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.

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