Regulated dispensaries are coming to Oregon, it's looking increasingly likely that a medical marijuana initiative is coming to Florida, New York's governor sticks a toe in the water, and California battles continue. Let's get to it:
Last Thursday, a superior court judge upheld Los Angeles' medical marijuana ordinance limiting the number of dispensaries that can operate in the city. Superior Court Judge Randolph Hammock ruled that Proposition D, which was approved by voters in May, does not violate the due process or equal protection rights of dispensary owners being forced out of business.
Last Friday, advocates asked the state Supreme Court to review a ruling that allows cities to ban all marijuana growing within in their boundaries. The court is being asked to review an appeals court decision in Maral v. City of Live Oak allowing the ban on personal patient grows. Advocates acknowledge that the Supreme Court decided in City of Riverside v. Inland Empire Patients Health and Wellness Center, Incthat localities can ban dispensaries, but argue that cultivation for personal medicinal use is specifically protected by statute.
On Tuesday, the Santa Rosa city council eased the rules on dispensaries. The changes, which included elimination of patient caps, expansion of hours of operation, and allowing dispensaries to sell pipes and other devices used to ingest marijuana, were approved by the council unanimously. Dispensaries had labored under a 500-patient cap that only served to lead competitors to open up shop outside the city limits. The number of dispensaries remains capped at two, but now the city manager has discretion to increase that number in the future.
Also on Tuesday, the Long Beach city council approved putting a dispensary sales tax on the ballot. The tax would start at 6% and could increase up to 10%. The measure also includes a tax of $15 to $50 per square foot for grow areas in dispensaries. The measure will go to votes on April 8.
Also on Tuesday, Fresno County supervisors banned all marijuana cultivation in the county's unincorporated areas beginning next month. The move came over the strenuous objections of medical marijuana users. The unanimous vote includes fines of $1,000 per plant and $100 per plant per day for each day the plants remain after being discovered. Fresno becomes the first county to ban all medical marijuana cultivation.
On Tuesday, medical marijuana initiative backers said they were near to a million signatures. It's starting to look like People United for Medical Marijuana ballot initiative may actually qualify for the ballot. Organizers need just over 683,000 valid signatures by February 1 and now say they will hit the million-signature mark by next week. If organizers succeed in coming up with enough valid signatures, they still have to wait for the state Supreme Court to rule on whether the initiative's ballot title and summary meet legal requirements. It has been challenged by Attorney General Pam Bondi (R).
On Wednesday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced he would institute a limited medical marijuana program. The plan would allow a small number of hospitals in the state to recommend medical marijuana, but relies on the cooperation of federal agencies not known for cooperating with efforts to expand medical marijuana -- the DEA, the FDA, and NIDA. Advocates complained that Cuomo did not call for the passage of comprehensive legislation, which is pending in Albany.
On Tuesday, state officials said draft dispensary rules would be posted within a week. The rules, which will be the basis of a statewide dispensary regulations system approved by the legislature, will next undergo public hearings and could be revised before being finalized. In the meantime, dispensary operators can seek temporary operating licenses under the draft rules beginning March 3.
[For extensive information about the medical marijuana debate, presented in a neutral format, visit MedicalMarijuana.ProCon.org.]