Pubdate: Tue, 15 Nov 2011
Source: Record Searchlight (Redding, CA)
Copyright: 2011 Record Searchlight
Author: Scott Mobley
Bookmark: (Cannabis - California)
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)


Medical Pot Supporters Vocal During Meeting

Staring down a room full of angry medical marijuana advocates and 
shrugging lawsuit threats, the Redding City Council voted unanimously 
Tuesday evening to ban cannabis collectives by Dec. 1.

Redding is perhaps the first city in California to impose such a ban 
following a state appellate court decision in October striking down a 
medical marijuana permitting system in Long Beach. Sacramento has 
temporarily frozen new medical marijuana permits but not moved 
against existing collectives.

The discussion was often heated between medical marijuana supporters 
saying collectives give patients safe access to their medicine and 
speakers saying storefront collectives contributed to higher drug use 
and crime.

Cannabis supporters often hissed and heckled opponents, sometimes 
drawing rebukes from Mayor Missy McArthur.

At least 10 police officers stood around the packed chamber, and at 
one point escorted John Prinz of Cottonwood from the chamber as he 
finished addressing the council.

Prinz, who was speaking with animation, had brandished some screws 
police thought he could use as a weapon. Officers grabbed him by the 
arms and walked him from the room while some audience members cat 
called. "What about free speech," several said.

Even while banning storefront collectives, the city will still allow 
groups up to 10 to cooperatively grow and distribute medical 
marijuana under Prop. 215, which state voters passed in 1996.

City Attorney Rick Duvernay said the ban will likely spark lawsuits 
against the city. But the threat of lawsuits is not as severe as 
federal prosecutors going after public officials for allowing 
collectives to continue in violation of federal law, Duvernay said, 
drawing scorn from many in the audience.

Redding will likely need the ban until state and federal government 
finally decide the status of medical marijuana, Duvernay said.

Council members said they must follow the law, and the Long Beach 
decision changed state law.

"For me this is like children of divorce," Mayor McArthur said just 
before the vote. "The feds are the father, the state is the mother 
and we are caught in the middle. Unfortunately for collectives, the 
father has the rule of the land."

Jeanette Ernst, CEO of Nature's Nexus, one of the 16 storefront 
collectives in town, said she was discouraged by the council's 
decision, but motivated to protect the rights of her patients.

"There are many ways they can restrict medical marijuana with zoning 
ordinance and health and safety codes without permitting or licensing 
us," Ernst said. "There are so many patients that are going to be 
affected by this decision. There are so many patients who will not be 
able to find a collective under 10 people where they can safely get 
their medicine. Tinctures, edibles and topicals aren't available on 
street corners. The average medical marijuana user could not make 
them at home."

Ernst also said the city will almost certainly face lawsuits.

"I will guarantee the city will spend more money in legal fees 
fighting this than they ever would making sure police are patrolling 
this city," Ernst said.

Before the meeting started, around 100 medical marijuana supporters 
raucously demonstrated outside council chambers.

Protesters chanted "What do we want? Safe access! When do we want it? 
Now!", and, "Save our co-ops! Save our 'scrips!"

They carried signs reading: "Marijuana: safer than peanuts," 
"All-natural medicine from God's green earth," and "I am not a 
criminal, stop treating me like one."

Several waved American flags, while others hoisted flags displaying 
stripes and marijuana leaves.

Gina Speer, 20, of Redding, said the protest was about "safe access."

"If I were smoking, I know my mom and dad would rather have me buy 
from a club rather than on the streets," she said.

Her husband, Chris Speer, said he uses medical cannabis to manage his 
bipolar disorder without side effects.

"I don't want to see my taking a positive plan of action for my 
illness criminalized," he said. "Every medicine I've been on has 
deadly side effects.

The group was lining the sidewalk, but a news team from KRCR Channel 
7 asked them to move toward the council chambers for a television shot.

The Long Beach decision means Redding no longer has power to regulate 
the 16 medical marijuana collectives and cooperatives, City Attorney 
Duvernay told the council.

City officials have made it clear they don't want unregulated 
collectives in town, he said.

Redding at one time had 30 or more collectives, Duvernay told the 
council. The permitting system whittled that number down to the 
present 16, he said.

In fact, no one knows how many collectives operated in Redding during 
fall 2009, before the city imposed its permitting system. Some 20 
organizations applied and the city granted 19 permits, meaning three 
have gone out of business.

Redding police in 2010 conducted periodic stings to see if the 
collectives would sell to non-members, and none did.

The city will declare storefront collectives public nuisances and 
move to shut them down under code enforcement if they do not stop 
operating on their own in the next two weeks.

The 2nd District Court of Appeal ruled in October that efforts by 
officials in Long Beach to dictate which collectives can operate and 
which cannot go far beyond Prop. 215.

State law merely creates a defense from criminal prosecution for 
people using medical marijuana with a doctor's recommendation, the court ruled.

Prop. 215 provides a defense for caregivers providing medical 
marijuana to patients - a husband or wife caring for a sick spouse, 
for example. SB 420 and other laws allow several people to 
cooperatively grow medical marijuana and provide it to those who 
cannot produce it themselves.

Federal law, which considers all marijuana illegal, pre-empts any 
local efforts to regulate production and distribution of the 
substance, the court ruled.

Duvernay also drew on a recent 4th District Appellate Court upholding 
a city of Riverside ban on collectives despite Prop. 215 and the 
state Medical Marijuana Program of 2003 to justify Redding's ban.

Prop. 215 and other medical marijuana laws do not provide people with 
inalienable rights to establish, operate or use dispensaries, the 
court ruled. And state law does not prevent cities from banning 
medical marijuana outright.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom