December 8, 2009 – Seeking to bring the city’s medical marijuana dispensary boom under tight control, the Los Angeles City Council decided today to cap the total number at 70, but to allow those that originally registered with the city to remain open.

Under the city’s 2007 moratorium on new dispensaries, 186 registered with the city. Officials believe at least 137 of those remain open in their original locations. Under the motion adopted this afternoon, those dispensaries could stay open but could be required to move to comply with the ordinance’s restrictions on where they may locate.

Councilman Jose Huizar proposed a cap to ensure that dispensaries would not be concentrated in any one neighborhood. Currently, with no ordinance in place to control their location, dispensaries have clustered in some neighborhoods, such as Eagle Rock, Hollywood and Woodland Hills, drawn by empty storefronts or by proximity to night life.

Urging the city to adopt a low number that it could control, Huizar said that “it is always easier to roll up than to ramp down.”

Councilman Dennis Zine argued strongly to give preference to the dispensaries that registered with the city. “I think we should hold true to those that followed the rules,” he said

After adopting the cap, the council turned to other aspects of the proposed ordinance. It remained unclear when the entire package might come to a final vote.

City officials say between 800 and 1,000 dispensaries are operating. Most opened in violation of a moratorium that the city failed to enforce and that a judge has recently decided was invalid because the City Council illegally extended it.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa had also urged the council to send him an ordinance that would put a firm limit on the number of dispensaries in Los Angeles.

With no data on the number of medical marijuana patients in Los Angeles, council members took the same approach as other cities that have adopted caps: picking a number that sounded reasonable to them. Council members acknowledged that they may have to revisit the issue.

The only other city among the state’s 10 largest to impose a cap is Oakland, which has less than one-tenth the population of Los Angeles and allows four dispensaries. Those operations have become extremely successful, splitting about $20 million a year in sales. Berkeley, with a population of 107,000, allows three shops; Palm Springs, population 47,600, two; West Hollywood, population 37,000, four; and Sebastopol, population 7,700, two.

Several of these cities, which set their caps arbitrarily, are now considering raising them.

By John Hoeffel. Source.

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December 03, 2009 – The latest reports out of Trenton are that by the time the current governor leaves office, New Jersey is likely to have a law authorizing medical marijuana. So on a recent trip to California I decided to check out a marijuana clinic to see what the future will be like.

I was amazed at what I witnessed when I first walked in the door of the clinic on a downtown street in Oakland. The proponents of medical marijuana argue that those who need it are often suffering from dreadful, debilitating diseases. So I felt great sympathy for the patients as I watched them walk into the back room of the clinic to get their prescriptions filled. I could only imagine the agony these poor, unfortunate souls must have been experiencing.

Amazingly, though, every single one of them exited with a spring in his step. One young patient had apparently experienced such a miraculous cure that he picked up a skateboard and went swooping away on the sidewalk after he picked up his pot. Imagine that. The guy was probably confined to a wheelchair just the other day. Now he was doing ollies and fakies halfway to Berkeley.

I was impressed. I was equally impressed by the coffee and the chocolate cake. Did I mention that the clinic is also a coffee shop? It’s called the Blue Sky, and it’s modeled after the marijuana dispensaries in Amsterdam. In fact, the locals call this part of Oakland “Oaksterdam” to highlight the resemblance.

The difference is that in Amsterdam the pot is sold to everyone. In California, you have to have a photo ID that identifies you as a patient. I got talking to some of the staff and the patients. It turns out there are a surprisingly large number of illnesses that will qualify you for that ID card. If you’re having a hard time sleeping, for example, the doctor might prescribe some “Blue Dream.” Other maladies will respond to a dose of “Green Cush” or perhaps a few hits of “Querkle.”

Another good thing about this clinic was that it didn’t have the antiseptic air of a typical health clinic. On a sunny Sunday afternoon there was a jazz band playing on the sidewalk outside. Apparently jazz musicians long ago discovered the healing properties of marijuana, and they are eager to share their knowledge with the general public.

Down the block is an educational institution called Oaksterdam University. There, students take 13-week courses in the growing of this miracle medicine. They can even buy seedlings if they care to grow some of their own at home, a practice also permitted under California law.

Somewhere in there, I began to suspect that these patients weren’t as sick as advertised. Perhaps they were just sick of not being high.

Sure enough, it turns out the ultimate goal of California’s pot proponents is to make this miracle drug available to all adults without a prescription. On the café’s counter next to the cake was a petition calling for a referendum that would make marijuana legal for all Californians over the age of 21. It would be highly taxed and both the state and the municipality would get a share.

