October 18th, 2009 – Oakland International Airport may be the nation’s only airport with a specific policy letting users of medical marijuana travel with the drug.oakland-airport-shuttle-pickup

The policy is spelled out in a three-page document quietly enacted last year by the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office. It states that if deputies determine someone is a qualified patient or primary caregiver as defined by California law and has eight ounces or less of the drug, he or she can keep it and board the plane.

Deputies warn the pot-carrying passengers that they may be committing a felony upon arrival when they set foot in a jurisdiction where medical marijuana is not recognized. But they say they don’t call ahead to alert authorities on the other end.

“We never have. We’re certainly within our right to, but we never have,” said Sgt. J.D. Nelson, a spokesman for the sheriff’s office. “Our notification of the passengers is for their own safety and well-being.”

California voters approved medical marijuana use in 1996, while federal law still bans all possession and use.

But Oakland attorney Robert Raich notes the Code of Federal Regulations says a prohibition on operating a civil aircraft with knowledge that there is marijuana aboard doesn’t apply to carrying marijuana that’s “authorized by or under any Federal or State statute.”

The federal Transportation Security Administration does the screening and when marijuana — or any suspected contraband — is found, the sheriff’s deputies are summoned.

Low profile
Oakland’s airport policy was enacted in February 2008, but Raich said he didn’t want to publicize it until recently lest the Bush administration change federal regulations, or lest it become an issue in Obama administration drug officials’ confirmation hearings.

“All other airports in medical cannabis states should have similar policies but they don’t,” he said, adding that he hears San Francisco International and Los Angeles International airports are relatively kind to medical marijuana users while airports in Burbank, Ontario and San Diego are not.

Raich, who has seen two of his medical marijuana cases argued before the U.S. Supreme Court and has taught Oakland Police cadets about medical marijuana issues, said medical marijuana users generally didn’t have much trouble when Oakland Police used to patrol inside the airport terminals. But that changed when the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office took over in mid-2007. That summer TSA screeners referred to deputies a traveling medical-marijuana user from Washington state.

“The sheriff’s deputies so harassed this person, it was heart-wrenching,” Raich said. “They took his medicine, they broke his bong, they took his edibles. They were threatening him.”

‘Pinball machine’

Raich said he found that the sheriff’s office was unwilling to change its policy. So he consulted various officials including those at the Port of Oakland, which owns and operates the airport.

“I felt like a ball in a pinball machine,” he said. “I felt like I’d talked to every single employee at the port and they all seemed sympathetic but they all told me the same thing: ‘That’s not our policy “… that’s the sheriff doing that on his own.’ “

Raich eventually went to the Alameda County counsel’s office.

That office “finally told (Sheriff Greg Ahern) he had to comply with California law whether he liked it or not, and only then did he adopt a policy,” Raich said.

“Greg Ahern is out of touch with the people of California who voted for Prop. 215 and medical cannabis in 1996 and have continued to support it by wide margins ever since,” Raich said. Sheriff’s spokesman Nelson said the sheriff “neither supports nor opposes the medical marijuana law.

“He’s had no position on that,” Nelson said. “He’s just trying to do the best he can when a state law conflicts with a federal law.” Source.

LOS ANGELES — There are more marijuana stores here than public schools. Signs emblazoned with cannabis plants or green crosses sit next to dry cleaners, gas stations and Picture 25restaurants.

The dispensaries range from Hollywood-day-spa fabulous to shoddy-looking storefronts with hand-painted billboards. Absolute Herbal Pain Solutions, Grateful Meds, Farmacopeia Organica.

Cannabis advocates claim that more than 800 dispensaries have sprouted here since 2002; some law enforcement officials say it is closer to 1,000. Whatever the real number, everyone agrees it is too high.

And so this, too, is taken for granted: Crackdowns on cannabis clubs will soon come in this city, which has more dispensaries than any other.

For the first time, law enforcement officials in Los Angeles have vowed to prosecute medical marijuana dispensaries that turn a profit, with police officials saying they expect to conduct raids. Their efforts are widely seen as a campaign to sway the City Council into adopting strict regulations after two years of debate.

