After a brief hiatus, the DEA wrecking ball was back at work in California this week. Also, an important court victory in Colorado, a couple of court losses in Oregon, and Vermont is accepting dispensary applications. And there's a whole bunch more, too. Let's get to it:
Last Wednesday, Kern County dispensaries said they would try to overturn Measure G, a ballot measure approved by 69% of voters a day earlier. Measure G will require dispensaries to move to unincorporated areas of the county and also specifies that they must be a mile away from schools, churches, public parks, daycares, and each other. Dispensary operators said they are weighing their options for a legal challenge.
Last Thursday, the Humboldt County Planning Commission voted to revoke the permit for a Myrtletown dispensary. City planning staff said the Humboldt County Collective had failed to meet certain requirements outlined in its conditional use permit, including failing to widen a driveway and to provide financial information proving the collective is a nonprofit. The April arrest of collective president Bill Byron, 42, in Pennsylvania on suspicion of marijuana trafficking also didn't help. Byron has since stepped down as president. Now, the matter moves to the county Board of Supervisors.
Last Friday, an LA City Council panel gave its approval to the "gentle ban" that would shut down dispensaries all across the city but allow patients and collectives to have gardens. The council's Public Safety Committee voted 3-1 to recommend the proposal by Councilmen Jose Huizar and Mitch Englander to shut down dispensaries pending a state Supreme Court decision on the legality of permitting them. The panel also voted against a competing measure from Councilman Paul Koretz that would have allowed 100 dispensaries to stay open under strict regulation. Next comes a vote of the full council, but a date for that hasn't been set yet.
Also last Friday, Imperial Beach activists handed in signatures for a Safe Access Ordinance initiative in the city. Activists from San Diego Americans for Safe Access and the LGBT non-profit Canvass for a Cause handed in 1,555 valid signatures, or roughly 15% of all registered voters in the community. They collected more than 2,600 signatures, then verified their authenticity internally.
On Monday, DEA agents raided the El Camino Wellness dispensary in Sacramento. The dispensary was among a group targeted by the US Attorney in Sacramento last fall, and the owner of the building in which it was located had been the recipient of a letter from federal prosecutors warning her property could be seized. The DEA raiders were jeered by protestors who mobilized on hearing of the raid.
Also on Monday, a Lake County board approved a motion recommending guidelines for the number of plants allowable on small parcels. The Lake County Medical Marijuana Cultivation Ordinance Advisory Committee Monday approved a motion recommending allowing no more than three two plants uncovered outdoors for parcels smaller than a quarter of an acre, and up to six uncovered plants for parcels between one-quarter and one-half acre in size. The measure was approved on an 8-1 vote and now goes to the Board of Supervisors.
On Tuesday, the Lake Elsinore city clerk announced that an initiative campaign was underway to seek the legalization of dispensaries in the city. Backers of the initiative published a public notice last month, so signature gathering should get underway soon. The petition asks residents if they want an election to be held so voters could decide whether to approve an ordinance that would allow a limited number of medical marijuana dispensaries. The proposed ordinance would establish how such medical marijuana operations, also referred to in the petition as cooperatives, would be taxed, regulated and monitored. The city imposed a ban on dispensaries in 2010. An earlier initiative campaign fell short.
On Monday, an El Paso County jury acquitted a medical marijuana grower of drug cultivation charges. Elisa Kappelmann, 52, had been looking at up to 12 years in prison on state charges after being arrested by Colorado Springs police in connection with a grow she was operating. Police said she was not in compliance with Colorado Department of Public Health documentation requirements. But defense attorney Robert Corry argued that Kappelmann had physicians' recommendations and caregiver forms for each of her 22 patients and was within her plant count even under the strictest interpretations of the laws. After six days of deliberations, the jury voted to acquit. Corry called the trial a "failed political test case" and urged El Paso County prosecutors to rethink their interpretation of the medical marijuana law.
Also on Monday, the Dacono City Council voted to ban medical marijuana businesses. The 4-2 vote will close three dispensaries, which have a little more than six months to leave town. Dacono has regulated dispensaries since 2009, although it's had a moratorium barring new ones since 2010. Angry dispensary operators and patients berated the council and vowed to file initiative petitions to get the ban overturned.
Last Thursday, the state Supreme Court ruled in favor of medical marijuana opponents who argued the likely November ballot question was misleading. The Massachusetts Prevention Alliance had filed a petition against the question in May, but it was rejected by Attorney General Martha Coakley's office. Now Coakley and Secretary of State William Galvin must rewrite the "yes" section of the ballot question and get the new wording approved by the court. Opponents had challenged even the use of the term "medical marijuana," arguing that it isn't recognized as medicine under federal law, but the high court was okay with the term.
On Wednesday, the New York Assembly passed its medical marijuana bill on a vote of 90-50. That's the third time a medical marijuana bill has passed the Democratically-controlled Assembly, but it has always been blocked from a vote in the Republican-controlled Senate. This year is expected to be no different.
Last Wednesday, a Washington County dispensary operator pleaded guilty to unlawful delivery of marijuana for payment and was sentenced to probation. Local police arrested Terry Spaunhorst, 54, the operator of Serene Dreams Medical Greens in Hillsboro. Prosecutors said Spaunhorst sold marijuana, a clear violation of Oregon's medical marijuana law. Last year, authorities raided another Washington County dispensary, Wake 'n Bake Cannabis Lounge in Aloha and convicted its owner on similar charges with similar results. A third dispensary, the Human Collective in Tigard remains open.
Last Friday, a Grants Pass man became the first registered Oregon grower to be convicted on federal drug trafficking charges. Jason Nelson, 36, was one of four medical marijuana growers from Southwestern Oregon who pooled their harvests and made monthly shipments from Portland to Boston in pods loaded with furniture bought from Goodwill. The other three faced state charges. Federal prosecutors crowed over the conviction and said they had "one more bit of evidence out there so people can be thinking critically whether or not this is what they want in their communities."
Last Thursday, the Department of Public Safety announced that dispensary applications are now available. The department will authorize up to four medical marijuana dispensaries throughout Vermont based on a competitive scoring process. Applications are now being accepted, and the closing date to apply is June 22, 2012 at 4:30 p.m. A $2,500 non-refundable application fee must accompany all applications. To view the rules for the Vermont Marijuana Program (VMP) and to obtain a dispensary application, go to the Vermont Criminal Information Center.
On Tuesday, city officials announced that all four dispensaries are free to pursue building and other permits. All four had previously advanced through the city licensing process, and three of the four have already won necessary approval from Advisory Neighborhood Commissions. But it will still be months before patients are able to obtain their medicine in the nation's capital; medical grows approved earlier have not yet planted crops, and the dispensaries will not have any product until the grows harvest.