The owners of the Blue Sky and other clinics around California already make a point of collecting tax on every transaction and handing that revenue over to the government. The idea is that the pols in cash-strapped California will become as dependent on that revenue stream as the patients are on their prescriptions.

I’ve listened to a lot of the debate over medicinal marijuana in New Jersey, and our pols insist that our medical-marijuana law would be different than California’s, with tighter controls. I doubt it. The same dynamic at work in the Golden State is at work in the Garden State. When it comes to legalization, medicinal marijuana is just the camel’s nose under the tent.

The funny thing is, there’s another Camel headed the other way. The cigarette manufacturers are finding their product becoming more tightly regulated just as the pot growers are watching their regulations loosened. Many municipalities are banning the smoking of cigarettes on streets, in parks and just about anywhere in public. Meanwhile, the pot smokers in California are already agreeing to similar restrictions as part of that referendum.

So we may wind up with a situation in which pot smokers and cigarette smokers are treated equally under the law. They’ll be able to smoke, but just in private. Only their taxes will be public.

That’s fine with me. I don’t smoke either pot or cigarettes. But if the potheads want to join the nicotine fiends in lowering my tax burden, that may be the best prescription of all. By Paul Mulshine Source.
New Jersey considers a medical marijuana law – Video:

SOUTHFIELD, Mich. — At most colleges, marijuana is very much an extracurricular matter. But at Med Grow Cannabis College, marijuana is the curriculum: the history, the horticulture and the legal how-to’s of Michigan’s new medical marijuana program.

“This state needs jobs, and we think medical marijuana can stimulate the state economy with hundreds of jobs and millions of dollars,” said Nick Tennant, the 24-year-old founder of the college, which is actually a burgeoning business (no baccalaureates here) operating from a few bare-bones rooms in a Detroit suburb.

The six-week, $485 primer on medical marijuana is a cross between an agricultural extension class covering the growing cycle, nutrients and light requirements (“It’s harvest time when half the trichomes have turned amber and half are white”) and a gathering of serious potheads, sharing stories of their best highs (“Smoke that and you are … medicated!”).

The only required reading: “Marijuana Horticulture: The Indoor/Outdoor Medical Grower’s Bible” by Jorge Cervantes.

Even though the business of growing medical marijuana is legal under Michigan’s new law, there is enough nervousness about the enterprise that most students at a recent class did not want their names or photographs used. An instructor also asked not to be identified.

“My wife works for the government,” one student said, “and I told my mother-in-law I was going to a small-business class.”

While California’s medical marijuana program, the country’s oldest, is now big business, with hundreds of dispensaries in Los Angeles alone, the Michigan program, which started in April, is more representative of what is happening in other states that have legalized medical marijuana.

Under the Michigan law, patients whose doctors certify their medical need for marijuana can grow up to 12 cannabis plants themselves or name a “caregiver” who will grow the plants and sell the product. Anyone over 21 with no felony drug convictions can be a caregiver for up to five patients. So far, the Department of Community Health has registered about 5,800 patients and 2,400 caregivers.

For Mr. Tennant, who is certified as both a caregiver and a patient — he said he has stomach problems and anxiety — Med Grow replaces the auto detailing business he started straight out of high school, only to see it founder when the economy contracted. Med Grow began offering its course in September, with new classes starting every month.

On a recent Tuesday, two teachers led a four-hour class, starting with Todd Alton, a botanist who provided no tasting samples as he talked the students through a list of cannabis recipes, including crockpot cannabutter, chocolate canna-ganache and greenies (the cannabis alternative to brownies).

The second instructor, who would not give his name, took the class through the growing cycle, the harvest and the curing techniques to increase marijuana’s potency.

Mr. Tennant said he saw the school as the hub of a larger business that will sell supplies to its graduate medical marijuana growers, offer workshops and provide a network for both patient and caregiver referrals. Already, Med Grow is a gathering place for those interested in medical marijuana. The whiteboard in the reception room lists names and numbers of several patients looking for caregivers, and a caregiver looking for patients.

The students are a diverse group: white and black, some in their 20s, some much older, some employed, some not. Some keep their class attendance, and their growing plans, close to the chest.

“I’ve just told a couple of people I can trust,” said Jeffery Butler, 27. “It’s a business opportunity, but some people are still going to look at you funny. But I’m going to do it anyway.”

Scott Austin, an unemployed 41-year-old student, said he and two partners were planning to go into medical marijuana together.

“I never smoked marijuana in my life,” he said. “I heard about this at a business expo a couple of months ago.”

