Even if Obama doesn't support it, WE as the PEOPLE have the power and the right to vote, be heard! - ILLA
The movement to legalize marijuana has arrived at Congress' back door.
Later this month the first medical cannabis dispensaries are expected to open in the nation's capital, including one just eight blocks from the Capitol dome.
The milestone is lifting the spirits of pot enthusiasts who believe a safe and profitable in D.C. could help nudge along the drug nationwide.
ABC News recently toured the Metropolitan Wellness Center, one of the district's three soon-to-open shops, located on Capitol Hill.
While pot products have yet to hit shelves – the shop is still awaiting a license from the district – general manager Vanessa West said they will soon offer multiple varieties of cannabis, paraphernalia and a mix of pot-infused products, including brownies, cookies and drinks.
West, a veteran operator of dispensaries in California who admits she "smoked a little grass in college," said the sleek, modern set-up of her "product selection and payment room" underscores a serious focus on patients and treating their pain.
"When we find out what a patient's symptoms are, we can make a recommendation about what the best strain is for them and what the best possible route for ingesting that strain is," she said.
"Forget about the recreational part for a second," she says to skeptics. "Listen to how cannabis has changed patients' lives for the better."
Only employees and patients registered with the District of Columbia Department of Health will be allowed inside the dispensary once weed sales officially commence. The shop will effectively go on lockdown, protected by a high-tech security system of a dozen cameras and motion sensors keeping watch.
"This is sort of a delicate business," West said. "It's like a bank or a high end jewelry store. We want to protect the product and the people that are inside this building."
Under district law, no one is allowed to consume pot on the premises, West said. Approved users are required to head directly home after making their purchases.
The rules for obtaining legal access to the drug are equally stringent. A prospective patient must be a district resident with one of the few qualifying diseases, such as AIDS, glaucoma or multiple sclerosis. A doctor must formally recommend the drug, and that recommendation must be certified by the Department of Health. Each patient must also submit an application and pay a license fee.
"It's a pretty difficult process, but it sort of needs to be," said West. "You don't want to create a free for all."
The dispensaries in D.C. will remain illegal under federal law, which still bans the cultivation and sale of marijuana as a dangerous and addictive "Schedule I" drug under the Controlled Substances Act. Officially, marijuana is classified has having "no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the U.S."
The headquarters for the Justice Department, the federal agency responsible for enforcing federal law, is located just four miles from the Metropolitan Wellness Center.
West says she's not worried about a raid.
"History has shown that if you are a dispensary operating in a state that is transparent and heavily regulated, the federal government is not interested in intervening," she said.
Medical marijuana is now allowed in 18 states plus the District of Columbia. In November, voters in Colorado and Washington took the movement further, endorsing the sale of marijuana without a prescription for recreational purposes. Both states are establishing regulatory regimens for pot similar to alcohol.
A poll released last month by the Pew Research Center found for the first time a majority of Americans now favor full legalization of marijuana. Fifty-two percent favor decriminalization, with 45 percent opposed.
The level of support is a landmark shift from 40 years ago when just 12 percent backed legalized pot, according to Gallup.
In light of the trend, President Obama told ABC News' Barbara Walters in December that he's re-thinking federal prosecution of some marijuana users.
"It does not make sense, from a prioritization point of view, for us to focus on recreational drug users in a state that has already said that under state laws that's legal," Obama said.
"We've got bigger fish to fry," he added.
The big question now for pro-pot states: Will the Justice Department spoil plans for dozens of new dispensaries, and a potential bonanza of millions in taxes and fees?
The Department, which is reviewing the new Colorado and Washington marijuana laws, has yet to formally decide whether or not they will be challenged in court.
Meanwhile, lawmakers from those states have re-invigorated legislative efforts to repeal or weaken the federal ban on pot. So far this year, seven bills dealing with marijuana have been introduced in the U.S. House, including one that would entirely decriminalize the drug.
All of the bills face an uphill climb, which means for now at least, the new D.C. dispensaries will remain at odds with the law.
Share on Facebook
New Zoning Needed for Medical Marijuana Dispensaries in Boston
Boston will be updating its zoning code to permit medical marijuana dispensaries in specific areas around the city.
By David Ertischek
Massachusetts voters spoke loud and clearly on Election Day by overwhelmingly supporting the legalization of medical marijuana starting January 1.
