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Illinois Becomes Twenty-First Medical Marijuana State

Illinois became the latest state to allow for the medical use of marijuana Thursday, when Gov. Pat Quinn (D) signed into law House Bill 1, the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Act. It now joins 20 other states and the District of Columbia.

medical marijuana (wikimedia.org)
"As Nelson Mandela once said, 'Our human compassion binds us the one to the other -- not in pity or patronizingly, but as human beings who have learnt how to turn our common suffering into hope for the future'," Gov. Quinn said in a Thursday press release. "Over the years, I've been moved by the brave patients and veterans who are fighting terrible illnesses. They need and deserve pain relief. This new law will provide that relief and help eligible patients ease their suffering, while making sure Illinois has the nation's strictest safeguards to prevent abuse."

Sponsored by Rep. Lou Lang (D-Skokie) and Sen. William Haine (D-Alton), the bill is tightly written and highly restrictive. Patients and caregivers will not be allowed to grow their own; instead they must rely on a system of 22 cultivation centers, which will be subject to 24-hour surveillance and inventory control, and no more than 60 licensed dispensaries statewide. Patients will be able to purchase up to 2 ½ ounces of medical marijuana every two weeks.

The law specifies 35 medical conditions for eligibility, such as muscular dystrophy, cancer, multiple sclerosis and HIV/AIDS. The prescribing physician and patient must have an established relationship. Minors and people with felony drug convictions or psychiatric conditions do not qualify. Patients may not be police officers, firefighters, probation officers or school bus drivers. Patients who drive while impaired by medical cannabis face the same penalties as those who drive while impaired by prescription drugs.

Under the law, medical marijuana use is barred in schools, prisons, homes used for childcare, or any public place. Landlords may refuse to allow marijuana smoking on leased properties, and employers will still be able to fire patients who test positive for marijuana.

Medical marijuana will be taxed at the same 1% rate as pharmaceutical drugs, but grow centers and dispensaries will also pay a 7% "privilege tax," which will go to paying administrative costs for the program. Unlike just about any other economic sector, dispensaries and cultivation centers are barred from contributing to political campaigns.

"Pain and suffering for many chronically ill and terminally ill individuals will be significantly lessened, if not eliminated in some cases, because of Governor Pat Quinn's courage to sign a controversial bill that often has been subjected to distortions and fear mongering," said Rep. Lang, a Deputy Majority Leader in the Illinois House. "On behalf of the many patients who came to Springfield to advocate for the bill, I want to thank the governor."

"Patients afflicted by the most unbearable conditions finally have a compassionate answer to their cries for help," said Sen. Bill Haine (D-Alton), a former prosecutor. "This program alleviates suffering and provides strong safeguards against abuse. We are ensuring only those suffering from the most serious diseases receive this treatment."

Supporters of HB 1 included the Illinois Nurses Association, Protestants for the Common Good, Illinois State Bar Association, AIDS Foundation of Chicago, United Food and Commercial Workers, ACLU of Illinois, AFL-CIO, Community Renewal Society, Illinois Eye Center, 270 physicians from across the state and many others. Deserving of special mention is the Marijuana Policy Project, which has spent a decade making Illinois the first Midwest state to approve medical marijuana through the legislative process.

For extensive information about the medical marijuana debate, presented in a neutral format, visit MedicalMarijuana.ProCon.org.]

Springfield, IL
United States

Medical Marijuana Update

A dispensary is now open for business in the nation's capital, several dozen are coming to Arizona, dispensary and cultivation battles continue in California, Massachusetts advocates prepare to protest restrictive regulations, and the DEA hits a Michigan dispensary. Let's get to it:

Arizona

On Tuesday, state officials announced they had issued 61 dispensary licenses with two weeks left to go in the year-long licensing period. Another 21 would-be dispensaries are scheduled for inspection in the next week.

California

Last Monday, the DEA announced it had raided a defunct Orange County dispensary. Agents hit La Habra Cares weeks after it closed its doors last month after the La Habra city council voted to ban dispensaries, but still maintained a marijuana garden there. No one was arrested.

