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.]

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