By Anne Alvarez
On August 14, the L.A City Attorney’s office sent letters to 1,046 suspected dispensary locations and 728 landlords, stating: “Continuance of a medical marijuana business at this location may subject you to legal action resulting in a court ordered closure and imposition of monetary penalties of $2,500 a day, as well as prosecution for a misdemeanor, punishable by six months in jail and a $1,000.00 fine. Each day that the property is used in violation of city law is a separate violation.”
This is taking away the safe and affordable access that medical marijuana supporters approved over 15 years ago, as well as wasting millions upon millions of taxpayer dollars fighting a battle that the State Supreme Court is sure to overturn, just as it threw out a court case that was part of the so-called “legal reasoning” for instituting the ban on Los Angeles dispensaries.
On August 22, the California Supreme Court overturned the controversial decision in Pack v. City of Long Beach, which previously had held that federal law preempts some dispensary regulations.
Joe Elford, Chief Counsel with Americans for Safe Access (ASA), the country’s leading medical marijuana advocacy organization, stated that “The California Supreme Court has essentially pulled out the rug from under local officials who have used the Pack decision to deny access to medical marijuana for thousands of patients across the state. Pack is now a dead letter and, because of the California Rules of Court (Rule 8.528), it is disingenuous for any public official to contend that the appellate decision is somehow reinstated.” The Pack decision has been used by several municipalities, including Los Angeles, to suspend or ban outright the distribution of medical marijuana. However, the dismissal of said decision questions the viability of such bans.
ASA along with Patient Care Alliance, Los Angeles, a medical marijuana trade association with more than 300 L.A.-based dispensaries and The Greater Los Angeles Collectives Alliance have teamed up with labor union United Food and Commercial Workers Local 770 to qualify a ballot measure to repeal the ban.
On August 17, the Patient Care Association, along with 11 medical marijuana patients, filed a lawsuit against the city asking for an injunction that
stops the dispensary ban from taking effect, and seeks to block enforcement of the ordinance. It also asks for an immediate injunction to keep city officials from shuttering dispensaries, which is scheduled to begin Sept. 6.
Meanwhile city officials have responded to the lawsuit by saying that the State Supreme Court decision and the public’s outcry “changes nothing.” The L.A City Council voted August 23 to enlist the help of the federal government, asking local and federal law enforcement agencies to develop new strategies to enforce the shutdown. “We need to get out of the way of law enforcement,” said Councilperson Bernard Parks in asking the Los Angeles Police Department to coordinate with the district attorney and Drug Enforcement Administration on the enforcement of the ban.
On August 29, with plenty of time to spare, medical marijuana advocates filed more than 50,000 signatures in an effort to overturn the ban on dispensaries throughout the city. The city now has up to 30 days to either rescind the ban or call a special election and put the decision to Los Angeles voters early next year. Depending on the timing, the city may be forced to hold a separate election in addition to the March primary and May mayoral election.
“Because of the ban’s questionable future, the city ought to reconsider its tough stance on enforcing the ban” said Don Duncan, California Director with ASA.
If only President Obama could try to remember the good times he had back in the day while attending Punahou School in Hawaii. According to biographer David Maraniss’ book “Barack Obama: The Story,” when a joint was making the rounds, Obama often elbowed his way in, out of turn, shouting ‘Intercepted!’ and took an extra hit.
To make your voice heard and put a stop to local government officials infringing upon your rights, log in to www.stopthebanla.com and sign the petition. You can also learn more through Americans for Safe Access, the largest national member-based organization of patients, medical professionals, scientists and concerned citizens promoting safe and legal access to cannabis for therapeutic use and research at www.safeaccessnow.org. Contact your local and state politicians listed below and let them know you are against the illegal maneuverings to deprive medical marijuana patients of their legally sanctioned, lawfully prescribed medication.
L.A. City Attorney’s Office: (213) 978-8100
Councilperson Jose Huizar: (213) 473-7014
Governor Jerry Brown: (916) 445-2841