Last Tuesday, the Anaheim city council banned medical marijuana delivery services. The ban was passed as an urgency ordinance and goes into effect immediately. The city had banned dispensaries in 2007, but didn't enforce the ban until the state Supreme Court ruled in May that such bans are legal. The city's 11 dispensaries all closed, but at least 30 delivery services have popped up.

Last Wednesday, the Rancho Santa Margarita city council passed a first reading of a dispensary ban. Mayor Tony Beall said most medical marijuana patients appeared to be young men and that the herb "is routinely abused and not appropriate for this community." The ordinance will become law if it passes a second reading. The city has had a moratorium on dispensaries since 2011, but that is set to expire this fall. Meanwhile, the council also passed a zoning ordinance that would allow fortune tellers to operate in residential and general commercial zones.

Last Thursday, the Santa Maria city attorney's office presented a dispensary ban ordinance to the city council. The city already bans them, but the new ordinance would specifically ban them in all zoning districts of the city. The proposed ordinance must be approved by the city planning commission and then by the city council, most likely in September.

Also last Thursday, a state appeals court rejected a lawsuit over the seizure of a medical marijuana crop. The First District Court of Appeals ruled that police who seized a marijuana field in Humboldt County and destroyed over 1,500 pounds of pot did not violate the owners' constitutional or statutory rights, including the right to use marijuana for medical purposes. Authorities raided the property despite the presence of posted medical marijuana recommendations for four people, but the court said there was enough marijuana on hand to supply those patients for the next five years.

On Monday, opponents of a new Bakersfield dispensary ban fell short in their efforts to get enough signatures to place the issue before voters. Patients for Compassionate Use Policies needed to come up with some 15,000 signatures to block the ordinance from going into effect, but they didn't show up with any as the deadline expired Monday evening.

On Tuesday, a San Diego judge sentenced a medical marijuana hash maker to jailtime, but not before berating him for having supporters in the courtroom and slamming medical marijuana as a dangerous farce. Judge Peter Gallagher sentenced Victor Marion to eight months and warned supporters, who had demanded that prosecutors heed public opinion, that "if there are anymore attempts to contact the prosecutor, they will be met with arrest and prosecution." Gallagher also treated the courtroom to a diatribe against medical marijuana:  "Medical Marijuana is not a good business plan, 22 year old kids are getting doctor's recommendations for toe fungus and frying their brains on marijuana," he railed.

Also on Tuesday, Tehama County supervisors considered amendments to the marijuana cultivation ordinance that would tighten up rules and regulations. Under the current ordinance, growers can grow 12 mature or 24 immature plants on properties of 20 acres or less and up to 99 plants on larger parcels. The amendments would limit gardens to 12 plants no matter the size or the parcel and whether or not they are mature. They would also create a $1,000 a day fine for abated gardens that aren't destroyed within 10 days after notice. The council acted after hearing complaints from residents of many out of compliance gardens.

District of Columbia

On Monday, the nation's capital saw its first medical marijuana sale at a dispensary. Capital City Care dispensary made two sales Monday, marking the culmination of an effort that began 15 years ago with the passage of a medical marijuana initiative in the city. Congress blocked the initiative from being implemented until 2009, and the District of Columbia government then spent the next four years coming up with strict regulatory and licensing scheme. But now patients can get their medicine legally in the District. "After a couple of years of hard work, it's exciting to open our doors and serve the patients our facility is really for," said dispensary spokesperson Scott Morgan. "This is a moment we've all been looking forward to for a long time."

Massachusetts

On Wednesday, medical marijuana supporters called a demonstration for Thursday at the state Department of Public Health to protest new state regulations limiting patients to only one caregiver, making home cultivation illegal if a dispensary is nearby, and blocking compensation for caregivers. The protest is a picket with signs between 2:00pm and 4:00pm, followed by speeches and a press conference. The address is 250 Washington St. in Boston.

Michigan

On Tuesday, DEA agents raided an Ypsilanti dispensary. The raiders hit The Shop, seizing two vehicles as well as inventory from inside the store. Ypsilanti Police and other state law enforcement assisted. One man was temporarily handcuffed and detained, but later released without arrest. The DEA had no further comment because of "an ongoing investigation."

