Pubdate: Thu, 26 Sep 2013
Source: East Bay Express (CA)
Column: Legalization Nation
Copyright: 2013 East Bay Express
Author: David Downs


Drug warriors killed medical pot regulations in Sacramento this year, 
so cities will have to step up - if they hope to have any chance of 
curtailing federal raids.

On August 29, US Deputy Attorney General James Cole issued a historic 
memo urging states to enact tough medical and recreational pot 
regulations to end federal raids and prosecutions of lawful state 
businesses. Here in California - where a two-year-long federal 
crackdown has targeted some of the best and brightest 
canna-businesses in the nation - activists hoped lawmakers would 
enact such tough rules in the final days of the California 
legislative session for 2013.

But those hopes died September 13 when lobbyists for narcotics 
officers killed medi-pot regulation Assembly Bill 647. No change will 
be coming out of Sacramento for at least a year, meaning federal 
raids, forfeiture threats, and seizures will likely continue.

Although the state has failed to get its medical marijuana house in 
order, California cities continue to step into the regulatory vacuum 
with rules of their own. Chief among them: Los Angeles, arguably the 
largest medical cannabis city in the world. On September 10, the Los 
Angeles City Attorney began the process of cleaning up the city's 
medical marijuana morass by enforcing Measure D - a voter-approved 
dispensary regulation scheme that passed overwhelmingly on May 21.

Measure D permits about 135 dispensaries in the City of Los Angeles, 
or about one club per 28,296 residents. That's more clubs per capita 
than San Francisco (1 for every 40,645 residents) and Oakland (1 for 
every 49,477 residents), and about the same as Berkeley (1 for every 
28,476 residents).

The lucky 135 or so clubs had to be open and registered with the Los 
Angeles City Clerk since 2007, as well as re-registered again in 2010 
and 2011, to remain in business under Measure D. The clubs also have 
to abide by a list of rules, such as observing buffer zones from 
schools, parks, and residential areas; being closed from 8 p.m. to 10 
a.m.; preventing on-site marijuana consumption; denying entry to 
minors; conducting background checks for management; and having no 
marijuana visible from their exteriors. The rules also prohibit 
dispensary chain stores.

Measure D also will result in the closure of about 280 dispensaries 
in Los Angeles that are operating illegally. In mid-September, the 
new LA City Attorney Mike Feuer filed criminal misdemeanor complaints 
against seven of those clubs for violating Measure D, said city 
attorney spokesman Rob Wilcox.

The misdemeanor complaints can lead to six months of jail time for 
dispensary operators, owners, and landlords, and fines of $2,500 per 
day. Wilcox said the city attorney is working to file "dozens more" 
complaints for violations of Measure D.

But rogue clubs have a long history of fighting legal wars of 
attrition in Los Angeles. The city tried and failed to regulate clubs 
in 2007, then tried a "gentle ban" in 2011. Upset patients gathered 
enough signatures to halt the gentle ban, and the effort set the 
stage for the election earlier this year that resulted in the passage 
of Measure D.

In addition to that measure, there were two others - Measures E and F 
- - on the May ballot, and each offered different pot rules. The LA 
City Council - along with advocacy group Americans for Safe Access 
and the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 770 - threw its 
support behind Measure D.

In many ways, Los Angeles' house-cleaning follows the same historical 
trajectory as medical marijuana sanctuary cities like San Francisco, 
Oakland, Richmond, and Berkeley. All were hotbeds of marijuana law 
reform and saw an explosion of unregulated collectives distributing 
marijuana in storefronts by 2004. But the cities crafted regulations 
that permitted a select group of qualified outlets, while shutting 
down any rogue ones.

For the most part, the regulations have worked. San Francisco has 
permitted about two dozen stores, even in the face of federal 
saber-rattling and interference. Oakland has permitted up to eight 
dispensaries - with four long-standing outlets and four new ones 
scheduled to come online this year. Richmond and Berkeley each have a 
handful of clubs and far fewer issues than before local regulations 
went into effect.

"I realize that any sort of enforcement is bad news for somebody," 
said American for Safe Access' Don Duncan. "But I do feel like we've 
turned a corner in Los Angeles from that perception of the Wild West 
to the perception that we're getting things in order. I think there 
is much more work to be done and I think we're on the right path," he 
said. "We have to do it."

The outlook, however, is less sunny in the rest of Southern 
California - where dispensary bans blanket much of the region. In San 
Diego, a local crackdown is restarting since medical marijuana 
patients lost the protection of City Hall after Mayor Bob Filner, a 
weed ally, left under a cloud of sexual harassment charges this summer.

And not all medical pot advocates in Los Angeles are happy about the 
cleanup efforts. Los Angeles attorney Stewart Richlin represents one 
club charged with a Measure D misdemeanor. He said very few clubs 
have willingly closed since Measure D passed. His group is also 
challenging Measure D in a lawsuit filed last week. He contends that 
Measure D is arbitrary and unfair to new clubs. He also argues that 
it violates the constitution's due-process and equal-protection 
clauses. "It picks and chooses winners and losers," he said. "It's 

If a judge accepts Richlin's motion to block Measure D, the 
misdemeanor complaints will fall apart, he said.

Los Angeles cannot follow the same regulatory path established in the 
Bay Area, he said, because "Los Angeles is sprawling in nature. We 
believe that the free market is the thing that should determine where 
collectives should be."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom