June Reporting from the City of San Diego Medical Marijuana Task Force

By. Kim Twolan – Task Force Collective Representative

We wanted to take the opportunity to bring our readers up to date on all the progress that has happened regarding the City of San Diego Medical Marijuana Task Force (MMJTF) starting from the beginning.  On October 6, 2009, the San Diego City Council voted to establish a MMJTF to advise the City Council on: (1) guidelines for medical marijuana patients and primary caregivers; (2) guidelines for the structure and operation of medical marijuana cooperatives and/or collectives; and (3) guidelines for police department enforcement regarding medical marijuana.  The Council appointed eleven members with a broad range of perspectives and backgrounds to serve on the MMJTF.

The MMJTF met seven times over the course of January, February and March 2010 to discuss the recommendations.  The meetings were conducted pursuant to the Brown Act and open to the public.  The MMJTF was fortunate to receive valuable and helpful input from the public at these meetings, and relied on a wide range of documents and reports to inform our work including existing and proposed ordinances for regulating medical marijuana collectives and cooperatives from over three dozen other cities and counties in California.  We also reviewed the superb work of the previous San Diego City MMJTF which sparked the beginning of the realization of safe access for San Diego MMJ patients.  Representatives from the City Attorney’s and the Independent Budget Analyst offices graciously attended each meeting to advise the Task Force on pertinent issues.

In October and November of 2009, the Task Force crafted its recommendations regarding land use and zoning regulations for collectives and cooperatives that dispense medical marijuana to qualified patients.  The Task Force presented its land use and zoning recommendations to City Council in December of 2009.

On March 24, 2010, the San Diego City Committee on Land Use and Housing (LU&H) heard the recommendations from the MMJTF.  The committee discussed the Task Force’s Zoning Recommendations and considered the input of community planning groups in deciding on what to recommend to the San Diego City Council.

April 28, 2010, the Public Safety and Neighborhood Services Committee (PS&NS) of the City of San Diego met to take action on the Medical Marijuana Recommendations proposed by the MMJTF. Alex Kreit (Chair of the MMJTF) presented the final report to the committee as part of the agenda.

The MMJTF’s recommendations were forwarded to the Council with a few amendments. Additionally, the Committee directed the City Attorney to draft an ordinance (including the amendments) to present to the Council. Council Members Lightner, Faulconer, and Gloria voted yes while Council Member Young opposed.

Thank you to Alex Kreit, Mark Blummel, Pastor Riggs, and community supporters for attending the LU&H meeting. Many thanks for their insight and input, as it is always deeply appreciated, to SDPD Captain Guy Swanger and to Deputy Director of Neighborhood Code Compliance Bob Vacchi, for their support and for attending this meeting.

The following is a summary of the MMJTF’s recommendations for regulations that fall outside of land use and zoning.

Medical Marijuana Task Force
Recommendations Regarding the Structure and Operation of Dispensing Collectives and Cooperatives, Guidelines for Medical Marijuana Patients and Primary Caregivers, and Guidelines for Police Department Enforcement

The Task Force’s recommendations appear in full below.  In general, however, the recommendations reflect a shared belief by the Task Force that the best way for the City Council to address the issue of medical marijuana collectives and cooperatives is to adopt an ordinance that closely regulates such entities.  We believe that by closely regulating collectives and cooperatives, the City of San Diego can ensure that qualified patients have safe access to their lawfully recommended medicine and prevent against the dangers attendant to unregulated or otherwise illegitimate operators.  Though some members of the Task Force differed on specific recommendations, we all were in agreement on this central principle.

Recommendations:  The Task Force voted on recommendations for a number of specific issues.  We considered and voted on each issue one at a time.  By the nature of the project, the Task Force could not consider and vote on every possible consideration.  Accordingly, these recommendations are meant to provide general advice to the City Council about the items that we believe would be especially important to include in any ordinance that regulates medical marijuana patients and primary caregivers; the structure and operation of medical marijuana cooperatives and/or collectives; and police department enforcement regarding medical marijuana.  The following is a list of each recommendation of the Task Force, and where helpful, brief explanatory text.

• Establishment of a Fee:  The Task Force recommends that the City adopt cost-recovery fees for medical marijuana cooperatives and collectives pursuant to the City of San Diego’s process for determining and establishing cost-recovery fees.

