Medical Marijuana Update

It's been fairly quiet over the holidays, but medical marijuana is legal in Massachusetts now! Let's get to it:

California

On December 19, the Berkeley Patients Group dispensary reopened for business. The longtime community stalwart was forced to shut down at its former location after asset forfeiture threats to its landlord by federal prosecutors. Ever since it was forced to close its doors last spring, it operated as a delivery service, but now it is a storefront dispensary again, and it's just a block and a half down San Pablo Avenue from its former location.

On December 20, there was a hearing in the Harborside Health Center case. Federal prosecutors are seeking to seize properties it leases in Oakland and San Jose, and the hearing featured two landlords, the city of Oakland, Harborside and the federal government arguing about whether the nation's largest dispensary can stay open while it fights the federal forfeiture action. The landlords, who stand to lose their properties, sought an order to force Harborside to close immediately. But Harborside and the city of Oakland argued there was no need to act immediately and the court could wait to hear arguments. There was no ruling, but one is expected shortly.

On December 20, a Solano County Superior Court judge threw out cases against two Vallejo dispensary operators. The two men, Jorge Espinoza, 25, and Jonathan Linares, 22, had been charged with marijuana possession and sale, and operating an illegal dispensary. Their dispensary, the Better Health Group collective, had been raided by Vallejo police three times and closed down after the third raid in June. Judge William Harrison dismissed the charges, saying after the ruling that dispensaries that comply with the Compassionate Use Act and the Medical Marijuana Program Act are allowed to operate. This was the first in a number of Vallejo dispensary cases resulting from a police crackdown last year. The police crackdown came months after Vallejo voters approved an initiative to tax dispensaries.

On December 21, attorneys for Mendocino County filed a motion to quash federal subpoenas seeking "records, letters and any other communications on the Mendocino County Medical Marijuana Cultivation Regulation to include third-party inspectors and the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors" since January 1, 2010. The request was expanded to include all "memoranda, notes, files, or records relating to meetings or conversations concerning" the Zip Tie program or Medical Marijuana Cultivation Regulation. The county argues that "the scope of the subpoenas is overbroad and burdensome, oppressive, and constitutes an improper intrusion into the ability of state and local government to administer programs for the health and welfare of their residents." No court date has been set to hear the motion. The county has until January 8 to comply with the subpoena.

Last Tuesday, the Oroville Planning Commission approved a new medical marijuana growing ordinance that will go before the city council for final approval. The ordinance would require that crops be grown indoors in secured structures and that anyone growing get a permit from the city. To legally grow medical marijuana inside the city, a qualified person must apply for a permit, meet all the requirements and have the growing facilities inspected by the police chief or a person designated by the police chief. The permit will be issued by the police chief or his or her designee.

Massachusetts

On December 22, state Sen. John Keenan called for a delay in implementing the state's new medical marijuana law. Keenan also said he would introduce legislation that would "close loopholes" by imposing controls beyond those approved by the voters, including eliminating home cultivation, requiring marijuana "prescriptions" to be entered in the state's Prescription Monitoring Program to avoid "doctor shopping."

On Tuesday, medical marijuana became legal in Massachusetts as voter-approved Question 3 went into effect. But it will be months before any dispensaries open. The Department of Public Health has until May 1 to develop regulations.

Michigan

On December 19, the state Supreme Court ruled that collective grows are not allowed under the state's medical marijuana law. The ruling came in the case of Ryan Bylsma, a Grand Rapids man who gave others warehouse space to grow. Bylsma is a state-approved caregiver who could grow 24 plants for two people, but he also allowed other caregivers and patients to grow in the same space. When he was raided, there were 88 plants in the warehouse. Kent County authorities said that arrangement was illegal and charged him with manufacturing marijuana. The court agreed, arguing he "exercised dominion and control over all the plants in the warehouse space that he leased, not merely the plants in which he claimed an ownership interest." The Supreme Court sent the case back to Kent County to allow Bylsma to offer an alternative defense.

Vermont

On Monday, the select board in Rutland decided not to prohibit dispensaries. No one has applied to open one, but board members agreed they shouldn't be banned.

Washington

On December 19, the Everett city council banned collective gardens. It declared medical marijuana a nuisance with an order that will expire in 18 months. The vote came ahead of the expiration of the city's moratorium on collective gardens and effectively continues it. Medical marijuana patients set the ban could lead to legal action against the city.

Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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