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Medical Marijuana Update

New Hampshire becomes the 19th medical marijuana state, some folks in Kentucky would like it to become one, too; and the local tussling continues in California. And in late news, the DEA strikes in Washington State.  Let's get to it:


Last week, San Francisco Supervisor John Avalos moved to potentially expand where dispensaries could operate. He introduced legislation that would require the city Planning Commission to review the city's 2005 medical marijuana law and provide recommendations for changes. Avalos is seeking to avoid the clustering of dispensaries in his Outer Mission neighborhood. The review would include analysis of "impacts on the public health, safety and welfare of expanding the areas" where dispensaries can open and the impact of existing rules on patient access.

Last Friday, a Bakersfield dispensary landlord paid $1.675 million to the United States to resolve claims his buildings housed medical marijuana dispensaries and grow operations.  Ned Strizak now gets to keep his properties, which the Justice Department had sought to seize in October 2011.

Also last Friday, Bakersfield medical marijuana supporters announced they are organizing a referendum to overturn a June ordinance banning dispensaries in the city. The ordinance was approved by the Bakersfield city council June 26 and will become law August 1. It is modeled after an example in Riverside, which was upheld in a decision by the California Supreme Court allowing cities to ban dispensaries. The Patient Advocacy Network will need to gather 15,326 valid voter signatures to force a vote on the issue. They only have until July 29. If they succeed in getting the necessary signatures, the city council will have two options: consider a vote to repeal the ordinance or call for an election to let voters decide.

On Sunday, the state Democratic Party passed two pro-medical marijuana resolutions at its executive board meeting in Costa Mesa. The first called on President Obama to (1) respect the voters of Colorado and Washington and to not allow any federal interference in the enactment of their marijuana legalization initiatives, (2) end the federal raids on patients and providers in medical marijuana states and (3) appoint a commission to look into the reform of our nation’s marijuana laws. The second resolution called on the state legislature to enact statewide guidelines for medical marijuana distribution that respects the rights of local municipalities to regulate and license but will also provide marijuana "to all patients in all areas of California, rural as well as urban." The resolutions were the work of Riverside activist Lanny Swerdlow and the Brownie Mary Democratic Club he helped organize.

On Tuesday, the Tehama County board of supervisors moved to heighten penalties for non-compliant medical marijuana grows. The board voted to direct staff to prepare amendments that would allow for monetary and criminal penalties against grows found to be out of compliance with the county's marijuana cultivation ordinance. The proposed amendments come after several months of increasing complaints regarding noncompliant marijuana grow sites, particularly in the Rancho Tehama Reserve area.


Last Thursday, a push to get medical marijuana legislation moving got underway. State Sen. Perry Clark (D-Louisville) hosted supporters at his home ahead of a hearing scheduled for next month in a legislative committee. Perry and supporters also rallied Sunday in Louisville. Perry has introduced bills that have gone nowhere for the past two years, but now has won a hearing and will reintroduce a medical marijuana bill next session.

New Hampshire

On Tuesday, Gov. Maggie Hassan (D) signed a medical marijuana bill into law, making New Hampshire the 19th medical marijuana state and making all of New England medical marijuana country. The bill is one of the most restrictive yet -- it allows no personal grows and it could take two years for dispensaries to open -- but it is a medical marijuana bill.


On Wednesday, the DEA raided at least five Puget Sound region dispensaries. The dispensaries raided included Seattle Cross, Tacoma Cross, and the Bayside Collective in Olympia.

[For extensive information about the medical marijuana debate, presented in a neutral format, visit]

Portland, Maine, To Vote on Marijuana Legalization

Voters in Maine's largest city will have the chance to legalize marijuana in November. The Portland city council Monday night voted 5-1 to put the issue before voters.

The council could have simply adopted a citizen-initiated ordinance to legalize the possession of up to 2 ½ ounces that was endorsed by more than 2,500 voters. Instead it punted, leaving it to Portland voters to approve the measure or not in the November 5 elections.

Even if approved by Portland voters, marijuana possession remains illegal under federal law. State law considers possession of less than 2 ½ ounces of marijuana a civil infraction, punishable by a fine of up to $600.

