LOS ANGELES - Former Santa Fe Springs Councilman Joseph Serrano
pleaded guilty Monday to a federal bribery charge for soliciting money
from an owner of a medical marijuana dispensary.
"He pleaded guilty pursuant to the plea agreement he made with the
U.S. Attorney a few weeks ago," Justice Department Spokesman Thom
Serrano, 62, will be sentenced before the same judge, Stephen V.
Wilson, on Oct. 15. in U.S. District Court.
Serrano admitted to soliciting $11,500 in bribes from the onetime
owner of a medical marijuana dispensary, according to court documents.
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California has two minds on marijuana. Voters in 1996 thought it was
OK for medicinal use, and just about any adult can get a
"recommendation" to legally consume medical marijuana. But on Nov. 2,
voters just said no to fully legalizing pot for recreational use and sale.
It's technically illegal to sell medical marijuana in California
(it's supposed to be shared among collective members), yet several
cities have enacted gross receipt taxes to raise revenue off the sale
of medicinal pot. The city of Los Angeles is currently considering
taxing medical marijuana. And voters from La Puente just approved a
measure to tax medical marijuana sales in the city.
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The marijuana legalization issue hit the Whittier City Council this week.
And there was a 3-2 vote in essence to come out against Prop. 19.
However, four votes were needed to put it on the agenda so it fell one short.
Councilman Joe Vinatieri asked to put it on the agenda so the council
could take a position on it.
"Proposition 19 would legalize marijuana although it's illegal under
federal law," Vinatieri said. "There's a very good chance the feds
will come and sue to enjoin it. There's also a good chance that
(federal) money given to cities, such as Whittier, would be in jeopardy."
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Of the 10 statewide ballot measures facing voters on Nov. 2, the most
controversial is Proposition 19, which asks voters to decide whether
the sale of marijuana should be legalized for general use. Prop. 19
would go beyond the current law that legalizes marijuana for medical use.
Prop. 19 would allow people who are at least 21 years old to
"possess, cultivate or transport marijuana for personal use."
It would permit local governments to regulate and tax commercial
production, distribution and sales of marijuana for people 21 and older.
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WHITTIER - Dolores Enriquez and Robert Ortiz of Pico Rivera and Sandra
Newby of Whittier opened up the city's newest business this week.
Like most new enterprises, customers are slow to come in but they
still came up with the money to join the Whittier Area Chamber of Commerce.
But the three merchants have had to go through more than most to open
their business because they operate the city's first legal medical
It took them 15 months before getting the necessary permits and then
another three months to open.
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SOUTH WHITTIER - Two brothers and a cousin who were forced to shut
down their medical marijuana dispensary last week, say they aren't
giving up on their plans.
The dispensary, 3P Wellness Center, 11331 La Mirada Blvd., in
unincorporated South Whittier, had been open only a month when
brothers Victor, 34, and Steven Munoz, 22, of Whittier and their
cousin, Alex Hernandez, 34, of Pomona voluntarily shut it down after
Los Angeles County officials told them they didn't have the necessary permits.
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Local political pundits say the chances of success for a ballot
initiative to legalize the possession and sale of marijuana appear to
be - at best - hard to gauge.
Few gave the medical marijuana initiative much chance, says one
observer, but it passed. Now, few give this initiative much chance,
but California voters can be surprising.
There are still seven months of campaigning ahead, and experts say
they find it difficult to believe the initiative could succeed in
November's midterm elections.
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LA PUENTE - With a new law regulating medical marijuana dispensaries
set to take effect this week, potential owners are rushing to get in
before it's too late.
If their applications are approved before Friday's deadline, the
number of dispensaries in La Puente would nearly double, essentially
rendering the city's new cap on them outdated.
"We could have more than six," said assistant city manager Greg
La Puente capped the number of dispensaries at six when it crafted the
law in December because five applications had been approved and one
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Dear President Obama:
Over the weekend I think I stumbled on a great plan to put people back
What I need from you is some stimulus money. Think of it as seed money
if you will.
I'm going to use it to start a business. And in a matter of months I
think the business can be one of the Fortune 500.
Tax money generated by this startup can go to work fixing our health
care system, our roads and our schools. By some estimates consumers
already spend $110 billion a year on the product I plan to sell.
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WHITTIER - Councilman Joe Vinatieri has called for the City Council
to review the Planning Commission's approval of a medical marijuana dispensary.
The dispensary would be run by a Pico Rivera-based nonprofit group
called Seventh and Hope at 8116 Byron Road, Suite D. The clinic's bid
for a business permit passed out of the Planning Commission last
month and now must go to the council for approval.
It would have been approved without a hearing if one had not been
requested by a council member.
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WHITTIER - Planning commissioners want to see if they can limit how
much marijuana a medical dispensary can sell before giving their
approval for one to open.
