Friday, January 22, 2010

LA City Council votes to close 800 pot shops

Story here. It's unfortunate that Huffpo is the vehicle, as they're notoriously left-wing and bad at reporting news accurately. The story says pot dispensaries were authorized by Prop 215 passed in California in 1996.
This is what I mean by bad reporting. Nothing in California law authorizes dispensaries. They're strictly an invention of pot ganjapreneurs as a delivery mechanism for pot. One of the reasons our voter initiatives are bad news: we said yes to medical marijuana, but no provision was provided in the voter initiative as to how people get it. Turns out they were supposed to either grow it themselves, or have their caregiver (someone consistently involved in safety, housing, or welfare of the patient) to grow it for them. Caregiver somehow got miraculously extended to include pot shop owner due to the cunning ingenuity of drug dealers, er medical marijuana providers. Thus, dispensaries proliferated.
This has not held up in court, by the way. Courts have consistently ruled that providing pot does not in any way equate to being a real caregiver, but that didn't stop dispensaries from opening and clustering in on city blocks, hawking their drugs, er 'medicine'.
Good for Los Angeles. It's about time.
Here in Santa Barbara, our city council takes up the matter on January 26. They will hopefully extend the moratorium currently in place to its full year length. That will stop new pot shops from opening, of which there is a queue of 8. But that leaves us with 3 licensed pot shops under the old ordinance, with lovely names like The Green Well, and The Green Light (gang parlance for issuing an execution). We also have 4 nonconforming dispensaries, though three of those have been issued 'cease and desist' orders by the City Attorney. We still have a plethora of illegal shops, and though we feel the police ought to be able to shut them down TODAY, these investigations and prosecutions take time and diligence.
California is fighting back. We got conned by the medical marijuana ruse. Other states, take note.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

California Supreme Court strikes down possession limits of medical marijuana

Why this is bad:
The Appeals court had already done this, some months ago, and it was taken by pro-medical marijuana forces as a huge victory.
Back in 2004, the California Senate passed SB420, which had provisions to regulate medical marijuana. It was a good attempt to try to work with the Compassionate Use Act of 1996 that legalized medical marijuana in our state. Part of SB420 contained possession limits of 8 oz of dried marijuana and up to 6 mature plants, or 12 immature plants.
For those not familiar with pot and quantities therein, that's a lot of weed. To provide a contrast, in Amsterdam, where marijuana is legal to purchase, the quantity allowed is 5 grams, or 1/5th of an oz.
California, where only medical marijuana is legal, allows 40 times that amount for 'personal use'.
The ruling strikes down the possession amounts, now used widely by law enforcement to determine medical use versus recreational versus straight-out dealing and trafficking. So this puts law enforcement back in the dark as to how to determine who is a valid user and who isn't, unless the person can produce their id card showing themselves to be a legitimate patient, or their doctor's recommendation. This seems odd, no matter how you feel about the drug. Asking people to produce their doctor's recommendation for an illegal drug has a strange feeling to it, one that I doubt the pro-pot or ACLU types will leave alone for long.
What's interesting about the ruling is the notion that 8 oz and 6 plants might not be 'enough' for a patient, so their doctor could recommend more than this amount, and that would be legal.
How is this not a door-opener to legalizing heroin or meth? I mean, if you need pounds of pot to help your pain, shouldn't you be on something that will REALLY kill your pain? Why not get a doctor's recommendation for morphine, meth, or heroin, and really check out? Why not really float away in a haze if your pain is that bad? Why consume pounds of pot, which you inhale mostly, that contains carcinogens and gets you high? Does this sound like compassionate medicine? What doctor in their right mind would recommend this 'treatment'? And if you need pounds of pot to ease your suffering, surely one injection of heroin would do the job faster and be much quicker, with a tiny quantity needed in comparison.
The medical pot thing just doesn't add up, really. Legitimate doctors mostly agree with this notion. The whole thing is really a ruse to get pot fully legal.
In the meantime, these kinds of rulings leave cities and counties in the toilet, so to speak. They try to build regulations for land use based on the provisions in SB420, but at any moment, as just happened, those provisions might be struck down. Why does this happen? In California, voter initiatives, as was the Medical Marijuana Act, cannot be amended by the legislature in a way that limits the act. Expansions are ok, but limitations are not. Since the people who wrote the voter initiative did not put in a limit, then the Supreme Court rules that the legislature violates the constitution of California by limiting a voter initiative. The writers of SB420 were smart enough to put in a provision that says any portion of the act can be stricken, leaving the rest intact (until some court strikes it in a future ruling). The legislature is thus hogtied in its ability to provide us with tools that would help regulate this insane thing we have called medical marijuana.
Other states, take note. We in California do not have a solid history of getting what we think we voted for with these initiatives. Schools were supposed to get all kinds of infusions of cash from the lottery initiative. What happened was that we just gutted the school budget and used the lottery to patch the holes. Be wary of what you're voting for...
As much as we like to hate on our state legislators out here, we can't blame them for this one. The only way to amend a voter initiative and have it to pass another one. So we can't beg the legislature for help...we'll have to pass a voter initiative to regulate medical marijuana ourselves. That's the California Democracy model. Appealing, but with some serious side effects...

