Drug Law
Drug Law

Fighting Back Against Los Angeles' War on Marijuana

| by ASA
by Don Duncan

More than one hundred medical cannabis supporters raised their voices, and more than a few eyebrows, at a lively and visible protest in front of the Montebello County Club on Wednesday morning. Americans for Safe Access (ASA) called for the demonstration after we learned that Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley and City Attorney Carmen Trutanich were headlining a luncheon training entitled “Eradicating Medical Cannabis Dispensaries in the City of Los Angeles and Los Angeles County.”

Protesters gather at CNOA luncheon

Protesters gather at CNOA luncheon

Protesters were right to be alarmed. Standing next to City Attorney Trutanich, District Attorney Cooley told reporters after the training that “the vast, vast, vast majority, about 100%,” of collectives in the county are illegal, and he vowed to close all of them down. This is the most aggressive language yet from Los Angeles County law enforcement, and it comes at a time when the City of Los Angeles is debating the minutia of a regulatory ordinance that may finally bestow a degree of legal recognition to some of the hundreds of patients’ associations already operating in the city.

It may come as no surprise that two pillars of the city’s law-and-order establishment do not embrace medical cannabis or the regulatory process. Law enforcement and prosecutors have always been ambivalent or worse on the topic. What is surprising, however, is that the District Attorney and the City Attorney feel so confident in a legal posture that fundamentally differs from that of California Attorney General Jerry Brown, the Los Angeles City Council, and dozens of other cities and counties that have already adopted regulations – including Oakland, San Francisco, Sebastopol, Berkeley, Santa Barbara, Palm Springs, Laguna Woods, West Hollywood, and Los Angeles County.

The City of Los Angeles can (and did) make a policy decision to regulate access to medical cannabis. Law enforcement should cooperate with the City Council to get it done sooner rather than later. Research by ASA proves that sensible regulations reduce crime and complaints around medical cannabis collectives. That is a win-win situation for everyone, including police officers and prosecutors under pressure to do something about the continued proliferation of medical cannabis facilities in the city.

We know some collectives fail in upholding the letter of the law. That is no reason to jeopardize safe access for everyone in the community or to demonize every medical cannabis provider. Regulations will draw clear lines to judge who is doing it right and who is not. That is a much better policy for patients than District Attorney Cooley’s plan to lump all the collectives together as lawbreakers. Patients hope that police officers and prosecutors at the country club will heed their call: “Implementation, Not Eradication.” Hopefully, City Council members are listening, too.

ASA recognizes that the struggle in Los Angeles has implications for efforts to adopt local guidelines statewide. That is why we are stepping up pressure on District Attorney Cooley and City Attorney Trutanich to support City Councilmembers who remain committed to workable regulations. In order to accomplish this, we are prioritizing our work in Los Angeles, which includes dispatching additional ASA staff to Los Angeles to join Angelinos in speaking up.

ASA members and allies will be discussing our campaign in Los Angeles and getting ready for anticipated raids at local collectives at the next LA-ASA meeting on Saturday, October 17. The meeting will be at 1:00 PM at the Patient ID Center, located at 470 S. San Vicente Blvd. in Los Angels 90048 (cross street is Drexel, between Wilshire Blvd. and 3rd St.).