It appears to be working. Carmen A. Trutanich, the newly elected city attorney, recently persuaded the Council to put aside a proposed ordinance negotiated with medical marijuana supporters for one drafted by his office. The new proposal calls for dispensaries to have renewable permits, submit to criminal record checks, register the names of members with the police and operate on a nonprofit basis. If enacted, it is likely to result in the closing of hundreds of marijuana dispensaries.

Mr. Trutanich argued that state law permits the exchange of marijuana between growers and patients on a nonprofit and noncash basis only. Marijuana advocates say that interpretation would regulate dispensaries out of existence and thwart the will of voters who approved medical cannabis in 1996.

Whatever happens here will be closely watched by law enforcement officials and marijuana advocates across the country who are threading their way through federal laws that still treat marijuana as an illegal drug and state laws that are increasingly allowing medicinal use. Thirteen states have laws supporting medical marijuana, and others are considering new legislation.

No state has gone further than California, often described by drug enforcement agents as a “source nation” because of the vast quantities of marijuana grown here. And no city in the state has gone further than Los Angeles. This has alarmed local officials, who say that dispensary owners here took unfair advantage of vague state laws intended to create exceptions to marijuana prohibitions for a limited number of ill people.

“About 100 percent of dispensaries in Los Angeles County and the city are operating illegally,” said Steve Cooley, the Los Angeles County district attorney, who is up for re-election next year. “The time is right to deal with this problem.”

Mr. Cooley, speaking last week at a training luncheon for regional narcotics officers titled “The Eradication of Medical Marijuana Dispensaries in the City of Los Angeles and Los Angeles County,” said that state law did not allow dispensaries to be for-profit enterprises.

Mr. Trutanich, the city attorney, went further, saying dispensaries were prohibited from accepting cash even to reimburse growers for labor and supplies. He said that a recent California Supreme Court decision, People v. Mentch, banned all over-the-counter sales of marijuana; other officials and marijuana advocates disagree.

So far, prosecutions of marijuana dispensaries in Los Angeles have been limited to about a dozen in the last year, said Sandi Gibbons, a spokeswoman for Mr. Cooley. But Police Department officials said they were expecting to be called on soon to raid collectives.

“I don’t think this is a law that we’ll have to enforce 800 times,” said one police official, who declined to speak on the record before the marijuana ordinance was completed. “This is just like anything else. You don’t have to arrest everyone who is speeding to make people slow down.”

Don Duncan, a spokesman for Americans for Safe Access, a leader in the medical marijuana movement, said that over-the-counter cash purchases should be permitted but that dispensaries should be nonprofit organizations. He also said marijuana collectives needed more regulation and a “thinning of the herd.”
Skip to next paragraph
Enlarge This Image
Monica Almeida/The New York Times

“I am under no illusions that everyone out there is following the rules,” said Mr. Duncan, who runs his own dispensary in West Hollywood. “But just because you accept money to reimburse collectives does not mean you’re making profits.”

For marijuana advocates, Los Angeles represents a critical juncture — a symbol of the movement’s greatest success, but also its vulnerability.

More than 300,000 doctors’ referrals for medical cannabis are on file, the bulk of them from Los Angeles, according to Americans for Safe Access. The movement has had a string of successes in the Legislature and at the ballot box. In the city of Garden Grove, marijuana advocates forced the Highway Patrol to return six grams of marijuana it had confiscated from an eligible user. About 40 cities and counties have medical marijuana ordinances.

But there have also been setbacks. In June, a federal judge sentenced Charles C. Lynch, a dispensary owner north of Santa Barbara, to one year in prison for selling marijuana to a 17-year-old boy whose father had testified that they sought out medical marijuana for his son’s chronic pain. The mayor and the chief of police testified on behalf of Mr. Lynch, who was released on bail pending appeal.

And last month, San Diego police officers and sheriff’s deputies, along with agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration, raided 14 marijuana dispensaries and arrested 31 people. In an interview, Bonnie Dumanis, the district attorney for San Diego County, said that state laws governing medical marijuana were unclear and that the city had not yet instituted new regulations.

Ms. Dumanis said that she approved of medical marijuana clubs where patients grow and use their own marijuana, but that none of the 60 or so dispensaries in the county operated that way.