And if the marijuana proponents keep pushing this thing on us with the arrogance and righteousness they've so far shown, they can get ready for a blowback initiative because many cities and counties up and down the state have Had Enough.

Strap in and stay tuned...this ride's not over yet!

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Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Idiot's Guide to Why Marijuana Legalization Is Bad

Yes, one ballot initiative has acquired the necessary signatures in California. We will be facing one legalization (at least) initiative next year.

Most people, when I ask them, favor legalization. So what does legalization mean to them?

1. It will be regulated.
2. It will be taxed.
3. DUI laws for THC will eventually get on the books.
4. You'll buy it at liquor stores, or pharmacies, and people won't be going to jail anymore.

The initiative that is going to be on the ballot doesn't look anything like that. I'll post more on that later.

For now, here's something to make you laugh because I do get ever so tired of the arguments stoners put forth on why legalization should happen. I decided to take a KISS approach (KEEP IT SIMPLE STUPID) to countering pro-legalization arguments. Here’s my first stab.

Legalization would do away with the black market, and reduce crime. Oh, you mean like dispensaries have? What a boon to society they’ve been! Storefronts crowding in on every corner, armed robberies, shootings, advertising pot to kids, and enormous Mexican cartel grows worth hundreds of millions of dollars up in the mountains. Wow, I can’t even go hiking up there anymore in case I stumble on a grow and get shot. Where are those environmentalists when you need them???? Looks like near-legalization INCREASED the black market and crime, and wildly. It moved the Mexican cartels to THIS side of the border. Can hardly wait to see what happens with legalization. Prediction: black market will INCREASE again!!! (see tax situation below for explanation why)

Legalization would save us so much money in enforcement. There are 254 people behind bars for crimes strictly related to marijuana in this state.

Wow. We're going to write a whole initiative for them?????

We’d immediately trade enforcement costs for the enormous cost of increased regulation by the government. The ATF would become the MATF. DUI laws and enforcement, alcohol and tobacco regulation all cost ENORMOUS sums of money. When have you ever known government to do anything both effectively and inexpensively?

Law enforcement is beginning to look cheap in comparison...

We could tax it and regulate it. See above for the regulation argument = increased costs. As for taxing, true enough, but the incredibly high tax rates on cigarettes and alcohol pay about 1/8th of the social cost they produce. Why should we increase this already ridiculous load? 

The money raised from taxing legal marijuana would put California in the black. This must be some of that ‘new math’. Didn’t the banks try this? ‘If we give loans to people who can’t afford houses, we’ll get rich!’ Even if we accept Amiano’s wildly inflated $1.4 billion in annual revenues, that’s a tiny amount against an $86.4 billion budget with $10 billion projected deficit. It doesn’t even make a dent. Further, to generate $1.4 billion in taxes, you’d have to tax legalized marijuana at a rate of about 60%. Like the pot smokers would sign up for that...can’t you just hear the whining that will ensue? ‘But alcohol and cigarettes aren’t taxed that high...and they’re so much worse!’ Watch for the black market to crank up in the face of 60% tax rates. Marketing pitch for the black market: ‘Think of the money you could be saving, instead of paying it to the government, those thieving swines!’

Marijuana is just a plant. It’s natural, from natural ingredients. Um, ok.
Vodka = potatoes
Wine = grapes
Cigarettes = tobacco plants
Beer = hops
Opium + heroin = poppies (such pretty flowers! Remember them from that Wizard of Oz scene?)
Crack + cocaine = cocoa leaves
Coffee = coffee plant beans
Chocolate = cocoa beans
Cholesterol blockers = blueberry extracts

Hmmm...seems a lot of things are made from plants...all very natural. Why is marijuana special again?

