Long Beach City Prosecutor Blasts Pot Dispensaries

by Ryan ZumMallen
Long Beach News
09.28.09

As the City of Long Beach debates the merits of wading into the tricky
waters of regulating and perhaps prosecuting dispensaries and other
businesses that provide medical marijuana, City Prosecutor Tom Reeves
issued an opinion-editorial to the LBPOST.com that essentially amounts
to kicking in the door with guns blazing. Reeves directly relates
dispensaries to “a drug dealer standing on a corner” and disputes the
notion of the businesses as caregivers. The Long Beach City Council
spent two hours at last week’s meeting trying to discern the pros and
cons of regulations dispensaries but made no decision. The City of Los
Angeles last week was hit with a lawsuit based on a moratorium of
over-the-counter medical marijuana sales.

Click here to read LBPOST.com columnist Greggory Moore’s recent take on
the issue of medical marijuana dispensaries in Long Beach –
http://www.lbpost.com/greggory/6296

The op-ed, as provided to us in full, is below:

Medical Dispensary or Dope Dealer?
by Tom Reeves
Long Beach City Prosecutor

When I write about a medical marijuana dispensary, I mean a store
front or residence where the following transactions take place: A
qualified patient goes to the dispensary counter; shows the operator his
or her “doctor’s recommendation” for marijuana; signs a
“caregiver” designation form; makes a “donation” equal
to the marijuana “price”; and then leaves with the marijuana. I
call this transaction an “over-the-counter” sale.

Now imagine a drug dealer standing on a corner – no store front
– no countertop – just a backpack full of weed, a pocket full of
money and a clip board with caregiver designation forms.

Now ask yourself – What’s the difference?

My answer – No Difference! They are both dope dealers.

“So how are dispensaries getting away with it?” – Well
that takes some explaining.

First, let me try to explain how California can have “medical
marijuana” when the feds outlaw marijuana (Federal Controlled
Substances Act; 21 United States Code 811). The California Compassionate
Use Act (CUA) didn’t legalize marijuana. It is still a felony to
grow it or sell it. However, as a sovereign state, California can choose
how it will enforce or apply its criminal laws. Under the CUA, patients
and caregivers were given immunity for certain marijuana offenses.

Next, why did it take from 1996 till 2008 to come to the conclusion
that medical marijuana dispensary operations are illegal? Well the 1996
implementation of the CUA created a patch work of conflicting local
laws. It was so confused that in 2003 the Legislature passed the Medical
Marijuana Program Act (MMPA) to “clarify” the CUA.

The MMPA created new issues because it allowed caregivers to be
compensated for “actual expenses for services provided”. Now can
you see why dispensary operators require patients to sign a form
designing the dispensary their “caregiver”.

On November 24, 2008 the Supreme Court decided People v. Mentch and
it dramatically changed the legal landscape for designating dispensaries
as caregivers!

For example, a dispensary operator can now be charged with felony
sales if an undercover investigator goes into a dispensary posing as a
patient and engages in an “over-the-counter” sale. Before
Mentch, a dispensary operator could point to the signed “caregiver
designation” and get a jury instruction on immunity for caregivers.
After Mentch that dispensary operator will have to prove:

That the dispensary operator consistently (over a period of time)
engaged in activities relating to the undercover officer’s housing,
health, or safety (caregiving) ; and

That the care provided to the undercover officer was more than just
supplying marijuana; and

That the caregiver relationship with the undercover officer existed
before the sale of marijuana.

Take a look at some of the newspaper ads that dispensaries are
running. They are offering “free samples”, discount prices and
free delivery. Come on in – sit right down – try the dope –
dig the prices – free delivery! Now that’s just dope dealing not
caregiving!

So ask yourself again, “Medical Dispensary or Dope Dealer?”

Disclosure: The LBPOST.com has sponsorship relationships with medical
marijuana dispensaries.

http://www.lbpost.com/ryan/6696

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