“These guys are drug dealers,” she said of the 14 that were raided. “I said publicly, if anyone thinks we’re casting too big a net and we get a legitimate patient or a lawful collective, then show us your taxes, your business license, your incorporation papers, your filings with the Department of Corporations.”

“If they had these things, we wouldn’t prosecute,” she said.

Marijuana supporters worry that San Diego may provide a glimpse of the near future for Los Angeles if raids here become a reality. But many look to Harborside Health Center in Oakland as a model for how dispensaries could work.

“Our No. 1 task is to show that we are worthy of the public’s trust in asking to distribute medical cannabis in a safe and secure manner,” said Steve DeAngelo, the pig-tailed proprietor of Harborside, which has been in business for three years.

Harborside is one of four licensed dispensaries in Oakland run as nonprofit organizations. It is the largest, with 74 employees and revenues of about $20 million. Last summer, the Oakland City Council passed an ordinance to collect taxes from the sale of marijuana, a measure that Mr. DeAngelo supported.

Mr. DeAngelo designed Harborside to exude legitimacy, security and comfort. Visitors to the low-slung building are greeted by security guards who check the required physicians’ recommendations. Inside, the dispensary looks like a bank, except that the floor is covered with hemp carpeting and the eight tellers stand behind identical displays of marijuana and hashish.

There is a laboratory where technicians determine the potency of the marijuana and label it accordingly. (Harborside says it rejects 80 percent of the marijuana that arrives at its door for insufficient quality.) There is even a bank vault where the day’s cash is stored along with reserves of premium cannabis. An armored truck picks up deposits every evening.

City officials routinely audit the dispensary’s books. Surplus cash is rolled back into the center to pay for free counseling sessions and yoga for patients. “Oakland issued licenses and regulations, and Los Angeles did nothing and they are still unregulated,” Mr. DeAngelo said. “Cannabis is being distributed by inappropriate people.”

But even Oakland’s regulations fall short of Mr. Trutanich’s proposal that Los Angeles ban all cash sales.

“I don’t know of any collective that operates in the way that is envisioned by this ordinance,” said Mr. Duncan, of Americans for Safe Access.

Christine Gasparac, a spokeswoman for State Attorney General Jerry Brown, said that after Mr. Trutanich’s comments in Los Angeles, law enforcement officials and advocates from around the state had called seeking clarity on medical marijuana laws.

Mr. Brown has issued legal guidelines that allow for nonprofit sales of medical marijuana, she said. But, she added, with laws being interpreted differently, “the final answer will eventually come from the courts.” By Jim Wilson. Source.

October 16, 2009 – The Wild West of Weed – The only job 31-year-old Jason Beck has ever had is selling weed. He started as a teenager from a trailer park in Pittsburg, Calif., outside Oakland, running what heJason-Beck-Medical-marijuana-wide-horizontal calls a shop in a box. A shoebox full of marijuana, a list of loyal customers, and a beeper were all he needed 15 years ago. Beck still sells pot, but now from a storefront on sunny Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood. His Alternative Herbal Health Services was one of the first medical cannabis caregiver dispensaries to open up in the Los Angeles area in 2005. At the time, there were fewer than 20 of these legal pot shops in all of Southern California.

Today, L.A. is overrun with close to 1,000 of them. Ever since U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder called off federal raids on dispensaries in February, the number of these businesses in L.A. has exploded in what’s being deemed “The Green Rush.” But California law prohibits medical-marijuana dispensaries from making profits; they must be run as nonprofit collectives that grow their own merchandise that they sell only to patients with state-issued medical-cannabis cards (available with a doctor’s recommendation). Many of the recent newcomers, however, are buying marijuana instead of growing their own, and marking it up for a profit. Unlike Oakland or San Francisco, or even nearby West Hollywood, L.A. has no local ordinance regulating dispensaries. After struggling for two years to draft some form of guidelines, the L.A. city council still has nothing on the books. In the interim, the city has become a cannabis free-for-all.

L.A. County District Attorney Steve Cooley, the same guy who ordered the arrest of Roman Polanski earlier this month in Switzerland, has grown weary of the party. “The vast, vast, vast majority, about 100 percent, of dispensaries in Los Angeles County and the city are operating illegally,” he told reporters on Oct. 8. “The time is right to deal with this problem.”