Marijuana is ancient, it’s been with us for centuries.
Ditto for the above list, except for the cholesterol blockers. But then again, you could always just eat the blueberries...or stay away from McDonald’s.

If you’d just educate your kids...if you’d just stop increasing my parental burden, we’d get along fine.

Marijuana is useful in treating so many illnesses. And if you were smart, you’d shut up. Big Pharma will hear you, and start using that same rallying cry to take over the cultivation, distribution, and retail of pot. You’ll be buying your weed from Merck, and paying them big profits. Along with that 60% tax to get California out of debt. Doesn’t that black market look better by the minute?????

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Moratorium is IN

It's certainly not perfect, and it's a token gesture to us, the supposed hysterical 12-steppers, but it's in.

The way the council rigged it is:

1. For 45 days, possibly to be extended under the new council for up to one year (though Das and Grant would NEVER go for that)
2. Passing the revised ordinance will lift the moratorium (Dale, Hotchkiss, and Self will NEVER go for that)
3. City continues to process applications for completeness, even though these would be for dispensaries and not the non-profit collectives. Mayor Marty Blum did not know that's what they were passing, but Mayor-Elect Helene Schneider motioned for it last week, and it was obviously written in there by Grant and Das as a gesture or lifeline to dispensaries to get to stay in queue until the new ordinance passes. I am guessing Helene, Grant, and Das met beforehand to agree on their strategy, which is:
Look tough by motioning for the moratorium, knowing it's a token gesture with a back-door loophole. They did this so they could claim the high ground and say they are tough on dispensaries.

It's in. That's all that matters. Now, for the legalization fight....and it's going to be a doozie!!!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Updates on the Santa Barbara Dispensary Scene

The Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse put on a townhall last night on dispensaries within Santa Barbara. We had a panel of 6, including myself. I went on far too long in presenting the legal landscape, but that landscape is changing so fast, it's really hard to keep up:

August: People v. Honchanadel, Fourth Appeals Court, CA. Decided the legality of storefront dispensaries. Storefront dispensaries that operate collectively or cooperatively are legal. The operators of CannaHelp, a dispensary in Palmdale, are not qualified as primary caregivers under the law. The decision is located here.

September: (BUSY MONTH)
Los Angeles announces they will do away with retail sales of marijuana, and will crack down on illegally operating dispensaries. In the opinion of DA Steve Cooley, that's pretty much all of them.

Claremont ban upheld by the court of appeals, so cities can ban dispensaries, and close them down, legally. Nothing in state law requires a city to have dispensaries. 120+ cities across California have now banned dispensaries. 73 have moratoriums.

Appeals court hears the Anaheim case. Americans for Safe Access, a well-funded pro-marijuana group, filed an amicus brief with the appeals court against Anaheim. The ordinance from Anaheim bans dispensaries, and also includes prosecution if one opens. This is a step further than Claremont. The case can be found here. A decision is expected later this month.


Los Angeles City Attorney moves ahead with the ordinance to ban retail sales in Los Angeles, and only allow the collective or cooperative model authorized by state law. That ordinance can be found here.

We presented our slides on the shifting legal landscape to Helene Schneider. We also continued to try to work to engage the non-profits. Shereen Katapouch of the Council on Drug and Alcohol Abuse, a longtime attender of ordinance committee meetings, and a great advocate against drug abuse, connected with us, and it looks like we might have a solid ally in her. No luck yet with other non-profits.

Here in Santa Barbara, our ordinance committee continued to wade through issues such as whether dispensaries can be in mixed-use buildings, and whether we should have a cap of 4 or 7. Dale Francisco wants a cap of 4. Das Williams wants a cap of 7. Thing is, with 22 dispensaries, we're way out of cap, and yet, no moratorium, though Dale proposed one. He was shot down immediately by Das. So why doesn't the city stop the floodgates????

Councilman Francisco informed the ordinance committee that the landscape has indeed changed, and dispensaries as they exist today may not be legal. With that in mind, he wanted to get the ordinance committee to halt rewriting the ordinance, and take the issue back to council. Das wanted to keep working on the ordinance, but agreed to take the issue back.

Tony and I presented our slides on the legal landscape to Councilman Roger Horton. Iya Falcone was also supposed to meet with us, but begged off.

