray has a litany of medical issues, including liver disease, which she said prevents her from taking traditional painkillers.

"This is something we voted for, our government should be supporting us," she said. "The city can get revenue from this, I don't understand why they won't work with us."

In an issue as emotionally charged as medical marijuana, Shannon said Wednesday, his office would not seek formal legal action without going to the mayor and council.

"There's a total breakdown in legal opinion on where we should go with this," Shannon added.

But at least one expert disagreed with the argument that legal gray areas make it difficult to regulate medical marijuana.

The Rev. Scott Imler, co-author of Prop. 215 and a member of the SB 420 Drafting Committee - a bill that established the voluntary registration of patients and allowed for patients to exercise their rights to cultivate marijuana collectively - said neither state law allows for profit-making dispensaries.

"The fact is, nothing in either law allows for the profit retail distribution of black-market cannabis products," Imler said. "What is authorized are cooperative cultivation projects by and for qualified individuals only."

Qualified individuals are those who meet the state standard for prescribing medical marijuana, he said. They must grow it themselves, or belong to a cooperative growing garden.

A number of California cities have come up with ordinances regulating dispensaries that are never enforced due to a lack of understanding of the law and an inability, or unwillingness, to take control, he said.

"I don't blame them for being reluctant given the Supreme Court's decisions and given what happened in West Hollywood," he said, referring to a series of federal raids. He said early raids opened the door for black market dealers.

"At the same time, it's really spinning out of control and I'm concerned that one of these days ... somebody is going to get killed and that's going to shut down Prop. 215 altogether," he said.

The danger for violence is very real, he warned, pointing to cooperatives that were shut down in the Bay Area after they were linked to criminal organizations.

The irony, he added, is that the indigent patients suffering from terminal or chronic illness still can't access medical marijuana because it is not offered through their pharmacies and hospitals and the dispensaries charge prices they can't afford - $50 to $80 for an eighth of an ounce in many cases.
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It's time for L.B. to come to terms with pot dispensaries.

Postby palmspringsbum » Wed Dec 12, 2007 4:15 pm

The Long Beach Press-Telegram wrote:It's time for L.B. to come to terms with pot dispensaries.

EDITORIAL, Long Beach Press-Telegram
October 5th, 2007


The Long Beach City Council issued a six-month moratorium on business licenses for medical marijuana dispensaries in 2005. The pot dealers went ahead and opened or continued to operate 11 known dispensaries not far from homes, business and - in a couple cases, schools - in Belmont Shore, Belmont Heights, Naples and other neighborhoods where getting a liquor license can be tougher than uncorking a wine bottle with your incisors.

As P-T staff writer Tracy Manzer's in-depth report on the issue explained on Sunday, only four of these businesses have licenses for a use other than selling pot and the rest are unlicensed.

You would think the same council - albeit it one with a somewhat different makeup - would direct police and the city attorney to shut down the businesses for doing what a baker or barber could never do: operate without a business permit or use a business license for an unstated or unpermitted purpose.

But the council so far has decided to look the other way. Before you ask, "What are they smoking at City Hall?" know that the politicians are in a very difficult situation, one without an obvious solution.

This is because officials here and up and down the state do not know how to reconcile Proposition 215, which makes medical pot legal in California, with federal law that makes the drug illegal. Anaheim is in court now defending its ban - it won the first round - on medical marijuana sales. Long Beach is watching that case closely, although the appeals could take years.

One of Long Beach's legal options would be to defy federal law and issue permits to the dealers that are found to be appropriate fits for their neighborhoods. Or it could shut down dispensaries and - if operators sue - take its chances in court.

Aside from the law, there is the emotional side to the issue: Most Californians, and presumably many Long Beach residents, support selling weed to cancer patients, people living with AIDS, those trying to overcome eating disorders and other illnesses defined as treatable with marijuana under Proposition 215. The law, as voters intended, is one of "compassion," and Long Beach is generally a compassionate place.

But there are local issues that have nothing to do with the philosophical discussion of prescribing pot. Businesses have been allowed to open without licenses - or input from residents or zoning officers - and seven of the 11 did not submit to fire or health and safe inspections, according to one law enforcement official who asked for anonymity in a talk with an editor.

No matter where you stand on medical pot - we support it - allowing businesses to operate without paying fees and submitting to municipal oversight is improper.

Of course these businesses cannot do the proper thing and apply for a license because they won't get one. That essentially means selling medical marijuana is illegal in Long Beach.

Or is it? It's time for the council to at least try and see through the smoke.
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Raid On Area Medical Marijuana Club Leaves City In Middle

Postby palmspringsbum » Wed Dec 19, 2007 1:40 pm

Gazette Newspapers wrote:Raid On Area Medical Marijuana Club Leaves City In Middle

by Kurt Helin, Gazette Newspapers
November 29th, 2007


Long Beach has become the latest city caught in a crossfire between the state and federal governments over medical marijuana.

Last week, federal Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) officials raided the Long Beach Cannabis Club, which is located downtown (near a new condominium project and the CityPlace center). Agents seized 33 kilos of marijuana, about $10,000 cash and arrested the proprietor, Samuel Matthew Fata.

Since the raid, the club has remained closed. But there are an estimated 10 other clubs operating in Long Beach, according to a list put together by the Long Beach City Prosecutor’s office.

Similar clubs sprang up throughout the state in the wake of voters adopting Proposition 215 in 1996 (followed by subsequent court battles that ultimately upheld the constitutionality of the law).

While California law allows the distribution of marijuana for medical reasons, federal law prohibits the selling of marijuana for any reason.

Long Beach currently has no official policy on the clubs, said City Attorney Robert Shannon.

“There really is (no policy), except that we will not issue a business license to a company that violates federal law,” Shannon said.

None of the clubs currently operating in Long Beach has a business license in the city, or at least not a license for the type of business actually taking place, Shannon said.

In 2005, the city received several applications for medical marijuana clubs, but those applications were put on hold as the City Council asked for a moratorium on issuing the permits. The council asked at that time that proper regulations be put in place to regulate the clubs. However, nothing ever formally came forward.

Finding a balance is not easy as the clubs exist in a legal limbo.

“This is a very difficult issue for the city attorney’s office to take a position on because (the federal and state laws) are in direct conflict,” Shannon said.

Several City Council members asked about this issue last week but no action was taken.

In the absence of clear legal guidelines, municipalities have dealt differently with the clubs. The city of Oakland set up a law that brought in several canabis clubs, while the small Northern California city of Rocklin outlawed the clubs late last year.

The DEA has raided clubs throughout California and charged the owners with violations of federal drug laws.
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'It's A Delicate Situation'

Postby palmspringsbum » Thu Feb 28, 2008 12:18 pm

The District Weekly wrote:'It's A Delicate Situation'

The District Weekly
Rachel Powers
Monday February 25


When state and federal laws conflict the City Attorney is put in a very awkward position. Local businesses, too.

On October 2nd of last year federal DEA agents raided Long Beach Compassionate Caregivers (aka LBCC–no jokes, people), one of 11 medical marijuana dispensaries then operating in Long Beach. Despite the 1996 passage of Prop. 215 (The Compassionate Use Act, legalizing the use of medical marijuana when obtained with a doctor’s prescription), and further codification with the passage of SB 420 (implementing the state Medical Marijuana Program), the federal government presented a warrant, seized $10,000 and 33 kilos, and arrested dispensary operator Samuel Matthew Fata on charges of possession with intent to distribute. LBCC’s doors have been closed ever since.

We wondered how something like this happens: how do federal agents carry out a search and seizure order against citizens engaged in practices that are, on the face of it, legal in their own state and therefore in their own city? Is the city necessarily involved in the federal action, and if so, is it a matter of requirement or inclination?

In short, how does Long Beach position itself on the field of this little states’ rights battle over medical marijuana?

Yesterday I spoke with the City Attorney’s point man on medical marijuana, Deputy City Attorney Richard Anthony, beginning with a question about the status of the case against Fata. Anthony: “There’s a case?” I asked how many dispensaries are currently operating in the city, and he said, “I don’t know…I haven’t seen any follow-up.” Noting that just the other day he had walked by a billboard for a dispensary, Anthony admitted, “I suppose that they are operating, but I have no idea how many there might be.”

Clearly, I thought, the city does not share the federal government’s dread regarding the perils of rolling your own when you are riddled with liver cancer. And then I realized that Anthony (who graduated from law school in 2000) and his boss, City Attorney Bob Shannon (a philosophy major from UCLA who joined the bar in ‘68 ), actually post-date the Beatles. In fact, in department photos they look nothing like Richard Nixon, scowling into the middle distance while trudging down the San Clemente beach in a business suit. They are not particularly inclined to join the war against the devil’s weed, given that California voters passed Prop. 215 and the City Attorney’s office is, Anthony stresses, “a political subdivision of the State of California.”

