Colorado issues state licenses for medical marijuana dispensaries
Colorado has issued the first state-level business licenses for medical marijuana operations in the nation, even as the Obama administration has toughened its stance toward cannabis dispensaries.
Home to some of the nation’s most thorough cannabis regulations -- and an alternative weekly with a medical marijuana reviewer -- Colorado has issued 11 licenses to marijuana-related businesses around the state, the Denver Post reports.
Seven other operations have been told that they’re likely to receive a license, the paper said. State officials have also asked local officials whether 467 more dispensaries and cannabis product-makers have gained local approval, among the last steps in a yearlong application process.
Access to marijuana is among Colorado’s most hotly debated issues, with a group attempting to gather 86,000 signatures by January to place a partial-legalization measure on the ballot, the Post reported. (Among the foes of Colorado's Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol are legalization supporters who say the measure isn’t strong enough.)
Voters in California, the first state to decriminalize medical marijuana in 1996, defeated a similar measure last year.
This month, federal prosecutors in California sent letters to dispensary landlords telling them to stop selling marijuana within 45 days or risk the seizure of their property and criminal charges, a move that stunned the state’s legal-cannabis advocates.
Bill eases Maine's medical marijuana rules to do away with patient registration
AUGUSTA, Maine — A bill to ease Maine's regulations on the medical use of marijuana faces a legislative hearing.
The Committee on Health and Human Services holds its hearing Monday. Supporters say it expands and protects the rights of patients and caregivers.
The bill sponsored by Republican Rep. Deborah Sanderson of Chelsea would eliminate a requirement that patients register with the state. It also would take the decision about whether marijuana is appropriate in a given situation out of the hands of the state and let doctors decide.
Sanderson's bill would also prevent cities and towns from placing unreasonable requirements on caregivers and patients.
A separate bill unveiled last week would legalize personal use and private and commercial cultivation of marijuana, and tax consumer purchases at 7 percent.
Venice pot doctors shut down after raid by state medical board and police
One of the Venice boardwalk’s eye-catching only-in-California features, the storefront pot doctors who lure patients with barkers, was shut down Wednesday, when the state medical board and law enforcement officers raided three locations linked to Medical Kush Doctor.
Investigators carted boxes and at least two large plastic bags that appeared to contain marijuana out of the deep-blue building next to Muscle Beach that houses a doctor’s office, a smoke shop and a popular dispensary called the Medical Kush Beach Club.
Jennifer Simoes, spokeswoman for the Medical Board of California, said the warrant was sealed. She declined to discuss the reason for the board’s investigation, but said the warrant was served at 1313, 1811 and 2017 Ocean Front Walk.
Attorneys for Medical Kush Doctor raced to the beach, but said they were not allowed on the premises. Graham Berry, one of the lawyers, said the warrant authorized a search of the offices, vehicles and “anything else that your imagination could run to.” He said it also allowed officials to seize records related to the unlicensed practice of medicine. “Since all these doctors appear to be duly licensed, I don’t know what they are referring to,” he said.
Berry said that the raid started about 10:15 a.m. and that by the time he arrived at 11, he found a line of patrol cars, a crowd gathered outside, news cameras and a news helicopter fluttering overhead. “Once I arrived, they pulled the sliding gate door down,” he said.
The Medical Kush Beach Club was also shut down, but Berry said, “It appeared to me that the target was the doctors and the practice of writing recommendations and the collective was a collateral casualty.” The Medical Kush Beach Club is operated by Sean Cardillo, who is also the registered agent for Kush Dr., the limited liability corporation that runs the doctor’s offices.
Cardillo could not be reached for comment.
Stewart Richlin, another attorney who represents Cardillo, said that agents seized 5 pounds of marijuana from the dispensary but that he expected it to be returned. “They involved the Medical Kush Beach Club unfairly,” he said. He added that he did not know whether any cash or equipment was seized but said no one was arrested in the raids.
Richlin said Kush Dr. rents space and provides promotional services for medical marijuana doctors. He said he believed the doctors followed state law in issuing recommendations for marijana use.
“As far as I know, it’s by the book. I’m surprised that this is happening,” he said. “I have a feeling by the time the fat lady sings on this it will be a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing.”
Simoes said the operation was conducted with the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office, the Los Angeles Police Department, the county Sheriff’s Department and the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, which provided search dogs.