Because the Michigan program is so new, gray areas in the law have not been tested, creating real concern for some students. For example, it is not legal to start growing marijuana before being officially named a caregiver to a certified patient, but patients who are sick, certified and ready to buy marijuana generally do not want to wait through the months of the growing cycle until a crop is ready. So for the time being, coordinating entry into the business feels to some like a kind of Catch-22.

Students say they are getting all kinds of extra help and ideas from going to class.

“I want to learn all the little tricks, everything I can,” said Sue Maxwell, a student who drives each week from her home four hours north of Detroit. “It’s a big investment, and I want to do it right.”

Ms. Maxwell, who works at a bakery, is already a caregiver — in the old, nondrug sense of the word — to a few older people for whom she thinks medical marijuana might be a real boon.

“I fix their meals, and I help with housekeeping,” Ms. Maxwell said. “I have an 85-year-old lady who has no appetite. I don’t know if she’d have any interest in medical marijuana, but I bet it would help her.”

Ms. Maxwell said her plan to grow marijuana was slow in hatching.

“We were talking at the bakery all summer,” she said. “Just joking around, I said: ‘I’m going to grow medical marijuana. I’m a gardener, I’ve always dreamed of having a greenhouse, I think it would be great.’ And then I suddenly thought, hey, I really am going to grow medical marijuana.” Source.

November 25, 2009 – via Denver Westward – Two months ago, we posted a notice that we were looking for a medical marijuana critic, to review the dispensaries that were springing up across Colorado. Hundreds of applications, many international media inquiries and probably dozens of new dispensaries later, we’ve chosen our critics.

Read their bios below.

Critic 1: The pseudonymous William Breathes:

I’m a 29-year-old grad student at a private university in Denver, where I live with my girlfriend and our two dogs. I have been writing for newspapers in some form or other since high school, and have an undergraduate degree in journalism from Metropolitan State College of Denver. Prior to entering graduate school, I worked as a reporter covering general news, education and medicine in the greater metro area.

I have been a medical marijuana patient in Colorado for roughly a year, but have been smoking pot recreationally and medicinally for nearly fifteen years. I am a medical patient because of ongoing nausea and stomach pain that has hospitalized me countless times over the years – several times this year alone. Pot helps me curb not only the nausea, but also ease the anxiety that comes with more severe episodes. Granted, there are pharmaceuticals that can help curb those symptoms, but the most effective anti-nausea pill gives me migraine-like headaches — a tradeoff that I avoid whenever possible. The flip side is this: I also smoke pot recreationally, and have enjoyed seeing the marijuana variety in Colorado grow as the medical scene has blossomed.

I’m hoping to strike a balance in my reviews of medical marijuana dispensaries and give information that both the cannabis-freak strain-junky and the pot-newbie alike can use. I also want to bring much-needed information to the public about the good, bad and sketchy of Denver’s pot clubs – but I want to do this with a dose of self-aware humor.

After all, we pot smokers can be a pretty entertaining bunch at times.

Critic 2: The Wildflowerseed

I am a 35-year-old, married mother of three. Not who you’d expect for a pot critic, perhaps. Please allow me to dismantle any preconceptions you may have.

I have a bachelor’s degree in poetics from NYU and a master’s degree in journalism and environmental policy from the University of Colorado. I currently teach writing and journalism at the college level, as well as freelancing.

My love of music led me from New York City to Colorado more than a decade ago, and since then I’ve been covering the Front Range underground music scene with a passion for exposing untapped talent and innovative sounds. I plan to use a great deal of what I learned while writing about music in this position. By cultivating a language seeped in history, trends and (all the crazy) politics, I hope my readers will feel like they can reach right out and taste the pot.

A wanderer by nature, I am a great lover of both science and poetry. I love the outdoors and I basically love a good freak-show. I was quite tickled to hear about the dispensary critic position — I admit I laughed — but I also realized this was an important opportunity.

As a registered medical marijuana patient in Colorado, I use ghanja recreationally and to calm extremely persistent joint pain I’ve lived with since high school. I do not consider myself to be a critical patient, but in a nutshell, I feel that I am an adult, I pay my taxes, and at the end of the day I’d like to relax and ease my pain with herb, rather than pills or alcohol.

I also watched a friend die of AIDS in the early 1990s. A hemophiliac, he received a bad blood transfusion. At the end, when he was wasting away, his doctor told him to smoke pot. It gave him six more months.

I know that critical patients are out there, people battling cancer, glaucoma, multiple sclerosis and other debilitating conditions, who use this medication not just to ease their suffering, but to actively fight their illnesses. These patients should not be forced into the seedy criminal underworld to find their medication, and I hope to point them instead to a safer way to access marijuana.