Washington

On Monday, the Lynnwood city council voted to continue its moratorium on dispensaries and collective gardens. The moratorium will continue for another six months as the city attempts to deal with the issues.

For extensive information about the medical marijuana debate, presented in a neutral format, visit MedicalMarijuana.ProCon.org.]

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:

California

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.

Kentucky

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.

Washington

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 MedicalMarijuana.ProCon.org.]

New Hampshire Now 19th Medical Marijuana State

All of New England is now medical marijuana territory, as New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan (D) Tuesday afternoon signed into law a bill allowing it in the Granite State.

Gov. Maggie Hassan (nh.gov)
"Allowing doctors to provide relief to patients through the use of appropriately regulated and dispensed medical marijuana is the compassionate and right policy for the state of New Hampshire, and this legislation ensures that we approach this policy in the right way with measures to prevent abuse," Hassan said in a signing statement.

"By providing strong regulatory oversight and clear dispensing guidelines, this bill addresses many of the concerns that were expressed throughout the legislative process," she continued. "House Bill 573 legalizes the use of medical marijuana in a way that makes sense for the State of New Hampshire and gives health providers another option to help New Hampshire's seriously ill patients."

"This legislation is long overdue and comes as a relief to the many seriously ill patients throughout New Hampshire who will benefit from safe access to medical marijuana," said Matt Simon, a New Hampshire-based legislative analyst for the Marijuana Policy Project. "Those suffering from debilitating conditions like cancer and multiple sclerosis deserve legal, safe, and reliable access to medical marijuana."

Sponsored by state Rep. Donna Schlachman (D-Exeter), the new law will allow residents with certain debilitating illnesses, such as cancer, multiple sclerosis, and HIV/AIDS, to use medical marijuana if their doctors recommend it. Patients will be able to obtain marijuana through one of four nonprofit, state-licensed alternative treatment centers -- but not grow it themselves.

Language that would have allowed patients to grow their own was removed from the bill in the Senate at Gov. Hassan's request after the bill had already passed the House. Hassan cited law enforcement concerns about diversion.   

"The vast majority of Americans recognize the medical benefits of marijuana and believe people with serious illnesses should have safe and legal access to it," Simon said. "We applaud our elected officials for enacting a law to protect patients, and we hope legislators in other states will follow suit."

Nineteen states and the District of Columbia now have medical marijuana laws. Illinois could be number 20; a bill passed the legislature there in May and awaits the governor's signature.

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

Nashua, NH
United States

In Profit-Sharing Scheme, Oklahoma DA Used Contractor for Highway Drug Stops

An asset forfeiture scheme that utilized a private security contractor to stop vehicles on Interstate 40 in Caddo County, Oklahoma, has been shut down after garnering strong criticism. Caddo County District Attorney Jason Hicks suspended the stops earlier this month after getting a tongue-lashing from a local judge.

highway drug interdiction search (ncjtc.org)
Hicks got the bright idea of hiring the private security contractor Desert Snow LLC to do on-site training with his local drug task force. Desert Snow claims to have trained more than 30,000 police across the country in interdiction techniques. "Providing criminal and terrorist interdiction training since 1989,"it boasts on its web site, and "20+ years of high quality 'no nonsense' instruction in the pursuit of America's worst criminals."

But beyond paying the private operators to train police, the contract DA Hicks agreed to in January gave Desert Snow 25% of all assets seized during training days and 10% of all assets seized even on days the contractors were not present.

Hicks told The Oklahoman he hired the contractors "because his drug task force had little success on drug stops" and because "he hoped to make money for his office from the drug stops because of a loss of federal funds."

Stops were made on a stretch of I-40 in Caddo County, and on some occasions, no drug were found and no one was arrested, but police seized money anyway after claiming that a drug-sniffing dog had alerted. Desert Snow had earned $40,000 so far this year from its share of seizures and was in line to receive another $212,000 from an $850,000 seizure before the program blew up in its face.