Two lawsuits challenge Los Angeles' lottery plan for medical marijuana dispensaries
Los Angeles' latest plan — to hold a lottery to allow 100 medical marijuana dispensaries to operate — meets resistance from shop owners, who say they've followed all the rules yet still face closure.
By John Hoeffel, Los Angeles Times
April 21, 2011
The next round of the costly, drawn-out legal brawl over how to control medical marijuana dispensaries in Los Angeles has begun with two new lawsuits challenging the city's latest ordinance.
The lawsuits, filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court, follow scores of other suits that stymied the city's fitful attempts to crack down on an unknown number of renegade dispensaries. The new ones could launch another series of judicial hearings and thwart the city's bid to enforce its ordinance.
Some of the oldest medical marijuana collectives in Los Angeles sued on April 13 to overturn the ordinance, which will choose the dispensaries to be allowed in a lottery, a process the lawsuit mocks as "a euphemism for a municipal game of 'Russian Roulette.'"
The 21 dispensaries suing the city are among those the City Council let operate when it adopted a moratorium on new stores in 2007. The city's first ordinance would have allowed them to stay open if they complied with restrictions on locations. But a judge ruled that key aspects of the law were unconstitutional, and the City Council passed a second ordinance that relies on a random drawing to select 100 dispensaries.
"We've done everything, everything that the city told us to do, and we're still sitting here looking at a lottery," said Yamileth Bolanos, the operator of PureLife Alternative Wellness Center, a dispensary on South La Cienega Boulevard. "We're fighting back. We have to fight back."
Bolanos, who also heads a coalition of the dispensaries the city allowed to operate during the moratorium, accused City Atty. Carmen Trutanich of creating an ordinance that could take her business away even though she said she has followed all city directives. "The city attorney has not acted in good faith," she said. "We don't believe that the things that he's done are fair."
House of Kush filed a separate lawsuit on March 21. The Eagle Rock dispensary and possibly hundreds of others were barred from participating in the lottery, which is limited to stores that were open when the city's moratorium took effect on Sept. 14, 2007. "This discriminatory treatment lacks a rational basis or compelling state interest," the lawsuit says.
A third lawsuit could be filed next week, said Stewart Richlin, an attorney who represents some of the dispensaries that successfully challenged the earlier ordinance. "We're going to bring it ASAP for multiple reasons," he said, "especially to stop any perception that this ordinance is constitutionally acceptable."
The city has appealed the judge's decision on its first ordinance, but has also taken steps to hold a lottery. It has accepted applications from 231 dispensaries and has told 206 others to close. Jane Usher, a special assistant city attorney, said the city disputes the claims in the new lawsuits.
Aaron Lachant, an attorney who represents the 21 plaintiffs that sued last week, said he plans to ask for an injunction to halt the lottery. "We'll file it as soon as we can," he said.
Lachant said the lawsuit is intended to protect the rights of those dispensaries the city allowed to remain open in 2007. City officials estimate that about 135 are still in business. "They want to work with the city, but they have not been given a fair chance," Lachant said.
The lawsuit targets the lottery and the process of choosing locations for dispensaries. It describes the lottery as "discriminatory, arbitrary, capricious, confiscatory and oppressive," and it calls the process of allowing the winners to pick their locations in the order they are drawn "a game of musical chairs."
Sometime next month two of eight medical marijuana dispensaries in Maine are expected to open: one in Ellsworth and one in Auburn. Two are already taking medical cannabis on the road and selling it to authorized patients. There have been some stumbling blocks. Several cities and towns have passed temporary moratoriums against dispensaries. And next week lawmakers will consider a bill to change some of the program rules. But the state is finding that interest in medical marijuana is growing every day.
Tim Smale and his wife Jenna looked at 35 locations before settling on a building in an Auburn shopping center to set up their non-profit medical marijuana dispensary, known as Remedy Compassion. They plan to include an on-site kitchen to make medical marijuana tinctures and edible as well as topical cannabis cream to treat arthritis and muscle spasms.
They are keeping secret the location of their medical marijuana cultivation site, but say they plan to offer high quality strains to treat a variety of ailments. They've already received a green light from the state and plan to open in the next 30 days.
Smale says the goal is to keep prices as low as possible. "I can't come out the door and offer $99 ounces," he says. "We wouldn't be here. But I can offer what the market price is. So, for example our price to our patients is $336 dollars. And I think the market price is up in the neighborhood of $400 or $350--or something like that."