We’ll be firing up a new review every week at Mile Highs and Lows. Enjoy. Source.

November 25, 2009 – Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa urged the City Council on Wednesday toadopt a medical marijuana ordinance that would put a limit on the number of dispensaries.

“We have a right as a city to cap the number,” he said, saying that a cap was “without question” needed to reduce the number to a level that the Police Department and city officials can adequately monitor. “Communities have a right to protect the character of those communities and the security of those neighborhoods.”

The mayor declined to say what he thought the cap should be. “I can tell you that the current number of 800, or whatever, 900, is way beyond what any city should be able to accept,” he said.

The council, which debated its draft ordinance Tuesday, instructed city officials to study a citywide cap between 70 and 200 dispensaries, and separate caps, set by population, for each of the city’s 35 community plan areas or 21 police divisions.

A number of cities have caps, but most of them are much smaller than Los Angeles. Oakland, the largest city to impose a cap, allows four.

Villaraigosa, who has to approve the ordinance, said the council needs to write one that does not allow dispensaries to sell marijuana in a way that violates state law.

Council members decided Tuesday not to ban medical marijuana sales, disregarding the advice of the city attorney and the Los Angeles County district attorney, who believe the law makes any sales illegal.

Instead, the council adopted a provision that allows cash contributions for marijuana, which was a compromise that members believe will allow sales to continue and the city attorney’s top aides said would not run counter to state law.

Villaraigosa said he had not reviewed the provision. “I’ve been dealing with a bunch of other things all day long,” he said in a short interview outside his City Hall office.

Although there is debate about whether the law allows sales, the law is clear that dispensaries cannot make a profit. Villaraigosa said he believed many in the city were violating the requirement.

“People are trying to drive a truck through loopholes, and when you have that number it makes it very difficult for us,” he said.

john.hoeffel@latimes.com

November 23, 2009 – Patients with a doctor’s recommendation can legally possess and smoke marijuana in California for medical purposes. But where do they get their pot? The recent crackdown on marijuana dispensaries in San Diego has raised questions about legality of growing it and selling it.

California law says patients and caregivers can form collectives or cooperatives to cultivate marijuana for medical purposes. And that’s what Josh Bilben said he’s doing. He said he’s providing a place for patients, who don’t grow, to get medication from people who do.”

“One of the big concerns that communities, city planner, everybody has is where is this coming from,”said Bilben. “And what I’m able to say is this is coming from right here. No other place.”

Bilben is the director of Delta Nine Therapy, a medical marijuana collective in San Diego. He spoke as he pushed aside a metal cage door and unzipped a plastic sheet, that covers the inside of a seven by seven foot room containing 24 marijuana plants. The room is one of two locations where his collective grows product. Banks of lights hover over the plants. A fan keeps the air moving and a humidifier puts out a stream of vapor. Bilben says he’s growing a variety of plants.

“Now the Indica, the Purple Kush… when you take that it basically, in stoner terms, is called a couch lock,” said Bilben. “You sit on the couch. You don’t get up. You don’t really think about a whole lot. Like I said, the purple Kush is really good for chronic pain.”

The collection of plants doesn’t look like very much. But Bilben hopes, once the plants reach their flowering apex, they will provide ten pounds of smokable buds for him and three other patients. The collective charges its members 18 dollars a gram for Purple Kush to cover the cost of production.

In September, San Diego District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis announced raids on 14 medical marijuana operations. She accused the dispensaries of earning a profit and selling to anyone who came in the door, both of which violate state law. Dumanis and police chief Bill Landsdowne went on to say they knew of no medical marijuana dispensaries in San Diego that were following the law.

But Josh Bilben believes he is following the law. Will Johnson does too. Johnson is director of the Kind Gardeners Collective, which grows plants in several San Diego locations.

“We have somebody’s patio. Somebody’s spare bedroom. We have an area in a commercial office. And this next month we’ll have the basement of a residential home,” said Johnson.

Johnson speaks from the patio of his Kensington home, located on the same street where the San Diego mayor resides. The growth of the medical marijuana business has raised concerns that dispensaries have gotten marijuana from illegal sources. Johnson says that’s certainly possible.

“Is there a loophole where the cartel can come in and join the collective, and then start supplying the collective? I can imagine that,” he said. “But think about that. Because we’re not talking about Mexican pot being brought up here, because no dispensary is going to sell Mexi. It’s crap.”

The tussle over medical marijuana in California heated up last week when the District Attorney of Los Angeles said his office would prosecute any collective that sold marijuana. In September, San Diego DA Bonnie Dumanis said patients who need medical marijuana should grow their own.