Anticipation of the coming crackdown angers Beck, who says a bunch of amateurs looking for a quick buck are ruining what he’s worked hard to establish as a legitimate, legal business in compliance with the state’s medical-marijuana laws. “Those of us who’ve been in this for a while, who’ve established ourselves, we’re pissed off because they’re riding on the coattails of the work we’ve put in,” he says. “They don’t know what it’s like to be raided. So, yeah, I’m all for them getting closed. Let them see how it feels.”

Beck’s shop was one of 11 Los Angeles-area dispensaries raided by the federal Drug Enforcement Administration on Jan. 17, 2007. As he recalls, DEA agents in black SWAT-team gear came smashing through his glass front door around 1 p.m. By then, Beck’s shop had been broken into twice already, so he had spent close to $90,000 upgrading security, reinforcing walls, adding bulletproof glass, and installing an electronic-buzzer system that locks the several doors patients must pass through to gain entry to his shop, and ultimately the back room where he keeps his cash and marijuana. When the federal agents came storming in, they found themselves immediately stuck in the small man trap that Beck installed as his first line of defense. It’s essentially a steel cage you walk into upon getting buzzed in at the front door. Once inside, patients show their medical-cannabis ID cards to the receptionist, who then buzzes them into the main area. The man trap is big enough for only about four people, so seven or eight DEA agents found themselves smushed on top of each other, faces pressed against the bars, guns drawn. Beck and his receptionist just sat there looking at them. “If we were real gangsta drug dealers, we could have sniped them all out,” he jokes.

Once they extricated themselves from Beck’s man trap, the agents stayed for four hours and detained everyone who was inside, handcuffing and questioning them all separately. They seized every ounce of marijuana, Beck says, about $500,000 worth, and all his cash too, about $25,000, though he later got an invoice from the DEA claiming they’d seized only $12,500. “Someone pocketed 12 grand,” he says. “How corrupt is that?” A DEA spokesperson wouldn’t address individual allegations, and would say only that all cash seized during raids is put into evidence bags and taken to a bank where it’s counted by bank officials and witnessed by DEA agents. Beck says they also cut all his security-camera wires and finished smashing the glass out of his front door before leaving, resulting in $20,000 in property damage.

Even though California legalized medical cannabis in 1996, and West Hollywood had adopted its own ordinance in 2006 regulating the operation of dispensaries, marijuana is still illegal as far as the federal government is concerned. And it remains the DEA’s job to enforce federal drug laws, which trump local and state laws. Still, some local officials were angry about the raids. “Anger is an understatement; we were outraged,” says John Duran, a West Hollywood city-council member who was mayor in 2007. “They gave us no heads-up, they came in at the last minute. It was ridiculous.”

Beck and other dispensary owners who were raided were never charged with a crime. The DEA says that charges have been filed against three individuals from the 2007 raids. “They just wanted to send a message and try to scare people,” says Don Duncan, whose L.A. dispensary was raided on July 25, 2007. He too was never charged.

Beck was back in business a week after the raid, as was JoAnna LaForce, whose dispensary, the Farmacy, located just down Santa Monica Boulevard, was raided that same day. She says the raid cost her $25,000 in property damage. “They threw everything everywhere and made an absolute mess of the place,” says LaForce, also not charged with a crime. “But we weathered the storm.” Over the past two years, Beck and LaForce say things have been pretty quiet. They maintained their nonprofit collective business model, saying they grow their own pot and sell it only to patients who registered with them and have medical-use cards issued by the state. On the advice of his lawyer, Beck deals only in cash. Since marijuana is illegal under federal law, and credit cards are usually issued by federally regulated banks, using them could potentially trigger a federal money-laundering case. So every month Beck takes a big trash bag of cash to his lawyer’s office, who then deposits the money in a trust and pays state sales tax from that.

After the raids, LaForce and Beck continued their efforts to become upstanding members of the business community. They joined the chamber of commerce, and now feel as entrenched as the Whole Foods down the block. The four medical-marijuana dispensaries on Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood generate an estimated $4 million of local sales-tax revenue every year for the city, according to the proprietors. . “We’ve worked very hard here to establish protocols and standards of operation,” says LaForce. “And we’ve been very active in trying to establish a sensible ordinance for all of Los Angeles. But it just hasn’t happened, and now it’s like were back to Reefer Madness,” she says, referring to the church-sponsored anti-marijuana film made in 1936 that’s become a cult classic.

