Posts Tagged ‘marijuana dispensaries’

Crackdown on medical marijuana ahead?

Why drug reformers are worried about a new pot policy issued by the Obama administration

CRACKDOWN-Drug-policy reformers are worried about a new Obama administration memo instructing federal prosecutors on how to deal with the growing number of medical marijuana dispensaries.

The Justice Department memo, sent to U.S. attorneys around the nation, addresses a central problem with the growing number of states that have legalized medical marijuana: The drug remains illegal under federal law, whether used for medical purposes or not. The new guidance memo reiterates the illegality of medical marijuana and appears to encourage prosecutors to go after some marijuana dispensaries, particularly the large operations.

President Obama suggested during the campaign in 2007-08 that his Justice Department would not prioritize going after medical marijuana. To find out more about the new medical marijuana memo, and for an update on the broader drug war, I spoke to Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, which lobbies for alternatives to the drug war.

Can you give an overview of the legal status of medical marijuana around the country?

Sixteen states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana either through the ballot initiative process or a state legislative process. The federal law remains that it is all illegal. Strictly speaking, marijuana remains a Schedule 1 substance. The DEA just issued an announcement Friday confirming that it still regards marijuana as a Schedule 1 substance with no legitimate medical uses and no margin of safety in its use — which is sort of an absurdity on its face. Marijuana remains entirely illegal under federal law.

And “Schedule 1” means what?

Well, back in 1970, when Congress unified all the drug laws in the Controlled Substances Act, they divided drugs into a variety of schedules. Schedule 1 refers to drugs that supposedly have no legitimate medical use and have no margin of safety in their use. So heroin, LSD, and marijuana are in that category. Schedule 2 are drugs that have some substantial risk but also have some legitimate medical uses. So for example cocaine, opiates and stimulant drugs are in that category.

So medical marijuana is illegal in the eyes of the federal government. But what has the actual enforcement policy of the Obama administration been up till this week?

During the presidential campaign in 2008, Obama made a number of commitments, one of which was that federal law enforcement would not prioritize prosecution of medical marijuana facilities operating legally under state law. Then in summer 2009, the Justice Department issued a memo called the Ogden memo, which basically affirmed much of Obama’s promise. It affirmed the idea that marijuana is illegal under federal law, but then said that federal prosecutors should not prioritize the prosecution of medical marijuana facilities operating legally under state law. Drug policy reform advovates felt quite optimistic about that 2009 memo, even though it was a qualified statement. What followed was a proliferation of dispensaries in places like Colorado, and California, and Montana. There were growing concerns that this was going too far. I think the Justice Department was hearing from local federal prosecutors and others who did not like these developments.

So what does the new memo sent out to U.S. attorneys say?

It’s called the Cole memo. It reiterates that all marijuana is illegal under federal law. They say that clearly federal resources should not be used to go after patients and their caregivers. They also say that any very large-scale operations — multimillion-dollar operations — will be prosecuted even if they are operating legally under state law. So that represents a modest change in policy. What they are not clear on is what will happen with the midlevel dispensaries. They’re not multimillion-dollar operations, they’re operating legally under state law, and they seem to be serving a population that has medical marijuana recommendations from their physicians. With those operations we’re in a kind of wait-and-see mode as to what prosecutors will do state by state.

The language of the Cole memo is quite aggressive in saying to everybody, “You better watch out, because any one of you could be prosecuted.” On the other hand there are some other messages being sent saying, “Watch what we do, not what we say.” So the real test cases will be whether or not the feds decide to go after medical marijuana dispensaries that are operating legally under state law and are being responsibly regulated by state authorities. If they do that, then we’ll know they really seriously backtracked on the president’s commitment.

So from the beginning of the administration to the present, have they actually gone after dispensaries?

There was a proliferation of dispensaries in states like Colorado and California. So there have in fact been more raids under the Obama administration than there were under the Bush administration. It’s hard to say whether that’s a reflection of the proliferation of dispensaries or whether that’s a real change in policy. What’s also not clear is whether the feds are only targeting those facilities that are not clearly operating legally under state law. So the feds have really created a growing sense of confusion in the medical marijuana community about where the line is between what will be permitted and what won’t.

Stepping back from medical marijuana, has there been much of a shift from the Bush to Obama administrations with “drug war” policy more broadly?

I was pleasantly surprised by the first 18 months of the administration. Obama made three explicit promises during the campaign. He said the feds would not go after medical marijuana facilities operating legally under state law, and he appeared to make good on that. He said the crack-powder laws needed to be rolled back, and they got a major reform of that law last year. Third, he said he would support federal funding for needle exchange, and they did support the efforts in Congress on that. Since that time, it looks more and more like the drug czar’s office has been captured by the drug warriors and the anti-drug fanatics who dominated policy-making in the Clinton and Bush administrations. The rhetoric coming out of the drug czar’s office is almost indistinguishable from the rhetoric of past administrations. The personnel they’ve been hiring, and the people they talk to, are overwhelmingly those who have been associated with the failed drug war policies of the past. And meanwhile the Justice Department seems to be getting more and more engaged in enforcement of marijuana laws in ways that really make no sense as a matter of [the] responsible [use] of resources.