But while state guidelines require marijuana operations to be non-profit, they do not say sales are illegal. Josh Bilben points out his marijuana collective generates state sales tax. Alex Kreit, the chairman of San Diego Medical Marijuana Task Force, adds that the law makes no requirement that patients just grow their own. He makes the comparison between a marijuana cooperative and a food coop.

“Anyone who’s been a member of a food cooperative knows, it’s not like everyone who’s a member has to come in and grow their own turnips and grow their own radishes,” said Kreit. “I think that is just not consistent with what is meant by a collective and cooperative, and what the law contemplates as a collective and cooperative.”

The task force is writing recommendations to the San Diego City Council as to how medical marijuana businesses should be permitted and regulated. By Tom Fudge. Source.

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Past the security man and his pit bull and through a haze of eye-watering smoke, two youths load up a pipe next to a row of shiny glass jars with two dozen varieties of marijuana bud displayed like candy.

Hundreds of pot shops have sprung up in the last couple of years across Los Angeles, taking advantage of California’s medical marijuana laws to do a brisk trade in cannabis offerings branded with names like “Big Buds” and “Super Trainwreck”.

Roughly 1,000 marijuana dispensaries now cater to cancer patients and recreational dope smokers alike — but city prosecutors declared war on many of them this month with threats to take action against those selling pot for profit.

A state law passed in 1996 decriminalized marijuana for medical use, and a 2003 ballot measure specified the drug could be cultivated and distributed to prescription-holding patients through nonprofit collectives.

Advocates for greater legalization have argued the 2003 initiative permits medical marijuana to be sold in storefront businesses, which have flourished since federal raids ceased after President George W. Bush left office in January.

A 2007 city moratorium on new outlets made little difference.

The new crackdown by local authorities comes as President Barack Obama has signaled a softer stance on medical marijuana, telling federal attorneys not to prosecute individual users or dispensaries in states where it has been legalized, and the country’s first medical marijuana cafe has opened in Oregon.

Licensed Californian collectives that adhere to the rules say legitimate operations like theirs are being sucked into a sweep against what local prosecutors deem rogue pot shops.

“We are low-hanging fruit for the cops,” said the manager of a West Hollywood dispensary, as a migraine-prone movie production assistant came in to buy two quarter-ounce (seven-gram) bags of weed and a bag of marijuana lozenges.

“We vet everyone who comes through the door. We play by the rules, we’re grown-ups. But there’s zero law enforcement, so all these rogue collectives have opened, and we are being lumped in with them,” he said, declining to give his name.

California was the first of about a dozen U.S. states to decriminalize marijuana for medical purposes, and its use is less controversial in cities like San Francisco and Oakland.

Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley and City Attorney Carmen Trutanich, however, say proliferation of pot shops in the second largest U.S. city has gone too far.

LAVA LAMPS TO RED EYES

“There’s no mention in the law that you can sell it over the counter,” Joseph Esposito, head of the district attorney’s narcotics division, told Reuters. “The dispensaries are about clever people who looked at the law and said: ‘How can I make a lot of money exploiting this?'”

Dispensaries are allowed to take donations for marijuana to cover cultivation costs and overhead, but they are not supposed turn a profit or sell more than individual doses. The marijuana is supposed to be consumed at the patient’s home.

The atmosphere and look of dispensaries vary considerably. Some have well-lit waiting rooms adorned with lava lamps, Asian-themed furniture and holistic medicine magazines clearly geared toward clients suffering from ill health.

“I’d be a nervous wreck if I couldn’t come here,” said Ernie, a gaunt middle-aged man visiting an upscale West Hollywood outlet to buy pot prescribed for his back pain, insomnia, amnesia and other minor mental and physical disabilities.

Other shops reek of pot, with red-eyed smokers puffing away on pipes in dingy back rooms where erotic posters boast a menu of marijuana strains with names like “Skywalker” and “AK-47”.

“I’m not a doctor. I don’t ask what’s wrong with people. My job is to supply them,” said the manager of one shabby pot shop, where a client sported gang-style facial tattoos.

Another dispensary manager admitted most of his clients just want to get high. He said they prefer the quality and prices of his products to those on the street.

“Ninety percent of people that come in have been smoking their whole lives,” said the 26-year-old, giving his name as Alex. “I wouldn’t be in business if it wasn’t for them.”

“I’d say 1 percent of my clients have a genuine hospital note. The other 99 percent come from these doctors who set up offices to give marijuana prescriptions all day,” he added.
Source.