Drug Law

Medical Marijuana Advocates Protest Ban on L.A. Dispensaries

| by ASA

Board of Supervisors to meet Tuesday to rescind its regulatory ordinance as opponents rally outside

LOS ANGELES -- In a move that patient advocates are calling unnecessary and harmful, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors is expected to take a final vote Tuesday on an ordinance that would rescind medical marijuana dispensary regulations adopted by the board in 2006.

Members of the medical marijuana patient community, frustrated by the imminent passage of a ban on access to their medication, are planning to protest the board's vote on Tuesday, hoping to draw attention not only to the need for access in the unincorporated areas, but also a failure by the board to provide sufficient cause to rescind its existing regulatory ordinance.

What: Peaceful protest in advance of the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors meeting to ban medical marijuana dispensaries in unincorporated areas
When: Tuesday, December 7th at 9am
Where: In front of Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration, 500 W. Temple Street, Los Angeles

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"It's not acceptable to marginalize the patient community in Los Angeles and deprive them of access to this important medication," said Don Duncan, California Director with Americans for Safe Access, the country's leading medical marijuana group. "Frankly, patients are fed up with this overly restrictive approach and are loudly voicing their opposition," continued Duncan. "Instead of banning access, the Board of Supervisors should be trying to work with patients and others in the community to better implement local regulations." Better implementation of the county's ordinance could also ease the negative impacts felt by the City of Los Angeles' regulatory ordinance, which threatens to close hundreds of currently operating facilities.

The board's vote comes as Orange County Supervisors voted late last month to similarly ban medical marijuana distribution in unincorporated areas of the county. While advocates hold that such bans are illegal under the state's medical marijuana laws, the California Court of Appeal recently ruled in the case Qualified Patients Association v. City of Anaheim that localities could not use federal law as a reason to impose such bans, but left other related issues unaddressed for now.

Advocates are calling the ordinance adopted in 2006, more than 4 years ago, by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, a sensible approach to licensing local distribution facilities, although none currently operate in the unincorporated areas. Advocates further argue that such regulations deter crime and keep neighborhoods safe.

A report on dispensary regulations published by ASA earlier this year quotes numerous local officials, including former Oakland City Administrator Barbara Killey who said the neighborhoods around licensed dispensaries are "some of the safest areas of Oakland now… since the ordinance passed." The report also cites a recent study conducted by Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck in which he concluded that the city's banks are more susceptible to crime than the city's greater number of medical marijuana dispensaries.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Supervisor Don Knabe favors local regulations that reduce harm, just not for medical marijuana patients. After helping to lift a ban against large dance parties, known as "raves," earlier this year, Knabe was quoted today saying that, "There's a way to do it right where we protect the public and allow [raves] to take place," rather than see them "driven to the back alleys." Ironically, and advocates argue tragically, Knabe and his fellow Supervisors are using a double-standard by banning dispensaries and driving those far more vulnerable "to the back alleys."

Further information:
Current Los Angeles County ordinance regulating dispensaries: http://AmericansForSafeAccess.org/downloads/LA_County.pdf
ASA Report on Dispensary Regulations: http://AmericansForSafeAccess.org/downloads/dispensaries.pdf
Los Angeles Times article quoting Knabe on regulating raves: http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-1202-coliseum-commission-20101202,0,2382305.story