Medical marijuana is making news all around the country, from city halls to federal court houses, not to mention dispensaries and patients' homes. Let's get to it:
House Bill 25, the Michael Phillips Compassionate Care Act, is back. Sponsored by Rep. Patricia Todd and backed by Alabama Compassionate Care, the bill would allow qualifying patients or their caregivers to possess up to 2 ½ ounces of usable marijuana and six mature and six immature plants. It would also provide for compassion centers where patients could obtain their medicine. Patients would be registered with the state. The bill has had its first reading and awaits action in the House Health Committee.
Last Tuesday, the Orland City Council voted to ban dispensaries, collectives, and collaboratives. The ban prohibits medical marijuana distribution facilities from the city, whether they are fixed or mobile, and says no permits or licenses will be issued for that purpose. The ordinance also prohibits patient grows within 300 feet of any hospital, church, school, park or playground, or any other area where large numbers of minors congregate, and imposes other limitations on patient grows.
Last Thursday, the California Second District Court of Appeal issued a decision affirming the legality of storefront dispensaries and rejecting the contention that every member of a collective must participate in cultivation. In the case, People v. Colvin, the state had argued that all members of a collective must do just that, but the court demurred, saying that "imposing the Attorney General's requirement would, it seems to us, contravene the intent of [state law] by limiting patients' access to medical marijuana and leading to inconsistent applications of the law."
Also last Thursday, a ballot initiative was launched to overturn a Costa Mesa ordinance banning collectives and cooperatives. The move is spearheaded by former collective operator Robert Martinez, whose Newport Mesa Patients Association, was one of 27 facilities that were shut down by federal officials at the behest of the City Council and city attorney last month.
Also last Thursday, a Vallejo dispensary operator pleaded not guilty to felony state drug charges. Matt Shotwell, owner of the Greenwell Cooperative, was arrested last Tuesday after a joint state-federal raid and faces multiple counts of trafficking, cultivating, possessing and maintaining a place for unlawfully providing marijuana. Vallejo police said last Wednesday they had asked the DEA for help in cracking down on the city's 24 dispensaries. At the same time, the city is getting ready to implement a voter-approved tax on all dispensaries next month.
Last Friday, Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) filed a bill that would create a statewide medical marijuana regulation system. The bill, Assembly Bill 2312, got a first reading Monday. It could get a committee hearing March 27.
This week, three more bills pertaining to medical marijuana have been introduced:
Assembly Bill 2465, introduced by Assemblywoman Nora Campos (D-San Jose), would require all medical marijuana patients to obtain a state ID card and also register the address where they are growing it. California NORML called the bill "blatantly unconstitutional" because it abridges the fundamental right of patients under Proposition 215.
Assembly Bill 2365, introduced by Assemblyman Brian Nestande (R-Palm Desert), would require that family courts consider parents' documented use of prescribed controlled substances, including medical marijuana and narcotic maintenance medications, in child custody proceedings. At present, the family code does not explicitly address these issues, although they are frequently brought up in family court proceedings.
Assembly Bill 2600, introduced by Assemblyman Chris Norby (R-Fullerton), would prohibit the DMV from revoking a person's driving privileges for simple possession of one ounce or less of marijuana. At present, an automatic revocation of license is required for conviction of any drug offense where a motor vehicle is involved.
On Tuesday, the federal prosecutor for the Central Valley vowed a new crackdown on large medical marijuana grows. Benjamin Wagner, US Attorney for the Eastern District of California, said his office is not interested in prosecuting sick people using medical marijuana. But he warned that the "unregulated free for all" that has allowed marijuana growers and merchants to make fortunes must come to an end, and he said in the coming months a new focus will be made on pot farms in the valley.
Also on Tuesday, a federal judge in Sacramento dismissed a dispensary's request for a permanent injunction blocking the federal government from enforcing the Controlled Substances Act. The suit had been brought by the El Camino Wellness Center and patient Ryan Landers.
Also on Tuesday, the Madera County Board of Supervisors gave first approval to an ordinance that would ban outdoor gardens and limit indoor gardens to 100 square feet. The patient would also have to own and reside at the property. There are other restrictions as well. A final vote is set for March 13.
On Monday, federal agents were dispatched to ensure that 23 dispensaries too close to schools had closed. US Attorney John Walsh had given the dispensaries 45 days to close or move because they were within 1,000 feet of schools. The 1,000-foot rule is a federal sentencing enhancement, not a requirement of the state medical marijuana law. Local industry representatives said all the affected dispensaries had complied.
Also on Monday, a Colorado Springs TV station aired footage of a SWAT raid on the home of two medical marijuana patients, who charged police used excessive force. At least 13 SWAT officers raided the home, breaking down the door, and throwing a flash bang grenade. The two patients were not arrested because the marijuana they were growing was in compliance with state law. Police were not apologetic, but local activists denounced the raid as heavy-handed.
A Boise-based group is collecting signatures to get a medical marijuana initiative on the November ballot. Compassionate Idaho needs 47,500 signatures by April 30 to qualify. The initiative has the same language as House Bill 370, but activists aren't counting on the legislature to act.
On Monday, an Oakland County circuit court upheld a Bloomfield Township ordinance requiring medical marijuana patients to register with the township. Richard Roe had sued, claiming the ordinance is invalid under the state's medical marijuana law, but the court sided with the township. It ruled that the suit wasn't valid because Roe had not actually been penalized by the law. The ruling is the latest in a series of court decisions challenging local medical marijuana laws. Last December, a circuit court judge threw out a lawsuit filed by two persons challenging the medical marijuana laws of Birmingham and Bloomfield Hills using almost identical language.
On Sunday, state officials told the Wall Street Journal they didn't think medical marijuana would be available there until the end of the year at the earliest. State Department of Health and Senior Services officials said it had taken longer than expected to launch the program because opposition to dispensaries in towns and villages was more vigorous than anticipated, and setting up a highly regulated system with safeguards against theft and fraud has proved challenging. State Department of Health and Senior Services officials.
The New York City Bar Association's committees on Drugs and the Law and Health Law issued a report approving of pending medical marijuana legislation in Albany and offering some suggested modifications, including that the state explore letting patients grow their own. The bills before the legislature, Assembly Bill 2774 and its Senate companion bill, don't do that.
On Wednesday, the Rhode Island Patient Advisory Coalition reported that the state House and Senate have reached agreement on a bill that would make compassion centers a reality. Gov. Lincoln Chafee (I) had blocked the program after receiving threats from federal prosecutors, but Senate Bill 2555 is designed to ease his concerns.
On Tuesday, state prosecutors filed multiple charges against the owners of a medical marijuana dispensary in Lacey that had been raided in November. Dennis Coughlin, 68, and Jami Bisi, 50, the proprietors of Cannabis Outreach Services face 11 counts of unlawful delivery of marijuana within 1,000 feet of a school bus stop; 12 counts of unlawful use of a building for drug purposes; and two counts of unlawful possession of marijuana with intent to deliver within 1,000 feet of a school bus stop, according to their charging documents. They are the seventh and eight persons charged in a series of Thurston County raids on five collectives. The raids came after undercover police carrying medical marijuana recommendations made purchases at those locations. Washington's medical marijuana law does not explicitly provide for dispensaries.