The vote to take the matter to the voters came after a Monday afternoon press conference at which civil rights leaders and political figures said that marijuana prohibition is expensive and its enforcement is racially disproportionate. Speakers included representatives of the NAACP of Maine, the Maine ACLU, the Portland Green Independent Committee, and the Marijuana Policy Project.

Speakers cited the recent national ACLU report on racial disparities in marijuana law enforcement. Regina Phillips of the NAACP of Maine, invoking the recent acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of black youth Trayvon Martin, argued that the marijuana laws are just another example of racial injustice in America.

"It has begun to feel like locking up young black men has become a national pastime," she said, citing figures that showed blacks get arrested at twice the rate of whites in Maine.

Maine wastefully spends $9 million a year on "aggressive enforcement" of marijuana laws that "ensnares thousands in the criminal justice system," said the Maine ACLU's Bob Talbot. "These are tax dollars that could be spent on hospitals, schools, or better solutions. The truth is the war on marijuana is a failure."

City Councilor David Marshall said that even though Maine had decriminalized possession, being caught with marijuana is still a federal drug crime with all its consequences.

"There's a whole host of federal programs you can be denied simply by having a possession of marijuana charges on your record," he said, adding that he thought the measure would be approved by "a large majority" of voters.

Portland, ME
United States

Medical Marijuana Update

A federal medical marijuana banking bill was introduced, an Oregon bill that would allow and regulate dispensaries heads to the governor's desk, Berkeley and Oakland fight the feds, and more. Let's get to it:


On Wednesday, Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) introduced the Marijuana Business Access to Banking Act of 2013. The bill addresses the growing banking crisis for regulated, state-legal marijuana businesses which are frequently unable to access even the most basic of banking services such as business checking accounts or merchant services. It would block federal regulators from punishing or penalizing a bank or its employees because it provides services marijuana-related businesses, exempt depository institutions from persecution and forfeiture simply for providing services to a marijuana-related business, and exempt marijuana-related business accounts from disclosure reporting requirements intended to identify individuals engaging in federally illegal activities. The bill has 17 cosponsors.


Last Tuesday, the El Centro city council voted to extend his moratorium on new dispensary applications for another year. It cited concerns over federal preemption.

Last Wednesday, the city of Berkeley filed a lawsuit against the Department of Justice in an effort to block federal prosecutors from seizing the property that houses the Berkeley Patients Group.

Also last Wednesday, the city of Oakland won a ruling halting the Justice Department's effort to shut down Harborside Health Center. The ruling blocks the feds from seizing a building housing the country's largest dispensary while Oakland appeals the dismissal of its own suit challenging a prosecutor’s bid to close the store. US Magistrate Judge Maria-Elena James said the government won’t be harmed if its bid to seize the building where Harborside operates is put on hold pending Oakland’s appeal.

Also last Wednesday, the Rancho Santa Margarita planning commission approved a dispensary ordinance that would ban dispensaries in the city. The ordinance now goes before the city council, but the date for the hearing on it hasn't been set yet.

Also last Wednesday, the Palm Springs city council approved putting dispensary taxation to a popular vote. In a unanimous vote, the council approved the measure, which would allow it to tax permitted dispensaries at a rate of up to 15% of their sales. The council also voted to ban delivery services not linked to permitted dispensaries.


On Wednesday, the secretary of state gave final approval for signature-gathering to get underway on a proposed medical marijuana initiative. The initiative sponsors, People United for Medical Marijuana, now has until February 1 to gather some 700,000 valid voter signatures. The campaign is estimated to cost about $3 million, and the group has raised $200,000 so far.


Last Wednesday, Southern Oregon NORML was evicted from its Medford offices. The group's director, Lori Duckworth, and her husband had been arrested in May for operating a dispensary, and her landlord said they must vacate for violating federal drug laws and because they failed to pay the rent. Duckworth said they couldn't pay the rent because police seized all their assets.