Under Oklahoma law, asset forfeiture funds are to be split among law enforcement agencies that took part in the operation. But in the deal brokered with Desert Snow, the private contractor gets its cut off the top.

The sweet deal came to an end earlier this month at a hearing where a local judge learned that Desert Snow owner Joe David had pulled over a pregnant driver on I-40 and questioned her even though he is not a state-certified law enforcement officer. David was wearing a gun and possibly a shirt that said "POLICE" on the back, according to his testimony. The stop was one of 400 conducted over a five-day period with Desert Snow in February.

"I'm shocked," said Caddo County Special Judge David Stephens at a July 2 hearing. "For people to pull over people on I-40 without that license is shocking to me."

Stephens urged David not to do it again. "If you do, I hope to see you soon, wearing orange," he said, referring to the color of jail uniforms in Caddo County.

The pregnant woman and her passengers were found to be carrying 25 pound of pot, but the criminal charges against her have been dismissed. Her attorney, Al Hoch, called for reform of the state's asset forfeiture laws, saying seized money should go to the state general fund instead of directly to law enforcement.

"Law enforcement is supposed to be a public service function, not a for-profit enterprise," he said.

Those remarks were echoed by well-known Oklahoma defense attorney Irven Box, who is representing a Colorado man charged with marijuana possession after he was pulled over for a cracked windshield. Private companies shouldn't be getting paid with funds from drug stops they are involved in, he said.

"That at least gives the appearance that these seizures are done for profit and not to protect the citizens," Box said.

Anadarko, OK
United States

Chronicle Book Review: Too High to Fail

Doug Fine, Too High to Fail: Cannabis and the New Green Economic Revolution (2012, Gotham Books, 319 pp., $28.00 HB)

[Ed: This review was based on the hardcover edition of "Too High to Fail." The paperback edition of Too High Fail has now been published as well. According to the author it includes a a postscript that reflects "more unbelievable happenings in Mendocino County and worldwide through the beginning of this year."]

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/toohightofail-200px.jpg
Marijuana and marijuana policy are big news these days -- they are exciting times, indeed! -- and that's reflected in what has now become a deluge of books on the topic. We've probably reviewed a dozen or more pot books in the last year alone, and here's another one. While, given the torrent of titles, it becomes increasingly difficult to stand out in the crowd, New York Times bestselling author Doug Fine's Too High to Fail is exceptional.

Fine writes with verve and passion, making it clear from the outset that he views marijuana prohibition as not only useless, but harmful -- not only to any sense of justice and morality, not only to the millions of people arrested and punished in myriad ways for the crime of possessing or trading in a hugely useful and versatile plant, but also to the country's efforts to claw its way back from the precipice of the Great Recession.

With that out of the way, in early 2011, Fine heads off for Mendocino County, California, ground zero in the new marijuana economy. A couple of hours north of San Francisco on US 101, Mendocino is part of the state's famous marijuana-growing Emerald Triangle, and is, to a mind-blogging extent, dependent on the pot economy. In fact, if not for pot, Mendocino would probably wither up and blow away. The logging industry is history, and the legal agricultural economy is a fraction of the size of the pot economy. (The county's largest legitimate ag crop, wine grapes, pulled in about $75 million in one recent year, at the same time the pot harvest was estimated at $8.1 billion, or about a hundred times as much).

The pot economy is normalized in Mendocino County. Marijuana dollars pay for everything from the new pickup trucks flying off dealers' lots every fall to the capital necessary to open boutique businesses that dot one-horse towns like Willits and Ukiah to the salaries of Mendocino County sheriff's deputies (at least for a couple of years; see below). County officials know what the local economy runs on, and so does the sheriff, which is why the county instituted its zip-tie program for growers willing to register as medical marijuana providers. Farmers paid thousands of dollars into county coffers for those zip-ties, which would let state and local law enforcement know that these were legal grows, not outlaw ones.