• Definition of Non-Profit Operation:  The Task Force recommends that the City adopt the following standard to determine whether medical marijuana cooperatives and collectives are operating in a non-profit manner in compliance with State law:

No collective shall operate for profit. Cash and in-kind contributions, reimbursements and reasonable compensation provided by members towards the collective’s actual expenses for the growth, cultivation and provision of medical marijuana shall be allowed in accordance with State Law. All such cash and in-kind amounts and items shall be fully documented. “Reasonable compensation” shall mean compensation for directors, managers and/or other employees commensurate with reasonable wages and benefits paid to employees of IRS-qualified non-profit organizations who have similar descriptions and duties. The payment of a bonus shall not be considered “reasonable compensation.”

• Verification of Non-Profit Operation: The Task Force recommends that on an annual basis each collective be given the opportunity to provide evidence of its operation in a non-profit manner to the City during the previous year. Upon request by the City, each collective shall file with the City Controller an audit of its operations of the previous calendar year, completed and certified by an independent certified public accountant in accordance with generally accepted auditing and accounting principles.

• Documentation and Definition of Closed-System Operation: The Task Force recommends that medical marijuana cooperative and collective applicants shall document closed system operations pursuant to the Attorney General’s guidelines. As such, it is expected that all collective members are potentially growers and can grow for themselves as they are able or as they choose. Collective members are expected to bring the excess medical marijuana from their own personal grows to the collective where they may be compensated by cash or trade in-kind. Certain collective members choose that their sole support to the cooperative effort will be to contribute their time and expertise in growing medical marijuana for the collective. Growers are compensated for their time and expenses in growing for the collective when the harvest is brought to the dispensary. Other members may participate in the cooperative cultivation of the medical marijuana, however the growers are responsible and compensated by the transaction amount to be paid by other members of the collective as their contribution to the cultivation of the medicine. Members may offer labor at any point in the cultivation cycle as their skills and choices allow and as opportunity permits.

• Background Checks for Dispensary Directors, Managers, and Other Employees:  The Task Force recommends that LiveScan fingerprinting be required of all potential directors/managers/staff of dispensaries. Those who have been convicted of violent felonies or convicted of crimes of moral turpitude within the past seven (7) years shall be excluded from being directors, managers or staff of dispensaries.

• Prohibition of Employing Minors:  The Task Force recommends that dispensing collectives and cooperatives be prohibited from employing individuals less than 18 years of age.

• Restrictions on Dispensing Medical Marijuana to Qualified Patients Under 18 Years of Age: The Task Force recommends that qualified patients 18 or older or parents/legal guardians of a minor who is a qualified patient may obtain medical cannabis for the patient. It is acknowledged that medical marijuana may be dangerous in the hands of juveniles and the use must be appropriately supervised by a parent or legal guardian.

• Prohibition against Physicians’ Consultations at Dispensaries: The Task Force recommends that dispensing medical marijuana collectives and cooperatives be prohibited from offering physician’s consultations and recommendations on dispensary premises.

• Restrictions on Medical Marijuana Transportation: The Task Force recommends that medical marijuana may be transported only by patients, caregivers or a member of a collective.

• Packaging and Labeling: The Task Force recommends that (a) all packaging of medical marijuana be sealed in an airtight manner and  (b) a label be affixed to the package containing the following information: Patient’s name; Dispensing date; Name of product; Product ingredients; It must be used as recommended; It must be kept out of reach of children; Patients must not operate heavy machinery while under the influence of medical marijuana; It is prohibited to sell or transfer medical marijuana to non-patients; The product is intended for medical use only as stated under the California Health and Safety Code Section 11362.5; Any use instructions and warning.

• Patient Advisory for Edible Products and Concentrates: The Task Force recommends that the warning on the use of edible products, tinctures and concentrates contained in Attachment A be posted on a wall in the dispensary and that edible products and concentrates must be labeled with an appropriate warning label.

• Applicability of Patients’ Bill of Rights to Medical Marijuana Patients: The Task Force recommends that the City acknowledge that the Patients’ Bill of Rights applies to medical marijuana patients.

• Revisions to Existing San Diego Municipal Code Provisions Relating to Medical Marijuana: The Task Force recommends that the City of San Diego revise existing municipal code provisions relating to medical marijuana in accordance with Attachment B.

Conclusion:  The Task Force recommends that the City of San Diego closely regulate medical marijuana collectives and cooperatives in order to ensure that qualified patients have safe access to their lawfully recommended medicine and to prevent against the dangers attendant to unregulated or otherwise illegitimate operators.

Again, I am tremendously grateful for the fabulous opportunity to serve on the Task Force and to help bring safe access to San Diego.  Please stay informed and educated on the City of San Diego MMJTF website: http://www.sandiego.gov/medicalmarijuana/.

Steve

Author: Steve

Built Like That!

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