Now Boston has to figure out where the medical marijuana dispensaries will be within the city.
District 5 City Councilor Rob Consalvo led the charge at Wednesday's Boston City Council meeting, saying while they don't know how many facilities the city will get yet, it's clear they will get some.
"I’m proposing what we do regularly - update our zoning code," Consalvo said. "This will be my seventh effort of amending the zoning code. Clearly this is a new use and a new change in front of us."
But first the state needs to provide regulations, "We don’t know how the state regulations will take place, we are waiting for the Department of Health to have those new regulations in the New Year," Consalvo added.
The matter was moved to the Committee on Government Operations, for the code to be developed by the Boston Redevelopment Authority, while working with the state and city's health departments, the Boston Police, as well as residents. A hearing is expected to be held in the next 10 days to develop the zoning changes.
Consalvo said there is nothing in the current zoning code that addresses medical marijuana facilities. Issues such as what stores will look like, how medical marijuana will be sold, and more still need to addressed.
Due to it being medicinal marijuana, Consalvo suggested dispensaries should be zoned into hospital areas, to make it a one-stop shop for patients. He added dispensaries should not go in residential neighborhoods, parks or playgrounds, near schools or daycare facilities.
"Without anything in place they could open up anywhere and we’ll get lots of calls. We need to move fast and be ahead of the curve," said Consalvo.
He called for a hearing to be held in the next 10 days to get to work on the issue.
Share on Facebook
Medical Marijuana: Arizona To Hold Prescription Pot Lottery
It's been a busy couple of days in America's weed world.
For starters, Arizona will hold a lottery tomorrow to pick medical marijuana dispensaries, according to The Associated Press.
Why will the state hold a contest, you might ask?
Though prescription pot is legal in Arizona, the Department of Health Services received 486 apps from individuals or businesses who want to open shops in 99 of the 126 designated dispensary areas -- part of the Department's long-term goals for its medical marijuana program.
However, in 75 of those 99 areas, more than one individual or business applied for a dispensary certificate.
So they're doing a straight-up lotto -- we're talking ping pong balls chosen at random, for reals -- to pick a winner.
The Department's decision comes shortly after many of Arizona's sheriff's and county district attorneys demanded that Gov. Jan Brewer put the brakes on the state's dispensary program, citing federal statutes against cannabis -- which have caused confusion (read: a messy, messy clusterfuck) in California.
And in other bud-oriented breaking news, California Rep. Barbara Lee has sponsored legislation that would put an end to the federal crackdown on state medical marijuana operations, according to U.S. News and World Report.
Recall, also, that Ron Paul recently introduced the "Truth in Trials Act" in Congress, which would give legal protections to prescription pot users.
Follow Victoria Bekiempis @vicbekiempis.
Share on Facebook
Delivering medical marijuana under the law in San Francisco
By: Chris Roberts
Special to The SF Examiner
A federal crackdown on medical marijuana services has not taken action on unlicensed deliveries.
It's not easy to open a medical cannabis dispensary in San Francisco, but it's very easy for patients to purchase their medicine from the comfort of home — even if the service is illegal.
Delivery services operating in seeming violation of city law advertise in print and on the Web, and operate in full knowledge of city officials, who say their hands are tied.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Justice has shut down five licensed storefront dispensaries in The City since October, yet has not taken action on unlicensed delivery services.
San Francisco law requires vendors distributing marijuana to 10 or more people to obtain a medical cannabis dispensary license from the Department of Public Health. State medical marijuana law provides for nonprofit collectives or cooperatives to provide cannabis to people with a doctor's recommendation, but does not specifically address delivery services.
More than a year ago, Kevin Reed of The Green Cross -- which was then San Francisco's lone licensed delivery-only dispensary -- asked city officials to "level the playing field" between businesses such as his, which must pay local and state taxes and $8,656 in dispensary permit fees, according to The City's 2005 Medical Cannabis Act, and the roughly 19 delivery services at the time that advertised here.
Unlicensed delivery vendors escape paying fees by being based or claiming to be based outside city limits, according to Dr. Rajiv Bhatia, director of occupational and environmental health at the health department, which "did not anticipate" the legal wrinkle.
"These delivery establishments may be operating outside the bounds of state law," Bhatia said in an e-mail, adding that "confirming the nature and location of these operations require the use of surveillance and investigational tools not available to the Department of Public Health" and is the purview of law enforcement.