If California, where medical marijuana is legal is Fine's "bubble," Mendocino County, with its casual acceptance of the pot economy is the bubble squared, and growers operating within the guidelines of the zip-tie program, complete with inspections by law enforcement are inside the bubble cubed. This is where Fine situates himself, as he uses the journey of a single plant from cloning to delivery to a patient as the hook for his narrative of his hazy Mendo days.

Fine's sympathetic portraits of the folks involved, from Sheriff Tom Allman, who told him he wouldn't get "up off my ass" to arrest a guy with a pound of pot in the sheriff's parking lot and who created the zip-tie program, to Deputy Randy Johnson, who performed the unique job of zip-tie program compliance sergeant, to novice Mendo outdoor (but experienced East Bay indoor) grower Tom Balogh, who grew the clone Fine tracked, to Northstone Organics head Matt Cohen, who was determined to run a farmer-to-patient collective in scrupulous compliance with state laws, help put a human face on Mendocino's marijuana culture and some of its intricacies.

Fine also shines at explicating the various currents and tensions that run through the community, whether it's the veteran "Redneck Hippies" unhappy with the new generation of young, bling-slinging profiteers or county commissioners not exactly happy with Mendo's free-wheeling grow scene, but who recognize that it can't be wished away and should instead be regulated for the benefit of the county and its citizens. Or the travails of newcomer Balogh, who must contend with skeptical neighbors and prove to the community that he's not just another hit-and-run wannabe "sensimillionaire."

But while Fine spent a season deep inside the bubble, he also found that it could be punctured. He details his own experience being pulled over by sheriff's deputies in neighboring Sonoma County to the south who profiled him for his facial hair and muddied, big-tired pick-up, as well as the misadventures of two Northstone Organics deliverymen also pulled over and busted by Sonoma narcs and, gallingly, prosecuted by Sonoma County district attorneys. The drive from Mendo south through Sonoma and on to the Bay Area was called "running the gauntlet," as law enforcers on the hunt for busts and assets to seize preyed on the US 101 traffic less like highway patrolmen than highwaymen.

(As a resident of medical marijuana-friendly Sonoma County, such behavior by my elected officials and their minions offends my sensibilities. I'll be attending a Summer Solstice event this coming week to celebrate the formation of a political action committee whose goal is help enlighten our public servants, or replace them if they appear too thick-headed to get it.)

But Fine, Northstone Organics, and the entire Mendocino County effort to craft a tightly-regulated, county-benefiting medical marijuana program encountered an even more dramatic bursting of the bubble when federal prosecutors renewed their war on medical marijuana in the fall of 2011. Mendonesians had largely ignored the raids on dispensaries going on elsewhere in the state as the war ramped up, but they couldn't ignore the crew of DEA agents who rousted Cohen at gunpoint and chopped down Northstone's 99 plants, depriving more than 1,700 patients of their medicine, and effectively putting an end to the innovative zip-tie program.

With Too High to Fail, Fine show us how marijuana can be regulated and integrated into the community. And he dares to dream of a future where the cannabis plant, with all its manifold uses, can be integrated into, and indeed, become a boon for, the American economy. He also shows us the obstacles in the way.

The story of Mendocino's (and America's) marijuana adventure didn't stop in the fall of 2011. Since then, even as the first two states legalized marijuana outright at the ballot box, the federal offensive against medical marijuana in California has continued. Mendocino County had to fend off an overreaching federal subpoena of all records related to its medical marijuana program, Northstone has been knocked out of business, and an innovative program that served the interests of the community and the local economy has been stopped in its tracks.

In the new paperback edition, Fine returns to Mendocino and adds a 6,000 postscript on all the exciting developments since 2011, including legalization in Colorado and Washington, the seismic shifts in public opinion in favor of legalization, and the continuing trials, tribulations, and triumphs of the county's growers and the public officials attempting to come to grips with it all.

Although Fine looks bravely and boldly toward a cannabized future, we aren't there yet. But Too High to Fail chronicles what it could look like based on the Mendo experience, and provides a valuable and entertaining read along the way.