The market price means the black market which many patients are already familiar with. Smale says he'll offer five percent discounts to veterans and patients on MaineCare and Social Security. He'll start out with a small staff. Right now there are just four employees, including his wife and himself, and fewer than 100 patients.
But Smale says he's anxious to get medicine to patients who need it. He says he knows what it's like to need pain relief. He's suffered from debilitating migraines for more than 20 years. At their peak he was getting them two or three times a week.
"These are very intense episodes with nausea and intense pain, and it just sends me crying like a baby sometimes," he says. "So my wife, Jenna, has actually had to give me some cannabis during these headaches when I'm literally crying on the ground in pain."
Over the years, Smale tried all kinds of medications but found them ineffective or with unpleasant side effects. He says marijuana is the only thing that works for him. He prefers to inhale it with a vaporizer so he doesn't have to smoke.
"I get probably two migraines a month now, and maybe one of them will be so devastating that I'm in a massive amount of pain. So it's changed my life," he says. "If I didn't have cannabis, shoot me, put me away. Life is not worth living without cannabis. I couldn't live without it. I would be disabled."
So many people are interested in medical marijuana that Catherine Cobb of the division of licensing at the Department of Health and Human Services says she and her staff are fielding 50 or 60 calls a day from prospective patients.
Cobb says the medical marijuana program has now registered more than 1,000 patients and 300 caregivers. "I predicted 1,200 patients and 300 caregivers in the first year and we have enough applications in the queue to exceed that 1,200 number."
Under the rules, patients with a doctor's authorization who register with the state have the option of growing their own medical marijuana, choosing a caregiver to grow it for them or signing up with a licensed dispensary. Cobb has been interested to see what patients are choosing.
"We have quite a few patients who are choosing to grow their own, but if they haven't previously used medical marijuana they're tending to choose a caregiver or dispensary because they don't want to start from scratch and wait for two or three months before their own marijuana starts producing buds," she says. "So I think for some of them it's an expediency."
According to a recent report by DHHS, Kennebec County has the highest number of qualified patients, followed by Cumberland and York. And Cumberland, Oxford and York Counties have the highest number of registered caregivers.
The report also finds that 118 doctors have agreed to participate in the program, although many express concern about potential liability attached to their recommendations. Some employers have also prohibited their physicians from recommending the use of marijuana.
And that's one reason Jonathan Leavitt of the Maine Marijuana Policy Initiative wants to relax some of the existing rules. "A lot of small adjustments that we think need to be made and will help the law work better for everybody, bring it on par with the relationship that doctors and patients usually have, where it is up to the physician to decide what the appropriate medication is, not the state," he says.
On Monday, lawmakers will hold a public hearing on a bill that would, among other things, eliminate the state's patient registry and the list of medical conditions that medical cannabis can be used to treat.
The District will join 15 states in implementing a medical marijuana program full of stringent medical stipulations on Friday.
Only patients suffering from HIV/AIDS, cancer, glaucoma or multiple sclerosis who have a recommendation from a District-based doctor will be eligible for the medication, which will be distributed via a network of five dispensaries and 10 growing operations located within city limits.
Consumption will be limited to two ounces per month, per patient. Distribution of the drug will not begin immediately, and many of the details in the new program have yet to be hashed out.
"District residents suffering from painful conditions like cancer and HIV/AIDS will soon have one more option to help relieve their symptoms," D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray said in a statement to DCist, a local news blog.
The measure will be published in the DC Register on Friday as emergency legislation, though a final version is expected within a month.
The legalization of medical marijuana has long been in the works in D.C. In 1998, 69 percent of voters approved a city referendum that would have allowed individuals to obtain and use medical marijuana at the recommendation of their physicians, but the measure failed to gain congressional approval.
In 2009 a similar proposal did pass through Congress, though the District did not begin to establish rules for the program until a year later. A draft of regulations for the program was eventually submitted to the D.C. Council in December but had not been implemented until now.
Some city residents have expressed frustration with the slow execution.
"To put this succinctly, we are very disappointed you have chosen to delay this program while thousands of District residents continue to suffer," wrote Adam Eidinger, president of the District of Columbia Patients' Cooperative, in a March 29 letter addressed to D.C. Major Vincent Gray.
On campus, Georgetown University College Democrats has participated in events about drug policy reform and sponsored an event with Law Enforcement Against Prohibition.
