Arizona marks a medical marijuana first, there's an ominous move by the feds in Northern California, Illinois is considering a medical marijuana bill, and that's not the half of it. Here we go:
On November 15, Arizona Organix became the state's first licensed dispensary. It's not open for business yet, but it has been licensed. A sign on the door says, "We hope to be operating within a few weeks" and encourages potential customers to sign up on an email list. One problem for the new dispensary is finding a place to grow its product. The city of Glendale doesn't allow dispensaries to grow on site, and Arizona Organix is finding that many potential landlords for its grow are wary of possible federal enforcement actions.
Last Wednesday, the state Department of Health reported that there were nearly 34,000 patients with active medical marijuana cards in the state as of November 7.That's an average of 307 potential patients for each of the 97 dispensary applicant finalists selected by the state.
Last Tuesday, Mendocino County officials confirmed that the feds have subpoenaed medical marijuana financial records the county keeps. A federal grand jury subpoenaed the records in late October. The county had a program under which the sheriff's office issued permits for collectives wanting to grow up to 99 plants and sold zip ties for $25 that could be affixed to plants to show they were grown in compliance with state law. Now, compliant growers fear their attempts to be scrupulously legal at the state level could come back to haunt them at the federal level.
Also last Tuesday, the Sacramento city council adopted an ordinance barring outdoor grows in residential areas. The 6-2 vote came after council members complained of plant odor, robberies, and occasional violence associated with outdoor grows.
Last Friday, local media said San Francisco's Shambala Healing Center had reopened. The Mission District dispensary had been forced to close its doors after the Justice Department threatened its landlord with property forfeiture, but has quietly reopened as the heat seems to have decreased in the Bay Area.
As of this week, Kern County dispensaries operating near schools and churches can stay open. That's because a judge late last week issued a temporary restraining order blocking enforcement of Measure G, which restricted dispensary locations and was passed by voters in June. Dispensary operators have complained that the measure essentially blocks them from operating because "there are virtually no legal places to set up shop," but county officials said they would appeal.
On Tuesday, the Illinois House debated a medical marijuana bill, with a vote expected any day now. The bill, House Bill 30, would be the strictest such law in the nation, forbidding patients from growing their own and requiring that they qualify under a tight list of medical conditions. While legislators debated, patients and supporters rallied.
On Tuesday, the Peabody city council voted to ban dispensaries. The vote came just three weeks after Massachusetts voters approved a medical marijuana initiative. Rather than deal with regulating dispensaries, it was simpler to ban them, the council decided. Voters in Peabody approved the medical marijuana initiative by more than 3,000 votes. Two other towns, Reading and Wakefield, have already passed municipal bylaws barring dispensaries.
Last Friday, the Holly village council voted to deny a business license to a dispensary. The council split 3-3, meaning the motion to grant a license to Well Greens failed. Well Greens is already operating, and the failure to grant a license won't close it, council members said. The license was not designed to grant permission to operate, but rather a registration, acknowledging that the business was up to code. The council may reconsider its vote on December 4.
On Wednesday, New Jersey officials said they would tax medical marijuana. "The State Division of Taxation determined medical marijuana is subject to the sales tax," state Treasury Department spokesman Andy Pratt said. The state sales tax is 7%.
Now, if only someone can manage to get a dispensary actually up and running in the Garden State. That would help Susan Sterner, among others. She faces major eye surgery to reduce dangerously high interocular pressure that threatens her with the possibility of blindness. Sterner has filled out her forms and paid her fees to the state, according to the Coalition for Medical Marijuana-New Jersey, but there are still no operating dispensaries in New Jersey, three years after former governor John Corzine signed the state's medical marijuana bill into law. The only dispensary operator to have received a final permit from the state so far, Greenleaf Alternative Treatment Center in Montclair, has yet to open.