On Saturday, the legislature gave final approval to a dispensary bill and the measure now awaits the signature of Gov. John Kitzhaber (D). House Bill 3460 will set up a registration system for dispensaries, authorizing the transfer of marijuana and seedlings to patients. The state currently allows patients with certain debilitating medical conditions to grow their own marijuana or designate someone else to do it, but there isn't a place to legally purchase the medicine.

[For extensive information about the medical marijuana debate, presented in a neutral format, visit]

Colorado Releases Temporary Marijuana Sales Rules

The Colorado Department of Revenue Monday released temporary rules for the operation of legal marijuana commerce, providing more details on what the nascent industry will look like, but still leaving many complicated matters unresolved.

The department had only about a month to come up with the rules after Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) signed off on the legislature's starting framework in late May. Officials hope to have complete rules in place before marijuana stores are supposed to open in January. The interim rules expire in October, and state officials have said they will engage in a more detailed rule-making process to spell out just what is and is not allowed.

While the temporary rules take up 64 pages, some of the highlights include requiring medical marijuana dispensaries to bar minors if they want to sell recreational marijuana, requiring child-proof packing for marijuana and marijuana-infused products (edibles), and requiring that marijuana be labeled with the license numbers of the producer and retailer, as well as an as yet undetermined "universal symbol, indicating that the container holds marijuana."

The temporary rules note that more regulatory detail will be coming in areas such as advertising, health and safety protections, labeling, testing, and inventory control. They contain little detail on key aspects, particularly the "seed-to-sale" tracking system which has been the bedrock of the state's efforts to prevent diversion.

"The State Licensing Authority intends to engage in additional rulemaking to establish additional inventory tracking system requirements," the department said in the rules.

Denver, CO
United States

Marijuana Legalization Initiatives Gear Up in Three States

The race to be the next state to legalize marijuana at the ballot box is on. Activists in three states -- Alaska, Arizona, and Oregon -- have taken initial steps to get the issue before the voters during the 2014 general election.

In Alaska, Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell last Friday certified a ballot initiative application that would legalize the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana by adults. Backed by the Marijuana Policy Project, the initiative would also set up a system of taxed and regulated marijuana commerce. Adults could grow up to six marijuana plants for their personal use.

Proponents will have one year to gather 30,169 valid voter signatures to qualify for the ballot. But they have to wait a week or so for the state elections division to begin printing the petition booklets.

Alaska already allows for adults to possess small amounts of marijuana in their homes under the state Supreme Court's interpretation of the state constitution's privacy provisions.

In Arizona, Safer Arizona is sponsoring an initiative to amend the state constitution to allow for legal, taxed, and regulated marijuana use and commerce. The group filed the measure last week with the secretary of state. It now must gather 259,213 valid voter signatures by July 3, 2014 to qualify for the November 2014 ballot.

Organizers there said it would be a grassroots campaign relying on volunteers. The conventional wisdom for initiatives in high signature-count states is that they require paid signature-gathering efforts to succeed at a rough cost of a dollar or more per signature obtained.

Arizona voters approved a medical marijuana initiative in 2010, but that initiative squeaked through with barely more than 50% of the vote.

In Oregon, Paul Stanford, the controversial proponent of last year's failed marijuana legalization campaign, is back with two more measures, and other activists could file yet a third. Stanford's Oregon Marijuana Tax Act initiative largely echoes the language of last year's underfunded initiative, which picked up 47% of the popular vote, but reworks a contentious provision relating to a commission to regulate marijuana and hemp commerce. Stanford's second initiative would simply legalize the possession and production of pot by adults 21 and over with a proviso that the state could impose regulations.

Stanford's move has inspired other Oregon activists organized as New Approach Oregon to say that they will likely have a better alternative initiative. "Something will be on the ballot," the group's Anthony Johnson told The Oregonian. "Either it's going to be a responsible measure or something not as well-vetted."

Stanford said he will conduct polling on the various measures before moving forward.

If legislators can't get around to legalizing marijuana, activists in initiative states want to let the voters do it for them. That's three states aiming at 2014 so far, and we're still a year and half out from election day.