"I hope it will spark a meaningful discussion on campus about drug policy and reform," College Democrats President Vail Kohnert-Yount (SFS '13) said.
Joseph Knowles (COL '12), chair of Georgetown College Republicans, said he was more wary.
"Much of this movement has been hijacked by the pro-legalization movement in general," he said.
Medical marijuana dealer Scott Q. Shupe will avoid prison on drug-trafficking charges, at least for now.
“In this case it was clear you didn’t intend to break the law, which is in a state of flux as we speak,” Spokane County Superior Court Judge Tari Eitzen said during this afternoon’s sentencing hearing. “But the jury found you guilty. That’s what I’m stuck with.”
Eitzen imposed the least-possible jail term under the state’s standard sentencing guidelines, which is six months given Shupe’s criminal history, but then delayed the punishment if Shupe appeals, and comes up with a $5,000 bond. He also was ordered to avoid selling drugs to anyone.
“I think it’s funny that he may be the only person convicted for a dispensary, which may be legal in a week,” said defense attorney Frank Cikutovich, referring to efforts in Olympia to clarify the state’s voter-approved medical marijuana law. “I think it was a complete waste of resources as far as the county is concerned.”
Shupe had argued during last month’s trial that the state’s medical marijuana law enables dispensaries to supply doctor-approved marijuana patients, provided they serve just one patient at a time.
Prosecutors disputed that interpretation, arguing that the medical marijuana law, approved overwhelmingly by voters in 1998, makes no provisions for commercial dispensaries. Jurors agreed with the prosecution.
The case was watched closely by authorities and dispensary operators alike, with both sides hoping that the jury would provide guidance for what many argue is a confusing state law.
Outside the courthouse, about two dozen marijuana advocates spent the afternoon protesting Spokane’s crackdown on medical pot dispensaries. Shupe — who has a doctor-issued medical marijuana card — joined them and smoked some marijuana before heading to court.
Shupe, who has a previous felony conviction for growing marijuana at his home in 2006, said he hopes to avoid prison time. He still faces felony drug charges in Oregon related to a 2009 arrest.
Shupe credits what he calls the “military industrial complex” for keeping marijuana illegal, saying military officials are afraid no one will fight wars if marijuana is legal.
Protester Dennis Whited planned to attend Shupe’s sentencing. Whited owns the dispensary Medical Herb Providers. He began using medical marijuana after losing his leg in a motorcycle accident nearly two years ago.
He said he has no plans to close his dispensary but has been ordered out of his rental property on Freya Street after his landlord was warned by federal authorities about possible prosecution.
He said he’ll find a new building or will become a mobile dispensary.
“I don’t know what I’m going to do,” Whited said.
Meanwhile, in Olympia, state lawmakers are attempting to provide greater clarity in the voter-approved medical marijuana law. A proposal to regulate pot farms and medical marijuana dispensaries has cleared each legislative chamber but backers are still trying to iron out minor differences in each version.
Without the legislative guidance, communities have taken different approaches to enforcement. Seattle-area police and prosecutors, for example, have made enforcement of medical marijuana their lowest priority and have let dispensaries operate openly without interference.
Shupe’s defense attorney, Frank Cikutovich, said his client sold marijuana only to doctor-approved medicinal users. Cikutovich said Shupe routinely kicked out patrons who tried to buy pot without proper authorization.
The owners of “Buds 4 Life”, a medical marijuana collective in Fresno, California, recently donated $5,000 to the Fresno Police Activities League, only to have their check returned forthwith. The Chief of the Fresno PD – Jerry Dyer – says that while the donation was made with good intentions, the city doesn’t support medical marijuana and taking the donation would send the wrong message to kids.
Buds 4 Life Owner, Brian Cooper said, “That’s all we were hoping to do was to just help some of these kids. Get them off the streets where the real problems lay, the gangs, the hardcore drugs.”
Herein lies one of the many problems with The War on Drugs. People like Police Chief Dyer and those who support him see no difference between cannabis and “hardcore drugs.” To them these caregivers are nothing more than scumbag drug dealers.
If you want to talk about sending the wrong message, what about making kids think marijuana is the same as crack and heroin? What happens when they find out – and they will find out, the Internet has changed the game – that they have been lied to? What happens when they find out the cannabis plant is non-toxic and has many medicinal properties and the people they used to trust told them it was a deadly “gateway drug?”
