From the US Supreme Court to the local city council chambers, medical marijuana continues to be a contentious issue. Here's the latest.
On Monday, the US Supreme Court declined to hear a case brought by medical marijuana patients. The four California plaintiffs had argued that local bans on dispensaries denied their right to equal treatment under the Americans With Disabilities Act. But the high court refused to hear their appeal.
Last Wednesday, Garden Grove officials reported that 62 dispensaries had closed by the city's midnight deadline. The previous week, Garden Grove police sent out letters ordering them to close. The previous night, the city council got an earful from aggrieved medical marijuana patients, more than a hundred of whom packed the council chambers and adjoining rooms. At the end of the meeting, Mayor Bruce Broadwater essentially told them to get lost. "If you want to smoke marijuana, do it in another city," he said. "Don't do it in Garden Grove."
Last Thursday, medical marijuana backers sued the city of Long Beach over its decision that a petition to overturn the city's ban on dispensaries was insufficient. According to the city clerk, petitioners came up short, but petitioners dispute that finding and are seeking to have signatures removed as invalid added back to the petitions. Alternately, they are asking for the city to hold a special election on whether to ban or regulate dispensaries.
Also last Thursday, medical marijuana supporters rallied in San Bernardino. About three dozen people gathered at city hall to demand that the city stop shutting down medical marijuana dispensaries. The city has moved aggressively against dispensaries since the state Supreme Court ruled May 6 that local bans are allowed.
Last Friday, the city of Anaheim ordered dispensaries in the city to close. Citing the Supreme Court decision, tt issued a notice to cease operations to all 11 dispensaries known to operate there. They must close by this Friday or face possible fines and criminal charges. The city had banned dispensaries via an ordinance in 2007 and followed that up with 2011 moratorium aimed at up to 143 dispensaries that had opened anyway. The city had managed to close all but 11, seven of which had opened prior to the moratorium.
Also last Friday, a Marin County grand jury slammed the county for failing to provide access to medical marijuana for patients. In a new report, titled "Medical Marijuana: Up in Smoke," the grand jury lamented the closure of medical marijuana facilities in the county and criticized both county and local officials for failing to support the Compassionate Use Act. The grand jury recommended that the Board of Supervisors "respect the will of the voters and the intention of the Compassionate Use Act by using its authority to uphold access to medical marijuana within the county" and develop a set of ordinances to regulate dispensaries.
Also last Friday, Palm Springs shuttered two dispensaries operating in the city. They had been ordered to close last Wednesday, and police went out to ensure they had. There are still three dispensaries left in the city, but officials are going after those, too.
On Monday, the California Senate passed a bill aimed at allowing dispensaries to operate. The bill, Senate Bill 439, says that collectives, cooperatives and other business entities can receive reasonable compensation for the services they provide, and will not be prosecuted as long as they comply with security and reporting guidelines drafted by the state Attorney General. The bill now moves to the Assembly.
Also on Monday, San Diego Mayor Filner called for jury nullification in a local dispensary case. Filner was addressing the prosecution of Ronnie Chang, a dispensary operator arrested during a 2009 crackdown. "This is way overdoing it when local laws, state laws allow compassionate use of medical marijuana," Filner told reporters at the downtown US District Court complex. "Someone should not be going through this stage of prosecution for trying to help people to have access to medical marijuana."
On Tuesday, Los Angeles voters approved a measure to regulate and cap the number of dispensaries. Proposition D would tax and regulate dispensaries and cap their number at about 135 -- the number of dispensaries operating when the city council enacted a moratorium in 2007. A measure that would have allowed an unlimited number of taxed and regulated dispensaries failed. The council had previously voted unanimously to ban dispensaries entirely, allowing on patient growing coops, but reversed itself after Prop D was filed.
Also on Tuesday, the San Jose city council voted to raise the tax on dispensaries to 10%.San Jose voters in 2010 approved a tax on medical marijuana providers of up to 10% of gross receipts. The council later that year set the rate at 7%, with collection beginning in March 2011. The current 7% tax rate generates $3.9 million annually for the cash-strapped city, and hiking the tax should raise another $1.5 million, city officials said.
On Monday, the Michigan Supreme Court held that medical marijuana patients are not covered by the state's zero-tolerance drugged driving law when the charge is based merely on the presence of THC in the bloodstream. The ruling will protect thousands of state medical marijuana patients. The ruling came in the case of Rodney Koon, a patient who was charged with DUI because of the presence of THC despite not having used it within the last six hours.
On Monday, a new poll showed that 82% of New Yorkers support medical marijuana. The poll comes as there are bills pending in both the Assembly (A06357) and Senate (S04406) to adopt medical marijuana.
Last Friday, the Ohio attorney general certified a medical marijuana initiative. The Ohio Cannabis Rights Amendment was certified for signature-gathering after supporters turned in 1,000 initial signatures. It would protect Ohioans rights to "medical, therapeutic, and industrial cannabis." To qualify for the ballot, supporters must now gather more than 300,000 additional signatures.
Last Friday, a bill to add PTSD to the list of ailments that can be treated by marijuana passed the House Health Committee and is headed for the House floor. Senate Bill 281 would expand the state's medical marijuana program to allow prescriptions to alleviate post-traumatic stress disorder. Another bill, House Bill 3460, which would allow dispensaries, is also moving in the House.
Last Friday, a Spokane medical marijuana farmers market said it would not open after the operators received a cease and desist letter from US Attorney Michael Ormbsy. The market would have brought growers and patients together just like they were selling fresh vegetables except it would have been marijuana to card holding patients. The owners of the market say they don't have any plans of re-opening until their attorney formulates a plan of action.
[For extensive information about the medical marijuana debate, presented in a neutral format, visit MedicalMarijuana.ProCon.org.]