Moving Toward Legal Marijuana Commerce in Washington State [FEATURE]

Voters approved the marijuana legalization initiative I-502 in Washington state last November, and it is now legal to possess up to an ounce of marijuana, but a full-blown marijuana commerce industry doesn't just happen overnight. The state is still months away from having a functioning system of state-taxed and -regulated marijuana cultivators, processors, and retailers, but the process is well underway, and by most accounts, it is going relatively smoothly.

This is how your Washington state marijuana will be labelled, according to the Liquor Control Board.
Last month, the Washington Liquor Control Board (LCB), the state agency charged with setting up the state's marijuana industry, issued its initial draft rules. It took written comments on the initial draft rules through Monday and will issue revised draft rules later this month. The LCB will hold public hearings on the rules for all three envisaged licenses -- grower, processor, and retailer -- in late July, promulgate final rules in August, begin accepting license applications in September, and begin issuing licenses in December.

From then, it is still likely to be months before the first legal marijuana is sold in Washington because only once growers are licensed will legal marijuana destined for retail sale be in the pipeline. It takes a minimum of three months to bring an indoor crop to harvest. But by sometime next spring, consumers should be able to go to their local pot shop and make their selections.

"These initial rules balance our goal of developing a tightly regulated system with reasonable access for small and large business models to participate within the system," said Board Chair Sharon Foster. "They are based upon hundreds of hours of internal research and deliberation, consultation with multiple industry experts and input from the over 3,000 individuals who attended our forums statewide."

The initial draft rules reflect the Board's stated goal of developing a tightly regulated and controlled recreational marijuana market. Included in the rules are elements that address out-of-state diversion of product, traceability of product from start to sale, youth access and other public and consumer safety concerns.

Here are some of the key elements in the initial draft rules: 

License Requirements

  • Application Window -- The application window would open for 30 days for all license types and be extended or reopened at the Board's discretion. This approach was similar to how Colorado opened its medical marijuana system.
  • Background Checks -- License applicants and financiers would be required to submit a form attesting to their criminal history, provide fingerprints, and allow criminal background checks. 
  • Point System -- The WSLCB would employ a disqualifying criminal history point system similar to liquor. An exception would be allowed for two misdemeanor convictions of possession within three years.

Public Safety

  • Producer Structures -- Producer operations would be allowed in both secure indoor grows or greenhouses.
  • Traceability -- A robust and comprehensive traceability software system will trace product from start to sale.
  • Violation Guidelines -- In addition to the $1,000 fine for certain violations established by I-502, the initial draft rules also include a strict tiered system of violation penalties over a three year period (similar to the current standard penalty guidelines for liquor).
  • Security -- The rules direct strict on-site surveillance systems similar to Colorado's current system.  
  • Advertising Restrictions -- I-502 restricts advertising within 1,000 feet of schools, public parks, transit centers, arcades, and other areas where children are present. The draft rules further restrict advertising as they pertain to children.

Consumer Safety

  • Behind the Counter Storage -- No open containers allowed.  
  • Package and Label Requirements -- Consumers will know contents and potency of products they purchase.
  • Defined Serving Size -- Serving sizes equal 10 mg of THC. Products are limited to 100 mg.
  • Lab Tested -- Uniform testing standards by independent accredited labs.

With the release of the initial draft rules, the period for written comment opened up. One of the first analyses -- not a formal comment -- came from the Henry Wykowski law firm, a San Francisco marijuana law practice that recently opened a Seattle office. Drafted by Wykowski attorney Rachel Kurtz, a longtime player in the Seattle marijuana reform scene, the analysis shined a light on some of what could be described as the rules' downsides.

"Hash will not be allowed for sale at the retail stores," the analysis noted. "According to the draft rules WAC 314-55-079, 'marijuana extracts,' such as, hash, hash oil, shatter, and wax can be infused in products sold in a marijuana retail store, but RCW 69.50.354 does not allow the sale of extracts that are not infused in products. A marijuana extract does not meet the definition of a marijuana-infused product per RCW 69.50.101."

The Wykowski analysis also warned that "fingerprinting will be required and sent to the FBI for anyone with an interest in the business being licensed, including financiers." That means anyone seeking a marijuana license is potentially incriminating oneself to the federal government, which continues to consider marijuana an illegal substance, even in states that have legalized it.

