The feds strike again in California, Connecticut becomes the 17th medical marijuana state and New Hampshire could be 18th, and localities in various medical marijuana states continue to try to keep a lid on the green medicine. Let's get to it:
Last Wednesday, a new dispensary opened up in Eagle Rock just a day after an LA City Council committee voted to advance a new ban on dispensaries in the city. The Together For Change dispensary is at the same location as the American Eagle Collective, which was raided and closed by LAPD narcotics officers on May 2. It is supposedly under new ownership, but has the same décor and even the same security guard as American Eagle.
On Tuesday, researchers reported that dispensary neighborhoods have no higher crime rates than neighborhoods without dispensaries. The research, which will appear in the July issue of the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, examined 95 neighborhoods in Sacramento in 2009. The researchers found no evidence that neighborhoods with a higher density of medical marijuana dispensaries had higher rates of violent crime or property crime than other neighborhoods. But the authors added that further research is needed because they looked at neighborhoods at only one point in time. A neighborhood's crime patterns could change over time as more medical marijuana dispensaries open.
Also on Tuesday, CANORML reported that California elections brought mixed results. In Butte County, a measure that would have restricted patients' rights to cultivate on their own property lost 55% to 45%, but in Kern County an ordinance sharply limiting the location of dispensaries passed with 69% of the vote and in Lake County, a grower-led measure to regulate marijuana like agricultural crops was defeated by a margin of 66% to 33%.
In Los Angeles, LA City Attorney Carmen Trutanich, a staunch nemesis of medical marijuana, failed in his bid to run for District Attorney. That means the contest will be between Jackie Lacey, who believes medical marijuana sales are illegal, and Deputy DA Alan Jackson, who has been more friendly to the cause.
In San Diego, stridently anti-medical marijuana DA Bonnie Dumanis was crushed in the mayoral primary, getting only 13% of the vote. The November election will feature a choice between medical marijuana foe Carl Demaio (32%) and medical marijuana supporter Rep. Bob Filner (30%).
In the 33rd Congressional District, LA NORML Director Bruce Margolin came in fourth in the race with 4.5%, followed closely by Libertarian Steve Collett with 4.3%. Both had made marijuana reform a centerpiece of their campaigns against long-time incumbent Henry Waxman, who was leading with 45%.
In the race for US Senate, where veteran drug warrior Sen. Dianne Feinstein faced a field of 32 unknown opponents, David Levitt, who had campaigned on drug reform and other progressive issues, got 1.6% of the vote; while Libertarian Gail Lightfoot got 2%. Feinstein's opponent in November will be Republican Elizabeth Emken.
On Wednesday, federal authorities announced a crackdown on LA County dispensaries, with the DEA raiding two dispensaries and federal prosecutors sending warning letters to 34 more. While the feds didn't target the city of Los Angeles, the crackdown seeks to wipe out dispensaries in the cities of Santa Fe Springs, Whittier, South El Monte, La Mirada, Diamond Bar, Artesia, Paramount, South Gate, City of Commerce, Agoura Hills and Malibu. The two dispensaries that were raided Wednesday were the Tri-City Patient's Association and the Canna-America Collective (a.k.a. Organic Way Collective) in Santa Fe Springs. The two dispensaries were also hit with federal civil asset forfeiture lawsuits. The warning letters give the operators and landlords 14 days to come into compliance with federal law or risk potential civil or criminal actions.
On Tuesday, Garfield County commissioners set a June 18 deadline to approve land use regulations for medical marijuana growers in the county. A two-year moratorium on grows expires July 1. One commissioner proposed that the commission require a 1,000-foot buffer zone between grow facilities and schools, parks or churches, in accordance with state law. He also proposed that growers be restricted to commercial zone districts and banned from rural zones, because of concerns about ease of enforcement. He also proposed that Garfield County growers be allowed to sell their products only within the county. But the proposed ban on rural grows and on selling products outside the county drew opposition.
Last Friday, Connecticut became the 17th medical marijuana state after Gov. Dan Malloy signed into law the bill passed by the legislature. Patients will obtain their medicine from dispensaries run by licensed pharmacists.
Last Thursday, the state Supreme Court ruled that state law allows an affirmative defense for patients even if they haven't registered with the state. The ACLU of Michigan called the decision a victory for medical marijuana patients throughout the state. In one case ruled on by the court, Owosso resident Larry King, who suffers from severe and chronic back pain, was issued a medical marijuana card in 2009 by the state after being examined and approved by a doctor. He grew 12 marijuana plants for his own medical use. The Shiawassee County prosecutor charged him with manufacturing marijuana, a felony, because some of his plants were being grown outside. Drug charges against King initially were thrown out because he was a medical marijuana patient. But the Court of Appeals reinstated felony drug charges against him because it held that King would not be permitted to raise a medical defense at his trial. The higher court's decision reverses the appeals court.
Also last Thursday, the New Baltimore City Council extended a moratorium on medical marijuana businesses that has been in place since 2009. While in the past, the council had extended the moratorium for six months at a time, this time it was only for two months. The council is hoping some clarity will emerge this summer after the legislature finishes dealing with a package of medical marijuana bills.
Last Sunday, the Flushing Police announced they were reporting to the federal government medical marijuana users who were seeking to buy firearms. Police Chief Mark Hoornstra said his department began doing so about six months ago after an FBI training seminar. And it's not just gun buyers. Hoornstra said his officers report any interactions with individuals identified as medical marijuana patients to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, or NICS, even if they are not committing a crime or violating the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act. He said his department has reported about ten patients so far.
On Tuesday, patient and dispensary advocates threatened to sue the city of Jackson if the city council approves an ordinance saying patients and primary caregivers can only use and grow their medicine in their homes. A council committee voted later that evening in favor of the ordinance. There are already at least two dispensaries in Jackson, and they would be forced to close if the ordinance passes. The Jackson City Council likely will consider the ordinance next Tuesday.
Last Wednesday, the state Supreme Court heard arguments in a case challenging a new medical marijuana law passed by the legislature last year. That law bans the commercial sale of medical marijuana. The Montana Cannabis Industry Association challenged it. Chief Justice Mike McGrath said the issue is not whether marijuana has medicinal value, but whether there is a right to sell a drug that federal law labels a Schedule I narcotic. A key component of the 2011 law was to make it illegal for marijuana providers to be compensated for their services and to limit them to three patients each. Supporters said that provision was necessary to end the business of marijuana and to ensure the drug was used as voters intended --to treat the neediest patients. An appeals court judge ordered an injunction that prevented the sales ban from taking effect, saying it would harm people's right to seek health care.
On Wednesday, the state legislature gave final approval to a medical marijuana bill, which now heads to the desk of Gov. John Lynch (D), who earlier said he would veto it. Supporters are scrambling to either persuade Lynch to change his mind or come up with a veto-proof majority. They're not quite there yet.
On Monday, the Pasco City Council voted to ban collective medical marijuana grows. Five council members decided to end their year-long moratorium and amend Pasco's zoning code to say the city won't allow anything that violates local, state and federal law. That includes the issuing of a building permit or business license for a collective garden, where authorized patients would grow cannabis plants together. The legislature in 2011 passed a law allowing collective gardens, but Gov. Chris Gregoire (D) vetoed parts of it. The city had enacted successive moratoria on grows while waiting for the legislature to act this year, but got tired of waiting.
On Tuesday, the Kent City Council voted to ban dispensaries and collective gardens. The 4-3 vote came after more than 150 people at the meeting pleaded with the council not to enact the ban. Now, the Cannabis Action Coalition says it plans to sue the city.