October 19: Eric Holder, US Attorney General, announces no prosecution of medical marijuana. But did he really say that? No, as usual, the media only reports the barest surface. What his letter says is that they're essentially done going after cancer-stricken patients, and their caregivers, who use and administer medical marijuana. It's not a priority. But heavy marketing, large cash on premises, firearms, and other indicators of recreational trafficking are fair game. Read the memo here.


11/11 The AMA decides to research and study the effects of marijuana. They've been prohibited from doing so as it's a class I drug under federal law. They outlined that they do not want to endorse legalization or promote medical marijuana.

11/12 The Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse and Fighting Back host a townhall at Victoria Hall.

Coming up: BE THERE: City Council, 11/17, at 6:00 PM to discuss the appropriate model for Santa Barbara. The City Manager and City Attorney are recommending that we move away from the retail, over-the-counter sales model for dispensaries, and instead allow only true collectives or cooperatives, where patients and caregivers come together to collectively grow medical marijuana with some doing the growing, some the cultivation and others who can't do physical work purchasing the material needed. Links to the info packet sent out by staff can be found here.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Call to Action on Medical Marijuana in Santa Barbara

A lot is happening this week. Tough to keep up, but we'll try. This is the week to get mobilized and moving. If you haven't been to a hearing, written to council, or the media, this is the week to do it.

If you don't act, it may be too late.

Here's what's happening this week:

1. Hearing on 302 E Haley, 9:00 AM Gephard Room, 630 Garden St. Timothy Cooney is opening this one, oh he that used to run that awful bar on Anacapa and Haley (now EOS). Now he wants to sell pot. Do leopards change their spots? Businesses along Haley are encouraged to come out and stop yet another pot shop from entrenching into the Marijuana Mile in Santa Barbara. We've asked the city to get a legal opinion from the city attorney that they are truly on solid legal ground in continuing to approve dispensaries. Why? Because it looks like at the state level, dispensaries engaging in over the counter sales are illegal. So why is our city continuing to approve these? Lawsuits could be brewing on the horizon. Citizens in Los Angeles sued the city for allowing drug dealing via dispensaries in their neighborhoods. Take note, Santa Barbara.

2. Hearing on 2 W Mission. This is a cluster-f*@k. The Staff Hearing Officer approved the permit, and no one filed an appeal to Planning Commission. So it looked like the way was clear. That is, until the County spotted this. Turns out there is a school at 7 E Mission for older kids with disabilities. The County Education Office notified the city, and now they want to revoke the permit. The dispensary is fighting back using, of all things, zoning laws saying there can't be a school there, and it's not really a school. Never mind the fact that it's been there for ages. We lost this before with Girls Inc and the dispensary at 631 Olive. The city attorney said the Girls, Inc couldn't be considered an educational facility, a ridiculous piece of legal advice if ever there was one. Let's see what they come up with on this one...

3. Sign this petition against dispensaries in Santa Barbara: It will take you all of one minute.

4. Join this group: We'll keep you posted on all the goings-on, and we have a lot of good information about this movement.

5. Write to your council members. Addresses:

Remember, if you don't act, you are sending the tacit message that you are ok with dispensaries overrunning our city. Most people get mad when a dispensary parks next to their home, child's school, or business. If we wait until one moves in next door, it will be too late.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Dispensary Hearings Coming UP

A dispensary is proposed for 302 E Haley St. This is 2 blocks from an existing dispensary at 100 E Haley St (nonconforming, trying to move to 430 Chapala St). The proposed tenant is Aloha Spirit Organic Consumables. They don't sound like a compassionate caregiver, do they? Turns out they're from Los Angeles, and like a lot of dispensaries there, they applied for the hardship moratorium and were turned down by Councilman Dennis Zine, who is teaming up with his District Attorney and City Attorney to shut their for-profit retail dispensaries down.

Wonder why Santa Barbara can't figure this out? Why can't they stop new applications until they get this situation under control? This dispensary will now join others on the Marijuana Mile, a one mile swath of dispensaries in this town.

Did we want to be a city of pot shops? Did we want E Haley to be a dispensary row? Is that good for our city and our neighborhoods? The Council of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse is right across the street from 302 E Haley. Hopefully they will fight this one going in. How easy is it for people to hold onto sobriety when staring into a pot shop as they leave meetings?