After Monday's deadline for comments passed, the LCB reported that while initial comments on the rules were relatively light, the agency received extensive written comment over the final weekend and throughout Monday from public and private organizations.

"In keeping with our goal of an open and transparent process for drafting the rules, we’re going to take an additional two weeks to consider the last-minute input we’ve received," said LCB Director Rick Garza. "The Board was prepared to issue the rules on June 19. However, it's our responsibility to carefully review and consider the comments we received."

Among those commenting were Washington NORML, the Washington Cannabis Association, Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes, organizations with concerns about impacts on minorities, and organizations with concerns about prevention, treatment, and public health, both led by the ACLU of Washington, whose Alison Holcomb took a leave of absence to lead the I-502 campaign to victory. The comments revealed a variety of interests -- some conflicting -- and concerns from various stakeholders in the issue.

The prevention, treatment, and public health groups called for tighter restrictions on packaging, labeling, and advertising, shorter hours for retail outlets, and getting rid of the logo that features a marijuana leaf centered over an outline of the state, while the minority groups called on the LCB to ensure that their communities did not become dumping grounds for marijuana retail outlets.

"Initiative 502 was designed to achieve better health and safety outcomes for our families and communities than marijuana prohibition has," said Holcomb. "It was not intended to 'mint marijuana millionaires' who prioritize profits over public health. The goal is to improve upon our experiences with alcohol and tobacco, not repeat them."

"We supported I-502 because we were very concerned about the disproportionate enforcement of marijuana possession on African-Americans and communities of color," said Jon Gould, deputy director of the Children's Alliance, which signed onto the public health comments. "Prohibition hasn't worked, and it has had damaging effects on children and families. We think regulation would be better."

"The Board needs to remember that it is setting a standard for marijuana regulation," said University of Washington professor Roger Roffman, who also signed on to the public health comments. "We have a unique opportunity to create a system that discourages glamorization of marijuana use and encourages respect for the public's health and wellbeing. Let's not waste it."

While the public health and minority communities were concerned with restraining the marijuana marketplace, other constituencies had other concerns.

"Most of our constituents are small growers with a hundred plants or less. We argued that when it comes to growing, priority should be given to individuals who are willing to have a garden of 99 plants or less," said Kevin Oliver, executive director of Washington NORML.

"Our constituency includes two separate US Attorney districts that have disparate levels of enforcement activity. If the US Attorney's Office in the Eastern District gets wind of any marijuana operations, they shut them down. They're discussing zoning for grows the size of a football field in Seattle, and good for them, but that won't fly in eastern Washington. If they ignore the little guy, that's going to cut out anybody in eastern Washington, that's why we want them to prioritize for small growers under 99 plants."

The 99 plants number is based on federal mandatory minimum sentences that kick in at 100 plants, but is also based on the observation that federal prosecutors are unlikely to go after grows that small when there are bigger fish to fry -- and bigger punishments to hand out.

"Our concerns were very similar to most everyone else who was frustrated with the board's definition of what can be sold at retail and it's not allowing extracts like hash oil," said Kurtz, who worked with the Washington Cannabis Association in crafting its comments. "Nobody is happy about that. There are a lot of business people who were counting on that for their business model. The whole purpose of the initiative was to get rid of a black market, but by not allowing that retail, a black market will remain. We might as well actually regulate because it's going to happen regardless, but they don't seem very keen to change," she said.

"The draft regs also don't allow for outdoor grows, but I have some hope they will change that," Kurtz added . "They've heard back from a lot of people about the need for outdoor grows, including Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes. Forcing everyone indoors increases energy consumption, and growing outdoors is less expensive."

On the upside, the LCB seems to be crafting reasonable regulations for out of state visitors and for preventing diversion, although diversion probably won't be a big issue, Kurtz said.

"This doesn't limit out of state people at all," Kurtz explained. "You can buy an ounce at a time, which is the limit of what you can legally possess."

There is no integrated system to track purchasers, so out-of-staters could theoretically go from retail outlet to retail outlet, building their stashes an ounce at a time, but that doesn't mean there will be an issue with diversion to other states, Kurtz argued.