Medical Marijuana Update

A dispensary opens in Arizona as more get shut down in California and more California communities move to shut them down or keep them out. There's more news, too. Let's get to it:

Arizona

As of late last month, Mesa has its first dispensary. Giving Tree Wellness Center opened late last month in an industrial park setting in the Phoenix suburb. It only took the operator, Dr. Gina Berman, two years of maneuvering to be able to open. She said she would eventually like to move to a more visible location once the city gets used to dispensaries and zoning laws evolve.

On Monday, the state Court of Appeals refused to hear an appeal from the Yuma County sheriff, who had balked at a Superior Court order to return medical marijuana seized from a California patient. Sheriff Leon Wilmot had refused to do so, whining that he could face legal problems with the federal government if he did. The Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court’s order, noting in its decision that "the Sheriff is immune from prosecution under the federal law for acts taken in compliance with a court order." Wilmot said he will appeal to the US Supreme Court.

California

Last Friday, Nevada County advocates filed paperwork for a special election to ask voters to decide the substance of its medical marijuana ordinance enacted last year. Then, the county approved an ordinance that medical marijuana supporters say amounts to a de facto ban on collective cultivation. Advocates have crafted alternative language to put before the voters, but they must first gather 9,923 valid voter signatures to force a special election. In Nevada County, the county, Grass Valley and Nevada City have outright bans, while the town of Truckee does not allow dispensaries in its zoning language.

On Monday, the Ventura city council voted to direct the city attorney to craft an ordinance banning dispensaries and delivery services. The 5-1 vote came after Mayor Mike Tracy said the reason was "to avoid inadvertently allowing any marijuana uses through loopholes." Tracy is the former Ventura police chief.

Also on Monday, Victorville officials closed down several dispensaries with help from the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department. Closed were Green Tree Health and Healing, FAY Care Inc, Discount Medical and Mojave Healing Center.. Each shop was served with a signed court order last Thursday, and then again Monday during the execution of the injunction/abatement by code enforcement, police and the city attorney. The city says it has plans to close three other dispensaries as well.

On Tuesday, the Menifee city council approved an ordinance banning medical marijuana delivery services. The city already bans dispensaries. Riverside County community leaders voted against the loud protests of several area residents Most of those who spoke out against the prohibitive ordinance were seniors who have medical marijuana recommendations, and many live in neighboring communities such as Nuevo and Riverside.

On Wednesday, two people were shot and killed at a Bakersfield dispensary. The shooting happened Wednesday morning at the First Reliable dispensary on Chester Avenue. No further information was available Wednesday afternoon.

Colorado

On Monday, state auditors issued a report criticizing the performance of bureaucracies overseeing the state's medical marijuana program. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) and Department of Revenue (DOR) were critiqued for having little oversight when it came to monitoring physicians, caregivers, and processing applications. The nearly 90-page report gave recommendations to fix problems in the areas of regulation, program administration, and fiscal management. A March report applied similar criticisms to the state's Medical Marijuana Enforcement Division.

Michigan

Last Friday, the state Court of Appeals ruled that edibles aren't medical marijuana for the purposes of Michigan's medical marijuana law. The court cited the law's definition of "usable marijuana," which includes the plant's flowers and leaves, but not extracts containing THC. The case has been remanded to a lower court to determine if the defendant can claim he is protected by other provisions of the state's medical marijuana law. Advocates called the ruling a setback for the rapidly developing use of marijuana for foods, creams, oils and candies used to treat debilitating diseases and chronic pain.

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

Utah Spent $26K to Ferret Out Welfare Drug Users, Found Nine

Last year, Utah joined the handful of states that have passed laws mandating drug tests for people seeking welfare benefits. To avoid constitutional challenges, the state created a screening process to come up with a reasonable suspicion that certain welfare applicants were using drugs.

But preliminary data reported by the Salt Lake Tribune shows that of 4,425 people screened for drug use after seeking aid, only 813 were deemed to be at high risk of drug use, only 394 were actually subjected to drug testing, and of those, only nine were denied benefits because they tested positive and five are undergoing treatment.

The state spent more than $26,000 to achieve these results. It spent more than $5,000 to administer the Substance Abuse Subtle Screening Inventory (SASSI) test to applicants and more than $20,000 to pay for drug testing. Those figures do not include staff costs to administer the SASSI test or the costs of drug treatment.