The commission Monday voted unanimously to continue the hearing until
Aug. 17 after asking city planning staff to see if they legally can
"Can we limit the amount?" asked Commissioner Harry
"Do we have that power?" Stone asked. "If we have some control over
the amount, do we have any information on what would be a reasonable
amount? Can we have the doctor include the reasonable amount (on the
recommendation of medical marijuana for the patient)?"
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WHITTIER - Medical marijuana dispensaries will continue to be allowed
in Whittier thanks to a 3-2 City Council vote on Tuesday.
The council decided to maintain its current ordinance regulating
medical marijuana dispensaries, instead of banning them.
The key vote was Councilman Greg Nordbak, who had voted in April to
ask staff to draft an ordinance banning the businesses.
But on Tuesday, Nordbak voted with Mayor Bob Henderson and Councilmen
Owen Newcomer in favor of the status quo.
"I made my decision in 2005 based upon compassion," Nordbak said of
the then-3-2 vote to pass the ordinance that regulates and restricts
dispensaries to a small area near Washington Boulevard.
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WHITTIER - In a decision that directly went against the City Council,
Planning Commissioners said they see no reason to ban medical
The council had requested a city ordinance banning such businesses.
But the Commission voted 3-1 Monday to recommend no change in the
existing law, which allows dispensaries in limited areas.
"It was a really difficult decision," said Commissioner Wes Murray,
who was not on the commission three years ago when it approved the
existing law. "From a land-use point of view, the ordinance that is in
place is sufficient to protect our city."
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WHITTIER - The City Council's decision to ban medical marijuana
dispensaries is running into resistance at the Planning Commission level.
Commissioners at Monday's hearing either wanted to delay the issue in
order to get more information - they eventually voted 3-1 to do so -
or just vote it down in the first place.
I haven't heard a fundamental issue that would require a change or
tip the scale for me," said Fernando Dutra, Planning Commission
chairman. "I'd like to bring it back with more information."
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Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger tried to spark up a little debate this
week when he suggested the state should discuss reforming marijuana laws.
But most area legislators opted not to partake.
Schwarzenegger said Wednesday in a public appearance that he would
not necessarily support legalization, but rather that the state
"ought to study very carefully what other countries are doing that
have legalized marijuana and other drugs."
California legislators may end up being forced to do just that. A
bill introduced by state Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco,
calls for marijuana to be legalized and taxed. Ammiano estimates it
could gain the state $1.3 billion in revenue, based on taxing pot at
$50 an ounce.
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WHITTIER - City officials here appear poised to reverse ground and ban
medical marijuana dispensaries.
The action could come after nearly 2 1/2 years ago when the Whittier
City Council voted 3-2 to allow such businesses with a limited area in
But the council voted 3-2 earlier this week to direct staff to draft
an ordinance prohibiting them.
"I went for it the last time because they were proposing an honest
legitimate business," said Councilman Greg Nordbak who in 2006 had
voted for the ordinance restricting, but allowing the
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WHITTIER - A Pico Rivera woman wants to open a medical marijuana
dispensary here and has applied to the city for a conditional-use permit.
Dolores Enriquez wants to open the dispensary at 8116 Byron Road, No.
D. City planning staff has 30 days to determine if her application is
complete and then set it for a hearing.
Enriquez, her son, Robert Ortiz, and friend Sandra Newby formed a
nonprofit group, Seventh and Hope, to operate the business.
"They see the need and they want to fill it," said Katherine Clifton,
attorney for Enriquez. "They know people with AIDS, cancer and glaucoma."
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U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder's recent announcement that the
Obama administration will let states enforce their own laws on
medical marijuana means Californians can finally buy and sell
prescription pot without fear of federal raids.
But tension remains over medical marijuana dispensaries and drug
laws. In fact, many local cities have outright banned the
dispensaries, wanting no part of the dispute.
Californians in 1996 overwhelmingly supported legalizing marijuana
for medical patients, but did voters anticipate toking for headaches
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Re Kathleen Parker's Feb. 7 column:
Olympian Michael Phelps is in good company. The list of athletes
caught using marijuana is long. Could it be that drug warriors have
been lying about marijuana's health impact? They've definitely been
lying about the deterrent value of marijuana prohibition.
The United States has higher rates of marijuana use than the
Netherlands, where marijuana is legally available to adults over 18.
Robert Sharpe, Policy Analyst Common Sense for Drug Policy
Drink and drive and it's grrrrrrrr-eat! Smoke pot and your flakes are
So seems the message from Kellogg, which has decided not to renew its
sponsorship contract with Michael Phelps after the Olympian was
photographed smoking marijuana at a party in South Carolina.
That's showbiz, of course, but the cereal and munchie company had no
problem signing Phelps despite a prior alcohol-related arrest. In
2004, Phelps was fined and sentenced to 18 months probation and
community service after pleading guilty to driving while impaired.
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