"Economically, it just doesn't make sense," she said. "If someone from North Dakota wants to sell pot there, they could come here, but they would be paying full retail and having to go to a bunch of stores, and they wouldn't have much of a profit margin paying retail. Or they could just grow some in their basement in North Dakota."

A larger issue is diversion from cultivation sites, but Kurtz argued that a combination of security and grower self-interest should limit that.

"There is going to be a lot of recordkeeping, an electronic system where growers will have to input data daily," she said. "There are product quarantines, there are security cameras. But more importantly, people are preparing to invest a lot of money in this to have a legitimate business, not to divert pot to the black market. I've been meeting a lot of people who I don't think would risk their licenses to sell to the black market."

Washington's legal, regulated marijuana commerce is still a work in progress, but stakeholders pronounced themselves generally satisfied with the process so far.

"We are in completely new territory in terms of creating a legal marketplace and we're being very vigilant. It's too soon to tell whether this new environment is going to adequately protect youth and be an effective public health approach," said the Children Alliance's Gould.

"This has been a good public process, with lots of transparency and broad engagement. They are doing a good job in terms of being open and transparent," he continued. "What is also really apparent is the enormous amount of competition this has created, with industries and individuals looking at this as an opportunity for profit. There are choices that need to be made, and we and others are speaking up, saying we need to choose public health and kids over profiteering. If the WSLCB creates an environment based on policies designed to make this more profitable, that could have a detrimental impact on children, youth, and the public health."

"We're getting there," said Kurtz. "Eventually we will have a good system, but it may take a few years to figure itself out."

And so marijuana begins the transition from illegal drug to legal commodity in Washington state. That is, if the federal government allows it to happen. So far, the federal government has given little indication it's going to do much of anything about it, but that could change. Stay tuned.

United States

Maine Legislature Won't Put Marijuana Referendum on Ballot

If Maine residents want to legalize marijuana via the popular vote, they may have to do it themselves. Last Friday, a bill that would have called for a referendum on marijuana legalization fell four votes short in the House. On Monday, it was defeated more decisively in the Senate.

The bill, LD 1229, sponsored by Rep. Diane Russell (D-Portland), was a detailed tax, regulate, and legalize marijuana measure when first introduced. But, with a lack of support among colleagues, the bill was amended to merely call for a popular referendum. Even that watered down version couldn't pass the House.

During debate on the bill last Friday, Russell argued that if legislators failed to act, it was likely that activists would put a legalization initiative before voters through the citizens' initiative process, and that then, lawmakers would have no say.

"I believe this is the smartest, most rational way forward… to ensure we're the ones driving the bus to do it," Russell said.

Support for and opposition to the bill wasn't a simple party line affair, with some Republicans speaking for it and some Democrats opposing.

"We have a society that’s been hypocritically fighting this war for years," said Rep. Lance Harvell (R-Farmington). "In a democratic republic, the will of the people will be expressed."

"I have seen lives ruined by addiction," said Rep Gay Grant (D-Gardiner). "I am not ready to raise the white flag on one more opportunity to destroy lives."

"You actually can't smoke enough marijuana to kill yourself. You’d fall asleep first," said Rep. Corey Wilson (R-Augusta), who argued that prohibition had failed and that the state should consider collecting taxes on marijuana to help fight more dangerous drugs.

With Maine activists eyeing the presidential election year of 2016 for a citizens' legalization initiative, the legislature still has a couple of years to act. If it doesn't, Mainers may well make the decision themselves.

Augusta, ME
United States

Medical Marijuana Update

From the US Supreme Court to the local city council chambers, medical marijuana continues to be a contentious issue. Here's the latest.


On Monday, the US Supreme Court declined to hear a case brought by medical marijuana patients. The four California plaintiffs had argued that local bans on dispensaries denied their right to equal treatment under the Americans With Disabilities Act. But the high court refused to hear their appeal.


Last Wednesday, Garden Grove officials reported that 62 dispensaries had closed by the city's midnight deadline. The previous week, Garden Grove police sent out letters ordering them to close. The previous night, the city council got an earful from aggrieved medical marijuana patients, more than a hundred of whom packed the council chambers and adjoining rooms. At the end of the meeting, Mayor Bruce Broadwater essentially told them to get lost. "If you want to smoke marijuana, do it in another city," he said. "Don't do it in Garden Grove."

Last Thursday, medical marijuana backers sued the city of Long Beach over its decision that a petition to overturn the city's ban on dispensaries was insufficient. According to the city clerk, petitioners came up short, but petitioners dispute that finding and are seeking to have signatures removed as invalid added back to the petitions. Alternately, they are asking for the city to hold a special election on whether to ban or regulate dispensaries.

Also last Thursday, medical marijuana supporters rallied in San Bernardino. About three dozen people gathered at city hall to demand that the city stop shutting down medical marijuana dispensaries. The city has moved aggressively against dispensaries since the state Supreme Court ruled May 6 that local bans are allowed.

Last Friday, the city of Anaheim ordered dispensaries in the city to close. Citing the Supreme Court decision, tt issued a notice to cease operations to all 11 dispensaries known to operate there. They must close by this Friday or face possible fines and criminal charges. The city had banned dispensaries via an ordinance in 2007 and followed that up with 2011 moratorium aimed at up to 143 dispensaries that had opened anyway. The city had managed to close all but 11, seven of which had opened prior to the moratorium.

Also last Friday, a Marin County grand jury slammed the county for failing to provide access to medical marijuana for patients. In a new report, titled "Medical Marijuana: Up in Smoke," the grand jury lamented the closure of medical marijuana facilities in the county and criticized both county and local officials for failing to support the Compassionate Use Act. The grand jury recommended that the Board of Supervisors "respect the will of the voters and the intention of the Compassionate Use Act by using its authority to uphold access to medical marijuana within the county" and develop a set of ordinances to regulate dispensaries.

Also last Friday, Palm Springs shuttered two dispensaries operating in the city. They had been ordered to close last Wednesday, and police went out to ensure they had. There are still three dispensaries left in the city, but officials are going after those, too.

On Monday, the California Senate passed a bill aimed at allowing dispensaries to operate. The bill, Senate Bill 439, says that collectives, cooperatives and other business entities can receive reasonable compensation for the services they provide, and will not be prosecuted as long as they comply with security and reporting guidelines drafted by the state Attorney General. The bill now moves to the Assembly.

Also on Monday, San Diego Mayor Filner called for jury nullification in a local dispensary case. Filner was addressing the prosecution of Ronnie Chang, a dispensary operator arrested during a 2009 crackdown. "This is way overdoing it when local laws, state laws allow compassionate use of medical marijuana," Filner told reporters at the downtown US District Court complex. "Someone should not be going through this stage of prosecution for trying to help people to have access to medical marijuana."

On Tuesday, Los Angeles voters approved a measure to regulate and cap the number of dispensaries. Proposition D would tax and regulate dispensaries and cap their number at about 135 -- the number of dispensaries operating when the city council enacted a moratorium in 2007. A measure that would have allowed an unlimited number of taxed and regulated dispensaries failed. The council had previously voted unanimously to ban dispensaries entirely, allowing on patient growing coops, but reversed itself after Prop D was filed.

Also on Tuesday, the San Jose city council voted to raise the tax on dispensaries to 10%.San Jose voters in 2010 approved a tax on medical marijuana providers of up to 10% of gross receipts. The council later that year set the rate at 7%, with collection beginning in March 2011. The current 7% tax rate generates $3.9 million annually for the cash-strapped city, and hiking the tax should raise another $1.5 million, city officials said.


On Monday, the Michigan Supreme Court held that medical marijuana patients are not covered by the state's zero-tolerance drugged driving law when the charge is based merely on the presence of THC in the bloodstream. The ruling will protect thousands of state medical marijuana patients. The ruling came in the case of Rodney Koon, a patient who was charged with DUI because of the presence of THC despite not having used it within the last six hours.

New York

On Monday, a new poll showed that 82% of New Yorkers support medical marijuana. The poll comes as there are bills pending in both the Assembly (A06357) and Senate (S04406) to adopt medical marijuana.