LaForce shares Beck’s animosity for the profiteers she says are taking advantage of the lack of a city ordinance to make a quick buck. She feels confident that when the raids do start up again, nonprofit collectives like hers and Beck’s will be spared. But that depends on whether law enforcement will differentiate between those that are operating illegally and those that have been in compliance with the local law. “We’re all a little more nervous these days,” she says. Duran says that West Hollywood city-council members have explicitly reminded their sheriff that marijuana is not a priority, and not to cooperate with the L.A.P.D. in any attempts to raid or shut down dispensaries. “But,” Duran adds, “Steve Cooley is our D.A. here in West Hollywood.” The D.A.’s office tells NEWSWEEK that Cooley believes dispensaries operating properly under the law should be safe. He just doesn’t know of any collectives that are currently operating as such.

As for Beck, he recently downloaded a Cannabis Club app for his iPhone that pinpoints the location of all the dispensaries around L.A. When he types in a ZIP code, Beck marvels at the hundreds of pushpins that go flying into almost every strip mall and shopping center and even residential neighborhoods. “We’re totally oversaturated,” he says. Just a few weeks ago, a shop opened up only a couple of blocks from Beck’s dispensary. He’s driven by a few times, and gone to its Web site. The place looks nice: flat-screen TVs, sofas and glass tables and plush carpets. It looks like an upscale hair salon. “They clearly put a lot of money into it,” Beck says. “We’ll see how long they last.” Source.

October 13, 2009 – A group of civilly-disobedient hemp farmers and business leaders were arrested this morning while digging up the lawn to plant industrial hemp seeds at the headquarters of the Drug DSCN2960Enforcement Administration.

David Bronner, the president of Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps, a more than 60-year-old company that does tens of millions of dollars of business annually, was among those arrested.

Bronner buys the hemp used in his soaps from Canadian farmers. He was arrested outside the DEA museum, which shares space with the headquarters.

“Our kids are going to come to this museum and say, ‘My God. Your generation was crazy. What the hell is wrong with you people?’” he said as Arlington County Police handcuffed him and walked him to a waiting car.

The group was arrested for trespassing.

A DEA spokeswoman referred comment to the Department of Justice “because they’re the people who set the policy for drugs.” A DOJ spokeswoman declined to comment.

Hemp, however, is not a drug and has no capacity to get someone stoned, the farmers pointed out. Wayne Hauge and Will Allen, farmers from North Dakota and Vermont respectively, brought shovels and seeds to the protest, where they were joined by representatives of Vote Hemp, which advocates for federal legislation that would allow states to craft their own hemp policies.

Currently eight states — Hawaii, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Montana, North Dakota, Vermont, and West Virginia — allow industrial hemp production or research, but federal law, which requires nearly-impossible-to-obtain-permits to grow hemp, trumps those state laws. A bill introduced by Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) and Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) would allow states to craft their own policies.
Story continues below

Isaac Nichelson, head of LiViTY Outernatioanl, a hemp clothing company, was also planting seeds, telling the officers and a handful of reporters that he’d rather buy his raw material domestically than from China.

“Who’s got a permit?” asked David Smith, DEA security supervisor, when he spotted the collection of farmers volunteering their agricultural services to his agency.

“As far as I know, we applied for the permit a long time ago,” Nichelson told him.

The farmers asked the next DEA official to arrive if he knew the difference between hemp and marijuana.

He wasn’t sure. “It’s a cousin, right? Or is it an uncle?”

Hauge is one of two farmers licensed by the state of North Dakota to grow hemp, but he can’t do so because of the federal ban. Mother Nature is apparently unaware of the federal restriction: Hemp grows wild through the United States.

President Reagan invested significant resources going after hemp, uprooting millions of plants of what it calls “ditchweed.” Reagan’s effort against ditchweed steadily increased and by 1989 the DEA was able to claim it had uprooted 120 million ditchweed plants. By 2001, that number reached half a billion.

