James Shaw, director of the Union of Medical Marijuana Patients www.unionmmp.org based in Los Angeles, today announced an alternative to the ban on the nearly 400 local medical cannabis patient associations and their dispensaries, which was proposed by Councilman Jose Huizar on November 23rd. “Councilman Huizar seems unaware that there is a reasonable way to regulate medical cannabis patient associations now using new technology which we have developed in conjunction with AgSite Secure,” said Shaw. He pointed out that the recent Second Court of Appeals decision, known as Pack v. Long Beach, which rejected the ability of cities to issue paid permits to authorize dispensaries, cited by the Councilman, did not mean a ban was the only alternative to a complete lack of regulation.
“The Pack ruling is very soundly argued and we believe it will be upheld by the California Supreme Court,” said Shaw. “But it would be easy for the City Council to rewrite its ordinance so that it won’t be challenged, whatever the outcome of Pack.” The solution is to avoid the issue of federal preemption: because the federal government categories marijuana as illegal, the state’s Medical Marijuana Program only decriminalized possession of medical cannabis with a valid physician’s recommendation. Long Beach went too far in authorizing the conditions by which dispensaries could operate with permits, Pack argued. “The solution is for Los Angeles to license third-party verifiers, like AgSite, which can provide information on whether patient associations are in compliance with state law, including operating as not-for-profits, making sure all members have a current doctor recommendation, and ensuring that there is no diversion of cannabis to the black market,” explained Shaw. “A verifier can do this without crossing the line of federal preemption and it can provide the City with information on compliance with zoning and health and safety ordinances.”
Properly implemented, this system can help cities control the growth of dispensaries and provide the m with licensing income to replace the permitting fees that were rejected by Pack, Shaw added. The City of Los Angeles’s current ordinance was passed in January 2010 and amended frequently in response to 200 lawsuits by local patient associations, he noted. It required the nearly 400 patient associations to qualify for only 100 authorized locations to be decided by lottery, which would mean most of the estimated 250,000 patients in Los Angeles would be forced to travel long distances to get their cannabis medicine. However, Shaw said, the situation was actually much worse than that because the ordinance required associations to be 1000 feet from a long list of places like libraries, parks, and religious institutions. The City’s planning office prepared a map showing that there were many places where the associations could operate outside these buffer zones, but an analysis by the Union showed this was very misleading and that most dispensaries would have to largely relocated to rural or industrial areas, making them inaccessible to the most needy patients.
“This ordinance, had it been implemented, would have been a de facto ban for most of L.A.,” Shaw said. “This excessive restriction is being driven by propaganda about how dispensaries cause crime, when the L.A. Police Department’s own statistics show there are a quarter as many robberies per location than banks and no one is arguing that banks should only be in industrial parks.” There is a simple way that the City can have adequate regulation and still make medical cannabis available to legitimate patients, Shaw said, which is to take advantage of new technology (for more details, see www.agsite.org). This would end expensive litigation, while a ban would provoke even more lawsuits, Shaw noted. Mr. Shaw will discuss the Union’s proposal at a press conference on Wednesday, December 7, at 9:30 a.m., in the hallway outside the John Ferraro Council Chamber, Room 340, in City Hall at 200 N. Spring St. in downtown Los Angeles. Press kits are available in advance and at the conference. For further information call press relations 310-254-4051 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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