Last Friday, the Ohio attorney general certified a medical marijuana initiative. The Ohio Cannabis Rights Amendment was certified for signature-gathering after supporters turned in 1,000 initial signatures. It would protect Ohioans rights to "medical, therapeutic, and industrial cannabis." To qualify for the ballot, supporters must now gather more than 300,000 additional signatures.


Last Friday, a bill to add PTSD to the list of ailments that can be treated by marijuana passed the House Health Committee and is headed for the House floor. Senate Bill 281 would expand the state's medical marijuana program to allow prescriptions to alleviate post-traumatic stress disorder. Another bill, House Bill 3460, which would allow dispensaries, is also moving in the House.


Last Friday, a Spokane medical marijuana farmers market said it would not open after the operators received a cease and desist letter from US Attorney Michael Ormbsy. The market would have brought growers and patients together just like they were selling fresh vegetables except it would have been marijuana to card holding patients. The owners of the market say they don't have any plans of re-opening until their attorney formulates a plan of action.

[For extensive information about the medical marijuana debate, presented in a neutral format, visit]

LA Voters Approve Medical Marijuana Dispensary Regulation, Cap

Voters in Los Angeles Tuesday approved one of two active initiatives aimed at ensuring that medical marijuana dispensaries will be allowed in California's largest city. The winning measure, Proposition D, would limit the number of dispensaries to about 135 and impose other restrictions on them. A competing measure, Ordinance F, would have imposed no restrictions on the number of dispensaries in the city.

With 38% of the votes counted, early Wednesday morning, Prop D was passing handily with 63% of the vote, while Ordinance F was losing with only 43%. If both measures had polled over 50%, the one with the most votes would have been enacted. A third measure, Ordinance E, would also have regulated dispensaries, but its backers switched their support to Prop D. Ordinance E was losing with 37%.

The vote comes just days after the California Supreme Court clarified that local governments can indeed totally ban -- not just regulate -- dispensaries, a move that the city council embraced last year. It was the council's move to ban dispensaries that led to three separate initiatives to allow and regulate them.

The city council and parts of the city's medical marijuana community had backed Prop D, while dispensary operators who would be locked out by the dispensary cap had backed the more expansive Ordinance F. Ordinance F would have allowed a virtually unlimited number of dispensaries to operate.

The city council has been grappling for years to get a handle on the dispensary issue. The current number is estimated at somewhere between 500 and 1,000.

[For extensive information about the medical marijuana debate, presented in a neutral format, visit]

Los Angeles, CA
United States

Colorado Marijuana Commerce Bills Approved

The Colorado legislature Wednesday approved a pair of bills that will establish a regulated marijuana market for adults. The legislature was charged with doing so when voters approved the marijuana legalization Amendment 64 last November.

On the down side, the legislature earlier approved another bill, House Bill 1325, which would set a level of THC in the blood above which drivers would be presumed to be impaired. Drivers with 5 milligrams or more of THC per milliliter of blood would be considered to be impaired, but could challenge that presumption in court.

The marijuana regulation bills are House Bill 1317 and House Bill 1318. The former creates the framework for regulations governing marijuana retail sales, cultivation, and product manufacturing, while the latter enacts a 10% special sales tax (above and beyond standard sales taxes) and a 15% excise tax on wholesale sales.

Under Colorado law, the tax bill will have to be approved by voters in November. But three-quarters of Colorado voters support such pot taxation, according a Public Policy Polling survey.

"The adoption of these bills is a truly historic milestone and brings Colorado one step closer to establishing the world's first legal, regulated, and taxed marijuana market for adults," said Mason Tvert, director of communications for the Marijuana Policy Project, who served as an official proponent and campaign co-director for the ballot measure approved by Colorado voters in November. "Facilitating the shift from the failed policy of prohibition to a more sensible system of regulation has been a huge undertaking, and we applaud the many task force members, legislators, and others who have helped effect this change," Tvert said. "We are confident that this legislation will allow state and local officials to implement a comprehensive, robust, and sufficiently funded regulatory system that will effectively control marijuana in Colorado."

Look for an in-depth analysis of the new regulations coming soon.

Denver, CO
United States

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