Of the 813 SASSI test-takers who ranked high, more than 300 tested negative, 163 chose to abandon the aid application process and 137 were denied eligibility based on other criteria. Others had false positives or incorrect SASSI scores or failed to show up for the drug test.

The SASSI Institute claims its diagnostic test is 94% accurate at detecting people with a high probability of substance abuse, but the Utah numbers belie those claims. Of those assessed as likely drug or alcohol abusers by the test, only 1% actually tested positive for drugs. In the best case -- assuming that everyone who abandoned the aid application process or didn't show up for a drug test was actually using drugs -- the predictive value of the SASSI test was under 50%.

"It seems silly to drug test hundreds. It's not worth the money they're spending," Gina Cornia of Utahns Against Hunger told the Tribune, adding that welfare workers could still screen clients for substance abuse the old-fashioned way -- by forging relationships with them.

Geoffrey Landward, deputy director for Utah's Department of Workforce Services, wasn't ready to draw any conclusions.

"People can read the numbers and make their own conclusions," Landward said. "This was a policy decision made by the legislature, signed into law by the governor, and our responsibility is to execute as best we can."

Salt Lake City, UT
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:

National

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.

California

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.

Florida

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.

Oregon

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 MedicalMarijuana.ProCon.org.]

Medical Marijuana Update

At least the DEA didn't raid anybody this week, but some Michigan cops did. That and more in this week's update. Let's get to it:

Arizona

On Wednesday, the first dispensary opened in Santa Cruz County. Greenmed Wellness Center opened in Rio Rico. A physician was on hand to review patient histories and issue recommendations so potential patients could apply for state-issued ID cards.

California

Last Tuesday, the Highland city council voted to ban medical marijuana delivery services. The San Bernardino County city already bans dispensaries.

Last Wednesday, the Bakersfield city council voted to ban dispensaries. The ordinance will take effect in 30 days. Actual enforcement of the ban will vary depending upon the situation, but investigations will be initiated by complaints, the city attorney said, and likely will involve both the city Code Enforcement Department, which investigates zoning violations; and the Police Department, which will determine whether a particular building actually houses a business where marijuana is being sold.

Last Friday, the Los Angeles City Attorney released a list of 134 dispensaries that will be allowed to operate in the city under Proposition D, the May initiative approved by voters. The dispensaries on the list are those that registered with the city prior to City Hall imposing a moratorium on new facilities in 2007. Opponents of the measure, who are seeking to allow more clinics to open in the city, have said they are reviewing possible legal challenges to the city's law.

On Monday, a medical marijuana summit in San Diego brought together medical marijuana-friendly Mayor Bob Filner, US Attorney Laura Duffy, and other representatives of of law enforcement, science, health care, education and community interest. The summit led to talk of hopes that local and federal officials can come to some sort of working arrangement in dealing with dispensaries.

Connecticut

Last Friday, a company filed an application with the city of West Haven to open a medical marijuana production facility. Advanced Grow Labs LLC will appear before the city Planning and Zoning Commission next Tuesday. But even if the city approves the proposal, the facility will still have to apply for a state license, and those aren't expected to be handed out for several months.

Michigan

Last Wednesday, police raided three dispensaries near Battle Creek, the Karmacy, Southwest Compassion Care Center, and Happy Daze. Police also served a search warrant on offices of the city of Springfield, seeking documents about licenses and financial records for the three businesses, which they claim were operating illegally. Police seized about six pounds of marijuana, 150 plants, seven handguns, ammunition, and "IEDs," which they described as "homemade fireworks." Michael Mcain, owner of Compassion Care Center wasn't happy. "Police said they had made a buy. But everyone who comes in has a card," Cain told the Battle Creek Enquirer. "They came in and robbed us and took all of our money and all of our stuff."

Washington

On Tuesday, the Marysville city council banned dispensaries and collective gardens. The Snohomish County community had had temporary moratoria on them since 2011. The Marysville ordinance does allow for individual gardens of up to 15 plants.

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

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