The federal government classifies marijuana as a schedule 1 substance, right up there with heroin. It is illegal, and strictly speaking, Prop. 215 does nothing to legalize it. Prop. 215 legitimizes a patient’s claim that they should be exempt from criminal penalties for possession, use, and even small-scale cultivation: it provides the seriously ill with a legal defense. “It puts the city in an odd position–it puts every city in California in an odd position,” Anthony says. Since no one wants to look as if they support legalization, nor do they want to be perceived as picking on the terminally ill, legal wrangles have focused on dispensaries: there is considerable debate as to whether or not Prop. 215 allows for the sale of marijuana and, by extension, storefronts. This is the grey area that every California city must wade into.

“There are many [cities] that have banned dispensaries outright, and there are those that affirmatively allow them and regulate them, and we’re kind of in the middle,” Anthony explains. And so Long Beach has refrained from passing any ordinances that explicitly prohibit dispensaries, choosing instead to withhold business licenses. It is, as Anthony puts it, a “soft ban.”

“That was the City Attorney’s decision, and that is because we did not want to affirmatively license and permit activity that is illegal under federal law…However we are not aggressively pursuing enforcement actions against businesses that are currently operating without licenses. It’s a delicate situation,” Anthony says. “It’s effectively a ban on the business, because you can’t do business in Long Beach without a business license. But as Mr. Shannon pointed out, he’s not making it a priority to go after people who are operating illegally in this way. But we have the right to. So they are kind of operating–I don’t want to say ‘under a black cloud’ but you know what I mean. They’re operating under the threat that we could change our opinion, but so far we have not…so far the status quo has been working so the community at large seems to be ok with the way things are going.”

So much for the dispensaries. As for issues of jurisdiction: I asked Anthony if the City Attorney’s office had received any advance notice of the DEA raids, and if there had been any communication between his office and the DEA on this issue. “No, and I think I would know about that…I have not received any [notice]. I didn’t know anything about the DEA raids before they happened.”

And were local police involved the raid? “I suspect that the police department would be given notice of upcoming raids, but I think that’s probably all they do, because they don’t have to have cooperation of the PD in order to enforce federal law in Long Beach.”

“Any federal law enforcement agency has the right to operate anywhere in the country…They are going to take action against dispensaries with or without the assistance of local law enforcement agencies. Which I guess is what they’ve done.”

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Sensible medical pot guidelines

Postby palmspringsbum » Tue Nov 10, 2009 12:00 pm

The Press-Telegram wrote:Sensible medical pot guidelines

<span class="postbigbold">City Council will discuss ways to regulate dozens of collectives in the city.</span>

The Press-Telegram | Posted: 11/09/2009 08:11:36 PM PST


City Attorney Robert Shannon has outlined sensible guidelines for dispensing medical marijuana in Long Beach. Today, the City Council will discuss what strikes us as common-sense solutions to a controversial public policy. Let's hope that, after some tweaking, the guidelines can be put in place, and without endless debate.

Shannon's guidelines include permits, names of members of collectives that grow and dispense medical marijuana and restricting their location to commercial and industrial zones, away from residential areas, schools, youth centers and the like. One guideline would prohibit the sale of marijuana (only donations from people whose doctors issued them letters would be accepted). That makes good sense - for now. Another would prohibit the sale of devices used to smoke marijuana. That's a bit iffy, since those devices have to be obtained somewhere.

Dispensaries would have be hidden from public view, and operating hours would be limited to 12 hours a day, which is generous. Strict rules prohibing felons from operating collectives and penalties for violating the law make sense, too.

There would not be a limit on the number of collectives, estmated at 50 to 60. Councilmember Rae Gabelich would like to restrict the number to nine, presumably one in each council district. But as long as the others obey the law, there should be no problem with a higher number.

Some residents would like to see the collectives disappear, but
that isn't likely to happen. Others, including this page, think that the whole issue would go away with legalilzed sales to all adults, along with the taxes they would bring.

Dispensing medical marijuana is already legal. These guidelines would go a long way toward settling who can dispense the drug, which many use for pain relief and other maladies. Regulations certainly are needed, and these regulate without being onerous. It's time to make them the law of the city.

The council meets at 5 p.m. today at City Hall, 333 W. Ocean Blvd.

Where it all comes together...
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