Melinda Haag, the U.S. attorney for Northern California, has shut down five of San Francisco's 26 licensed storefront dispensaries since an October news conference where she announced medical marijuana providers violating state and local law would be prosecuted. Spokesman Jack Gillund said Haag's office would not comment on the delivery services.
San Francisco currently has three licensed delivery-only dispensaries: The Green Cross, Medithrive and Divinity Tree. The latter two went delivery-only after the Justice Department shut down their storefront locations in the Mission and Tenderloin neighborhoods, respectively.
Two delivery services operating without city permits in San Francisco do have business licenses on file with the Office of the Treasurer and Tax Collector, policy and legislative manager Greg Kato said — Foggy Daze Delivery is registered as "Business Services, Except Advertising," and Nature's Relief has a license for "Other Retail Stores."
Foggy Daze Delivery has a business address in San Jose, according to records on file with the secretary of state.
Representatives for SF Green Delivery and Foggy Daze declined to comment on their businesses.
Other municipalities in the Bay Area regulate delivery services based outside their city limits. San Francisco's Medical Cannabis Task Force, a City Hall body created to recommend policy to the Board of Supervisors, included a recommendation to regulate out-of-town delivery services in its annual report, issued in the fall. To date, no legislative action has been taken.
Unlicensed delivery services "play in a legal gray area, and it isn't fair," said Shona Gochenaur, a marijuana activist with low-income patient network Axis of Love who sits on the task force. "This loophole needs to be closed."
Paying the man
Medical marijuana collectives doing business in San Francisco are required to pay taxes to both the state and The City.
$381,000 Local sales tax revenue in 2011 from city's 26 dispensaries
$8,656 Dispensary permit fee charged by SF
$4,019 Dispensary license and annual inspection fee in SF
$0 Cost to deliver medical marijuana in SF while based outside The City
$0 Tax collected from such delivery services
Source: Ted Egan, city's chief economist
Door to door
Medical cannabis delivery services offering marijuana to patients in San Francisco. None have operating permits from the Department of Public Health.
SF Green Delivery
California Green Medical
The Union Collective
The Greener Side
Mr Purple Skunk
Share on Facebook
Posted by Mark DeLucas on October 29, 2011 1:48 PM
A California medical marijuana advocacy group is taking the Obama administration to court in an effort to halt the Justice Department's assault on marijuana growers and dispensers, the Los Angeles Times reports.
Americans for Safe Access, an advocacy group based in Oakland, Calif., has filed suit against U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and northern California federal prosecutor Melinda Haag, claiming that the federal government's recent crackdown on medical marijuana operations is in violation of the Constitution's 10th Amendment.
Marijuana is a schedule 1 substance, deemed illegitimate for medicinal purposes and outlawed federally under the Controlled Substances Act, which the federal government is entitled to enforce. However, according to Americans for Safe Access, individual states are free to regulate substances as they see fit, and by virtue of the 10th Amendment the federal government cannot compel state authorities to contravene state law.
"Under the 10th Amendment, the government may not commandeer the law-making functions of the state or its subdivisions directly or indirectly through the selective enforcement of its drug laws," the suit claims.
"The federal government has instituted a policy to dismantle the medical marijuana laws of the state of California and to coerce its municipalities to pass bans on medical marijuana dispensaries," the lawsuit says. "To this end, the government has pursued an increasingly punitive strategy, which has involved criminal prosecutions of medical marijuana providers with draconian penalties and letters threatening local officials if they implement state law."
The suit cites, among other notices, a federal missive to the city of Oakland, informing city authorities that failure to enforce federal anti-marijuana laws would make them subject to prosecution.
"I like this lawsuit," San Francisco attorney Kenneth Wine told the San Francisco Weekly.
"While the federal government and its agents can do what they like in enforcing the federal criminal laws, they cannot compel the state to assist them," Wine said. "I suspect this case will cause the federal government in California to be very careful in the way they address state and local officials. Certainly, the threats and coercion against state and local officials by the U.S. Attorneys must stop, and likely will. For the feds to do otherwise is to put their marijuana enforcement strategy in jeopardy."
Share on Facebook
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.
Share on Facebook
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.
Share on Facebook
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."
Share on Facebook