It would seem to me that raising money for programs that keep kids off the street is more important than making some kind of silly political statement about medical marijuana. Obviously, Chief Dyer feels differently.
Posted: 11:50 pm PDT April 7, 2011
Updated: 12:48 am PDT April 8, 2011
Spokane, Wash. -- As the federal government works to close medical marijuana dispensaries in Spokane, many store owners are fighting back and keeping their doors open for patients.
"We're of course nervous and upset as are all my patients," said Charles Wright, owner of THC pharmacy
Wright said he serves more than a thousand patients every month and hopes he can continue to do so.
As the federal government works to close medical marijuana dispensaries in Spokane, many store owners are fighting back and keeping their doors open for patients. KXLY4's Annie Bishop reports. On Wednesday, Mike Ormsby, United States Attorney for the Eastern District announced a crack down on medical marijuana dispensaries. Ormsby said the dispensaries are illegal under federal law. "When it comes down to it creates a climate of fear that is ridiculous," said Wright
"My phone has been ringing off the hook all day, little old ladies crying and screaming. I've got people in wheel chair who are freaking out. These people can't go out on the street and get drugs," he said In 1998, voters approved the use of medical marijuana in Washington without the fear of being criminally charged. Then, in 2008 lawmakers approved a law allowing medical marijuana users a 60 day supply of no more than 24 ounces and no more that 15 plants.But how the marijuana is bought and sold is vague and left open for interpretation. Since 2008, nearly 40 marijuana dispensaries have popped up in Spokane County, serving several hundreds of patients everyday. "We will keep the doors open as long as it seems reasonable,"said Wright "Our patients are in tremendous need, we are going to do everything we can to support them," he said.
Weylin Colebank owns Essence of Mother Earth in north Spokane and serves 400 patients a month. Colebank said he too will stay open until the feds force him out.
"I'm fearful, I really don't want to go to jail but I think what I'm doing is right and my patients really need it," said Colebank "If they put me in jail, they put me in jail, I don't want to go but I will go," said Colebank.
LONGMONT — Boulder County’s communities have either adopted or are still considering what’s likely to be a patchwork of approaches to regulating medical marijuana centers.
“It kind of makes it a real mixed bag for us,” Boulder County Drug Task Force Cmdr. Tom Sloan told Twin Peaks Rotary Club members on Thursday.
Sloan added, however, that state and local governments’ inspection staffs eventually will bear most of the burden of enforcing state and local rules for businesses that dispense or grow medical marijuana in Boulder County.
The Boulder County Drug Task Force will focus its efforts on complaints alleging criminal wrongdoing by the owners or employees of medical marijuana centers, Sloan said.
Despite the rapid growth of medical marijuana businesses in Boulder County over the past three years, “we’ve not had any issues with any of our dispensaries on a criminal level,” Sloan told his Rotary Club audience.
There have been some problems with marijuana growing operations that exceed the limits and restrictions set by state and local laws, Sloan said.
He noted last August’s discovery of growing sites that covered 6 acres and included about 7,500 plants near Miller Rock, southeast of Colo. Highway 7 and Colo. Highway 72.
Authorities said last year it was unclear if that crop was even destined for sale in Boulder County, but it was the largest illegal marijuana growing operation in the county’s history.
Sloan said that, when it comes to the medical marijuana that’s allowed to be grown and distributed under what he called a poorly written state constitutional amendment adopted by Colorado voters in 2000, “I have to deal with it,” even if he has “very little interest in it.”
Sloan said marijuana — whether it’s sold illegally on the street or legally possessed by medical marijuana patients and their caregivers — can be “quite a distraction” for law enforcement agencies, if only because there’s so much of it in Boulder County and such a high demand for it.
He said he’d prefer to have the Boulder County Drug Task Force concentrate on cases involving other kinds of illegal substances, like cocaine and methamphetamine.
The task force, managed by the Boulder County Sheriff’s Office, is a multiagency unit of officers and investigators from the Boulder, Erie, Lafayette, Louisville and University of Colorado police departments and the sheriffs’ office. Longmont is not a member, but Sloan said his task force works closely with the Longmont Police Department’s drug enforcement unit.
The Longmont City Council is expected to resume its discussion of potential restrictions on medical marijuana centers — and possibly an outright ban — on Tuesday night.
Lafayette and Lyons are in the midst of adopting medical-marijuana regulation ordinances. Louisville and Boulder allow but regulate medical marijuana centers, while Erie and Superior have banned them.