Video: CNBC’s Marijuana USA

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California Assemblyman Wants To Let Cities Control Medical Marijuana

closed medical marijuana dispensary

Bill lets Calif. cities control medical marijuana

The state Assembly has voted to give more power to California cities to regulate medical marijuana according to AP reports.

Democratic state Assemblyman Bob Blumenfield says claims confusion over who has final authority over medical marijuana dispensaries has led to higher crime and illegal sales, although their is no statistics to back up these claims. Assemblyman Blumenfield also happens to be from Los Angelas, which has spent most of the last year closing dispensaries through local regulation.

Marijuana & Fist

This bill could be very harmful, as it gives local government the ability to close dispensaries, which could send patients to the streets to find their medicine of choice.

Democratic Assemblyman and medical marijuana supporter Tom Ammiano of San Francisco objected saying he wanted the bill to include the term “dispensaries.” His logic was to help legitimize dispensaries which have been often the target of federal raids.

AB1300 was introduced with the intent let cities and other local governments make decisions about how to best regulate medical marijuana. Locations, crime prevention policy, licensing, taxation, hours and other rules related to the regulation of medical marijuana would be regulated locally. The bill was approved 53-1 Friday and now goes to the Senate.

Here is a copy of the bill.

Flagstaff Nixes Pot Dispensay Next To Pot-Themed Restaurant

Photo: Jesse Kasten/The Lumberjack
Flagstaff, Arizona’s Cheba Hut is a friendly haven for the high and hungry. But plans to located a medical marijuana dispensary next door have been derailed by city officials.

​Aw, man. It would have been so perfect.

Locating a medical marijuana dispensary next to a sandwich shop known for its stoner-friendly atmosphere and its subs named after strains of cannabis? Genius idea, and good for both businesses.
Several ganjapreneurs evidently had the same idea, even going to far as to secure a letter of intent from the landlord to rent them the commercial space next to the Cheba Hut in Flagstaff, Arizona. Cheba Hut markets to stoners, winkingly putting in quotes “Toasted” Subs and featuring “palm trees” in its logo that look quite a bit like cannabis leaves. Oh, and check out alllll that smoke pouring out the chimney.

Graphic: Cheba Hut
“Toasted” Subs, get it? And look at those palm tree leaves. And allll that smoke comin’ out the chimney…
But, alas: City officials have rejected one formal zoning application and have “informally discouraged” others from submitting similar applications, arguing the site is too close to a nearby Montessori preschool, reports Joe Ferguson at the Arizona Daily Sun.
City zoning requirements for medical marijuana dispensaries require the shops to be located at least 500 feet away from the nearest school, college, alcohol/drug abuse rehabilitation facility, library, childcare center or park.
But how Flagstaff measures the distance from any of those facilities has come under attack from a local attorney representing several prospective dispensaries, including one business that wanted to open next door to Cheba Hut.
Flagstaff calculates the distance by measuring from the parcel boundary of the entire shopping center, and attorney Lee Phillips has asked the city to instead measure from where the dispensary would be located — a perfectly logical and reasonable request.
In the case of the strip mall where the Cheba Hut franchise is located, it will make the difference between “yes” and “no” with city officials.
Phillips_Lee_SW302839_1 flip.jpg
Photo: Super Lawyers
Attorney Lee Phillips has asked the City of Flagstaff to to recalculate its measurement to reflect where the dispensary would actually be located
​ The southern edge of the property is less than 500 feet from the school, while the northern edge where the dispensary wants to locate would be far enough away to get city approval.
No fewer than a dozen different applicants have received a letter of intent from the landlord to rent out the commercial space if they receive a dispensary license from the state late this year, according to Phillips.
Because only one dispensary license will be awarded for west Flagstaff, the property can issue multiple letters of intent for the same site to different businesses.
Phillips sent a letter Thursday asking the city to immediately review its procedures. He noted dispensaries have only until June 30 to get a letter from the city confirming that their proposed location would comply with the zoning ordinance and send it to the Arizona Department of Health Services.
The ADHS is expected to issue, by mid-August, one license for each of 126 designated areas in Arizona, with two inside the city and another near Flagstaff in the county.
City Manager Kevin Burke said he was “aware” of the Phillips’s letter and said the zoning policies are “now being reviewed” by planning staff.
At least one other proposed dispensary location was nixed by the city for being too close to a school in the past few weeks. The city rejected a concept plan to open a dispensary in the Kachina Square Shopping Center on Steves Boulevard because it was too close to the College America campus in the same strip mall.
Only three possible medical marijuana dispensary sites have so far been approved by Flagstaff:
• 4401 North Highway 89
• 1110 East Route 66
• 2010 East Route 66

Support Marijuana Legalization And Get Ypur Name On A Virtual Brick

Legalize it!

