Drug Law

Another Wrong-Headed Medical Marijuana Proposal in Los Angeles

| by Marijuana Policy Project

by F. Aaron Smith

Just as federal medical marijuana policy appears to be moving toward sanity, some local officials in the nation’s second largest city seem to be losing it altogether.

Earlier this month, I reported on Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley’s decision to use resources prosecuting each of the area’s medical marijuana collectives as common drug dealers — even those operating within city or county guidelines. Now, Los Angeles City Attorney Carmen Trutanich joins Cooley in his fight against the popular and long-standing medical marijuana laws.

Trutanich is pressing the L.A. City Council to quickly adopt an ordinance effectively banning the sale of medical marijuana through storefront collectives. This uniquely draconian proposal is based on the false premise that California law doesn’t allow collectives to accept money from members as reimbursement for their medical marijuana.

Just last year, the state’s attorney general issued guidelines declaring that, while medical marijuana could not be sold for profit, it is perfectly legal to exchange money to cover the costs of its production and distribution. The guidelines clearly state, “Members also may reimburse the collective or cooperative for marijuana that has been allocated to them.” Further, California law exempts certain medical marijuana-related activities from prosecution under laws that otherwise prohibit the sales of marijuana.

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Bizarrely, the ordinance also doesn’t allow any medical marijuana facility to operate within 1,000 feet of a “hospital or medical facility.” Hmm… I thought that patient collectives were medical facilities.

Clearly medical marijuana collectives in Los Angeles are in need of some more controls (local patients and collective operators calling for regulations for years), and some of the facilities in the area are probably not operating in good faith compliance with the law. But the answer to this problem is not in a broad prohibitionist policy that’s out of step with state law and a boon to underground drug dealers who would undoubtably fill the vacuum left once all the collectives are closed. The answer, as always, is in sound regulations which facilitate open and safe access to patients while addressing community concerns.

Stay tuned for more developments from the City of Angels. I’ll be posting them here as they unfold.