The farmers argued that Instead of uprooting hemp, the government should allow American farmers to grow it, especially since American companies can already legally sell hemp products. “We’ve got a billion dollar industry we’re sleeping on,” said Hauge, who is suing the DEA for the right to raise hemp.

Hauge traces his interest in growing hemp back to the founding fathers, and one particularly famous hemp farmer. “The DEA would have arrested George Washington,” he said.

Source.

October 13, 2009 – Washington D.C. – Farmers, Hemp Industry Leaders Arrested for Planting Industrial photo1-1Hemp at DEA Headquarters in Act of Civil Disobedience to Protest ‘Reefer Madness’

At approximately 10 a.m. this morning, North Dakota farmer Wayne Hauge, Vermont farmer Will Allen, and fed up American entrepreneurs, who have dedicated their livelihoods to developing and marketing healthy, environmentally-friendly hemp products, for the first time turned to public civil disobedience with the planting of industrial hemp seed at DEA headquarters (700 Army Navy Dr Arlington, VA 22202) to protest the ban on hemp farming in the United States. Even though the U.S. is the largest market for hemp products in the world, and industrial hemp is farmed throughout Europe, Asia and Canada, not a single American farmer has the right to grow the versatile crop which is used for food, clothing, body care, paper, building materials, auto paneling and more.

Hoping to focus the attention of the Obama Administration on halting DEA interference, North Dakota Farmer Wayne Hauge; Founder of Cedar Circle Organic Farm in Vermont Will Allen; Hemp Industries Association (HIA) President Steve Levine; Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps President David Bronner; Vote Hemp Communications Director Adam Eidinger and Founder of Livity Outernational Hemp Clothing, Issac Nichelson were arrested while digging up the DEA’s lawn to plant industrial hemp seed imported from Canada. At this time, they are currently being held in Arlington County jail and are awaiting charges. They are expected to be released later this afternoon and will be available for interviews upon release. The six protesters planted hemp seeds with ceremonial chrome shovels engraved with:

Hemp Planting Oct. 2009 ~ DEA Headquarters ~ American Farmers Shall Grow Hemp Again

Reefer Madness Will Be Buried

Mr. Hauge is licensed by North Dakota to cultivate and process non-drug industrial hemp, just as Canadian farmers across the border have done profitably for over ten years supplying the booming U.S. market. However, the DEA refuses to distinguish non-drug industrial hemp cultivars grown for millennia for seed and fiber and has unconstitutionally blocked all state hemp programs such as North Dakota’s. Mr. Hauge, along with North Dakota State Rep. David Monson, sued the DEA in the U.S. District Court of North Dakota in 2007, and the case is currently before the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. “In recent years there has been strong growth in demand for hemp in the U.S., but the American farmer is being left out while Canadian, European and Chinese farmers fill the void created by outdated federal policy,” said fourth-generation farmer Hauge. “When hemp is legalized, land grant universities across the nation will develop cultivars suitable to different growing regions to enhance yield and explore innovative uses such as cellulosic ethanol.”

Pictures and video of the action for free and unrestricted use, along with hemp farming footage and background information are available upon request in hardcopy and online. An HIA produced video of the action will also be posted, after 6 p.m. on 10/13 at: http://www.votehemp.com/DEAhempplanting.html

In the back drop of the spectacle at DEA headquarters, dozens of hemp business owners in town attending the HIA convention over the weekend fanned out across Capitol Hill to lobby lawmakers in support of hemp legislation introduced by Representatives Ron Paul (R-TX) and Barney Frank (D-MA) that would permit states to cultivate non-drug industrial hemp under state industrial hemp programs. Nine states have such programs, but their implementation has been blocked by DEA bureaucratic intransigence. This spring, however, President Obama instructed federal agencies to respect state laws in a presidential directive on federal pre-emption:

“Executive departments and agencies should be mindful that in our federal system, the citizens of the several States have distinctive circumstances and values, and that in many instances it is appropriate for them to apply to themselves rules and principles that reflect these circumstances and values. As Justice Brandeis explained more than 70 years ago, ‘it is one of the happy incidents of the federal system that a single courageous state may, if its citizens choose, serve as a laboratory and try novel social and economic experiments without risk to the rest of the country.’”

Source:

Vote Hemp and the HIA are dedicated to a free market for low-THC industrial hemp and to changes in current policy to allow U.S. farmers to once again grow this agricultural crop. Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps President and Vote Hemp Director David Bronner stated: “Dr. Bronner’s has grown into the leading natural soap brand in the U.S. since incorporating hemp oil in 1999, due in significant part to the unsurpassed smoothness it gives our soaps. As an American business, we want to give our money to American farmers and save on import and freight costs. In this difficult economy, we can no longer indulge the DEA’s self-serving hemp hysteria.”

Source.

October 12, 2009 – Californians have made it clear at the ballot box that they favor legalizing marijuana use for medical purposes. But, as critics feared, Prop. 215, the medical marijuana initiative that was passed 13 cali_pot_0311years ago, has only opened the door to abuse.

It’s estimated that there are 40 marijuana dispensaries in Long Beach and 800 or more in Los Angeles alone. L.A. County District Attorney Steve Cooley decided last week that most of them are operating illegally, and wants to shut them down.

That may be too harsh. As supporters of medical marijuana rightly contend, closing all dispensaries would punish people who are entitled to marijuana.

Prop. 215 and the state law permitting collective cultivation of marijuana were meant to help chemotherapy and others suffering from pain or nausea to obtain marijuana with a doctor’s recommendation. An actual prescription wasn’t needed. Given an opening, marijuana dispensaries cropped up everywhere, providing a safe, although apparently illegal, way for just about everyone to obtain the drug at competitive prices.

There is a better way to regulate marijuana. For starters, people who really need and want marijuana for their medical conditions should get a prescription — from a doctor — and fill the prescription at a pharmacy, just as they would obtain any medication. The whole process must be confidential. Keeping a list of medical marijuana users is unjust and unnecessary.

The next step would be to bow to the will of Californians, who generally favor decriminalizing marijuana use. It’s estimated that California is losing tens of millions of dollars from illegal marijuana sales — revenue it could collect if marijuana sales were legal. Once it’s legal, of course, prescriptions would not be necessary, and dispensaries could be tightly regulated, similar to the way liquor stores are regulated. Age limits, proximity of dispensaries to schools and residential areas would have to be regulated and enforced. Just as liquor can’t be sold without a license, street sales would be illegal.

Legalizing marijuana would go a long way toward reducing trafficking, which has turned Mexican border cities into horrific battlegrounds as drug cartels fight each other and the police, many of whom are so corrupt as to make regulation farcical.

If America learned anything from Prohibition, it’s that criminalizing a substance people want will only drive them to get it illegally. That lesson applies to marijuana. Legalize it. Regulate it. And enforce the regulations. The time has come. Source.

October 9, 2009 – Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley said Thursday he will prosecute medical marijuana dispensaries for over-the-counter sales, targeting a practice that has become commonplacePicture 2 under an initiative approved by California voters more than a decade ago.

“The vast, vast, vast majority, about 100%, of dispensaries in Los Angeles County and the city are operating illegally, they are dealing marijuana illegally, according to our theory,” he said. “The time is right to deal with this problem.”

Cooley and Los Angeles City Atty. Carmen Trutanich recently concluded that state law bars sales of medical marijuana, an opinion that could spark a renewed effort by law enforcement across the state to rein in the use of marijuana. It comes as polls show a majority of state voters back legalization of marijuana, and supporters are working to place the issue on the ballot next year.

The district attorney’s office is investigating about a dozen dispensaries, following police raids, and is considering filing felony charges against one that straddles the Los Angeles-Culver City line.

“We have our strategy and we think we are on good legal ground,” Cooley said.

Medical marijuana advocates say the prosecutors are misinterpreting the law.

“I’m confident that they are not right,” said Joe Elford, chief counsel for Americans for Safe Access. “If they are right, it would mean that thousands of seriously ill Californians for whom the Compassionate Use Act was intended to help would not be able to get the medicine that they need.”

Law enforcement officials have been frustrated by the explosion in the number of dispensaries in Southern California, arguing that most are for-profit enterprises that violate the 1996 voter initiative legalizing medical marijuana and the 2003 state law permitting collective cultivation. Cooley’s announcement, coming at a news conference that followed a training session he and Trutanich conducted for narcotics officers, dramatically raises the stakes.