Two weeks ago, we launched our new organization, the Coalition for Cannabis Policy Reform (CCPR), to bring citizens together to work toward legalizing marijuana in2012.

Already, thousands of people like you have stood up and pledged their support for going back to the ballot next year.

With that kind of support, I am confident that we can win. Together, we’re going to build this organization, brick by brick, and lay the foundation for an even stronger grassroots movement — but we need your help to do it.

That’s why, today, we are launching our Founding Members program. With a contribution of $25 or more, we’ll place your name on your own personalized virtual brick on our website’s Founders Wall, publicly recognizing you as a Founding Member of the Coalition for Cannabis Policy Reform.

Contribute $25 to our Founding Member drive today — and have a brick added in your name to our virtual wall!

Become a Founding Member of CCPR

To recognize friends like you, we’re building a virtual brick wall, symbolizing the support we have for cannabis policy reform.

Each brick represents a supporter of the cause, with his or her name engraved on the front, along with a personalized comment. Our virtual wall will let the world know everyone who is a part of this new effort from the very start.

Every contribution counts. If we build our virtual wall with just 1,000 bricks, we’ll have already raised $25,000 for our cause.

Will you buy your own personalized brick right now — so we can add your name to our Founding Member wall?

Show your support for building the grassroots movement that will tax and legalize cannabis in California: Contribute $25 and get your own personalized brick added to our Founding Member wall!

Your contribution to CCPR will help us build the movement we need to end cannabis prohibition in California. Together, we can lead the nation to a more sensible drug policy — brick by brick.

We are extremely grateful for your support.

Dale Jones
Coalition for Cannabis Policy Reform

P.S. Want to check out how the Founding Member wall is already shaping up? Click here to check it out — and then click here to buy your own personalized virtual brick.

Drug Warriors Won’t Play Cannabis Reformers In Softball

Photo: Anastacia Cosner
The One Hitters are already kicking the Drug War’s ass — now they want to beat the drug warriors in a softball game

Once again, the softball team representing the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) has backed out of playing a softball game against the One Hitters, a team consisting of members of several drug policy reform organizations and others who want to end the “War On Drugs.”

A game between the two teams had been scheduled for May 25, but the ONDCP Czardinals chickened out shortly after scheduling the game, with ONDCP public liaison coordinator Quinn Staudt claiming an “accidental double-booking.”
This is not the first time the Czardinals have refused to play the One Hitters.
Photo: Anastacia Cosner
The One Hitters dominate the Congressional Softball League
​ In six years, the team of drug warriors has managed to find one lame reason or another to avoid taking the field against the One Hitters, made up of individuals dedicated to reforming the out-of-date and ineffectual policies promoted by the ONDCP.
This behavior is being mimicked on the national stage by the ONDCP as well, according to the reformers.
While Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske claimed he would no longer use the rhetoric of a “War On Drugs” and President Obama said he wants to treat drug abuse more as a health problem than a criminal justice issue, little has been seen in the way of action in that direction.
The President has also said he does not support the legalization of any drug — even marijuana — despite the inarguable damage marijuana prohibition does to society, individual users, medical patients that benefit from cannabis treatments, governmental budgets, and respect for the rule of law.
“It is really disappointing that the ONDCP not only refuses to have an honest debate with drug policy reformers about the absolute failure of drug prohibition, but also keeps ducking out of softball games with us,” said One Hitters team captain Jacob Berg.
“We think it would be a great opportunity to advance the discussion between drug law reformers and the people ostensibly in charge of drug policy in this country,” Berg said. “I wonder if they are afraid to have that conversation.”
“The drug czar said ‘legalization’ isn’t in his vocabulary, but it’s just a friendly softball game!” Berg said.
The One Hitters still hope that Czardinals will put aside ideological differences and accept their invitation to play a softball game this summer on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.
TheOneHittersSummerSoftballTeamPhotos0608 sized.jpg
Photo: Anastacia Cosner
The mighty One Hitters strike fear into the hearts of the ONDCP Czardinals and drug warriors everywhere.

American Express Can No Longer Be Used To Buy Medical Marijuana

American Express is no longer allowing transactions to be processed at medical marijuana dispensaries nationwide, according to published reports.

A spokesperson told the LA Weekly that the company made the decision to not allow its credit cards to be accepted for medical marijuana because it is their “policy to adhere to the federal law in such matters.”

The American Independent reported that Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) plans to introduce legislation to clarify that banks can maintain normal business relationships with legal medical marijuana dispensaries, possibly as soon as this week.

“I haven’t seen it with other credit cards,” Aaron Smith, executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association, said. “I don’t understand why they would turn their back on a $2 billion industry. It’s perplexing.”

The company has given no explain of its decision, but Dennis Romero of LA Weekly believes the decision may be a result of businesses complaining about the credit cards they issue to employees being used to purchase marijuana. Ilana Greene of Business Insider added that American Express may have received a high number of fraudulent charges from medical marijuana dispensaries, thanks to thieves using stolen cards to try to buy marijuana.

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