In the city of Los Angeles, some estimates put the number of dispensaries as high as 800. The city allowed 186 to remain open under its 2007 moratorium, but hundreds of others opened in violation of the ban while the city did nothing to shut them down.

In August, Cooley and Sheriff Lee Baca sent a letter to all mayors and police chiefs in the county, saying that they believed over-the-counter sales were illegal and encouraging cities to adopt permanent bans on dispensaries.

Mark Kleiman, a professor of public policy at UCLA and an expert on drug policy, was not surprised that local prosecutors had decided to attack the rapid proliferation of marijuana stores.

“I think it’s a natural response to the rather flagrant marketing practices of a bunch of the dispensaries. The medical veneer has been wearing thinner and thinner,” he said. “I’ve always wondered why those things were legal when they didn’t look legal to me.”

Cooley said he believes that under state law, collectives must raise their own marijuana and can only recoup their costs. “That’s absolutely legal,” he said. “We’re going to respect that.”

But he said none of them currently do that.

The district attorney’s warning could make the situation more chaotic in Los Angeles, where the City Council has struggled for two years to devise an ordinance to control the distribution of medical marijuana.

In addition to prosecuting dispensaries, Cooley said he would consider going after doctors who write medical marijuana recommendations for healthy people. Medical marijuana critics argue that some doctors freely recommend the drug to people who are not ill.

Medical marijuana advocates celebrated a brief thaw in the enforcement climate after the Obama administration signaled earlier this year that it would not prosecute collectives that followed state law. That spurred many entrepreneurs to open dispensaries in Los Angeles. As stores popped up near schools and parks, neighborhood activists reacted with outrage and police took notice.

Councilman Dennis Zine, a key player on the issue at L.A. City Hall, welcomed Cooley’s decision to prosecute dispensaries. “There are many that are operating illegally and it’s not a secret,” he said, adding that he believes “a few” collectives in the city are operating legally.

Anticipating that police departments will ramp up raids on dispensaries, medical marijuana advocates reacted with dismay to Cooley’s announcement.

“What we’ll see is a big disruption,” said Don Duncan, the California director for Americans for Safe Access. He called Cooley’s decision “incredible” and said, “It certainly sounds scary.”

Duncan acknowledged that many dispensaries do not follow the law and urged Cooley and Trutanich to focus exclusively on them. “You don’t have to cast a net over the entire community, you can target the problem people and not take this extreme adversarial position,” he said. “Some good people are going to be caught in the crossfire.”

About 100 medical marijuana patients, activists and dispensary owners protested on a sidewalk outside the Montebello Country Club, where about 150 prosecutors and narcotics officers met. Motorists repeatedly honked and shook their fists in support as they rolled by, triggering cheers from the crowd.

Barry Kramer, the operator of California Patients Alliance, a collective on Melrose Avenue, said many dispensaries have responsibly regulated themselves for years in the vacuum left by the City Council’s inaction.

“I feel like that gets lost,” he said. “It’s frustrating to get painted with one brush by the city.”

Kramer said he believed that dispensaries would continue to operate. “People have found ways around marijuana laws for as long as there have been marijuana laws,” he said.

But he also said that stepped-up prosecutions could resuscitate the criminal market: “Things will go underground. We’ll see a lot more crime.”

When Californians voted for Proposition 215 in 1996, they made it legal for patients with a doctor’s recommendation and their caregivers to possess and raise pot for the patient’s medical use.

In 2003, the Legislature allowed patients and caregivers “collectively or cooperatively to cultivate marijuana for medical purposes” but said they could not do it for profit.

Cooley and Trutanich, after reviewing a state Supreme Court decision from last year, have concluded that the law protects collectives from prosecution only in the cultivation of marijuana, not for sales or distribution.

Medical marijuana advocates, however, note that the state currently requires dispensaries to collect sales taxes on marijuana, and that guidelines drawn up by the attorney general conclude that “a properly organized and operated collective or cooperative that dispenses medical marijuana through a storefront may be lawful.”

The guidelines allow collectives to take costs into account but do not deal directly with over-the-counter sales.

Jacob Appelsmith, special assistant attorney general, said Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown talked to Cooley on Thursday. “Our staffs are continuing to meet about these issues,” he said.

Source. By John Hoeffel

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.