By Leo E. Laurence, J.D.; Hillcrest | Law Enforcement Against Prohibition

When you carry a badge, you learn to smell trouble; you can sense it sometimes. Some believe the struggle for medical marijuana dispensaries in Southern California is in serious trouble.

“We’ve got a lot of trouble coming,” stressed Ken Cole, an outspoken former Australian basketball coach who played on two Olympic teams. He owns the elegant One-on-One dispensary at 923 Sixth Avenue in the Gaslamp Quarter. He totally restored the 1865 interior of the one-time bar, including the antique beer spigots behind the wide, New York style bar.

“I think if this can’t be resolved fairly quickly, it’s going to result in huge lawsuits,” Cole believes strongly. “I think it’s out-of-control right now. I think it’s headed for the courts. I can’t see it going anywhere else. I’m not sure that this (campaign) has been thought through carefully enough by the cannabis community. We may very well find ourselves in court in a few weeks,” Cole predicted.

“I think people have been forced into a corner where things happened so fast, and there didn’t exist the sort of organizational structure that you’d normally have. Therefore, we (the cannabis community) have made decisions on the run. Good-intentioned people are making community decisions on their own that maybe we shouldn’t have made,” Cole believes. “We need to think much more carefully about the next step because it can make or break us.”

“The pending referendum may force them to repeal all the San Diego ordinances on medical marijuana. But, I keep asking: What is your alternative after that? What are we going to do after the repeal of the law? I’m not hearing any plans.”

“I’m in a more unique situation than most dispensaries. I’m in a historic building and that carries with it a number of rights.  One would allow me to operate forever. I already have a conditional-use permit on these premises. I’m asking the Center-City Development Corporation for a variation on my conditional-use permit. They are asking the city attorney for a legal opinion on this,” Cole explained.

Current Status

The city council of Imperial Beach voted an outright ban on medical marijuana dispensaries on June 15th. The 4-1 decision “was prompted by concerns over possible crime spikes and the potential for abuse of medical marijuana cards,” according to the Union-Tribune newspaper. However, based on hard, law enforcement data, neighborhood crime actually goes ‘down’ when a dispensary opens, and the state now offers a county processed ID card that is more widely accepted by law enforcement than doctor issued IDs.

The state ID is available from the county office at (619)692-5723. Take your driver’s license and the original copy of your doctor’s recommendation letter to the county office at 3851 Rosecrans, Ste. 802. You’ll need $166 cash for a regular applicant, or only $83 for a patient on Medi-Cal (they will need your Medi-Cal card for verification). Call me at (619)757-4909 if you have problems. A special thanks goes to John (age 33) who was able to easily obtain his county issued, state medical marijuana card as a result of reading one of my earlier articles.

In addition to Imperial Beach, hundreds of cities and eight counties throughout the state have banned medical marijuana dispensaries. Where city councils don’t pass an outright ban, their new ordinances are filled with unreasonable restrictions as to be de facto bans on dispensaries, and that may violate our state constitution. Local cities and counties lack the jurisdiction to pass any ordinance that blocks the implementation of state law, which has legalized medical marijuana. That jurisdictional argument could also be part of a court challenge; plus, these anti-dispensary laws are also unconstitutionally vague.

The county’s Registrar of Voters at press time was verifying the signatures on a San Diego municipal referendum, which was filed by a new organization, the Patients’ Care Association of California. It reportedly has about 60 dispensaries among its members, with about 45 being very active. Arguably, if there are enough valid signatures to force an election, the San Diego City Council might work more closely with the medical marijuana community to come up with a city ordinance that implements state law, rather than block it, and avoids a costly referendum election next June.

Local cannabis lawyer Lance Rogers recently won a significant procedural battle for the Medi-Bloom dispensary in Rancho Bernardo. When a business association tried to get a restraining order to close them down, Judge John S. Mayer said that the opponents’ arguments about the dispensary being a public nuisance had no merit, and the case was set for trial without immediately closing the dispensary.

The Medi-Bloom case “represents an interesting situation because it was a legal challenge against a dispensary by a private association, rather than law enforcement or a city council,” Rogers stated in a news story by Dana Littlefield. This case is an example of what can happen when medical marijuana issues go before a judge. The false arguments that dispensaries lead to increased crime and create a public nuisance are rejected by the courts. Many cannabis leaders believe we will eventually end up in court rather than using the much slower and potentially more expensive process of pushing a municipal referendum on the primary ballot.

Other States
The governors of Maryland and Delaware have signed new medical marijuana measures into law. “That makes 17 states, compromising more than 1/3 of our U.S. population, with state laws recognizing the medical use of marijuana,” according to the current ASA newsletter.

Under Maryland’s new law, qualified patients can possess an ounce or less of cannabis. “Unfortunately, the new Maryland law falls short of the basic protections offered in all other medical marijuana states,” says Kristen Ford, field director with ASA.

In Delaware, a new state law allows anyone 18 or older with certain debilitating conditions to possess up to six ounces of marijuana. Each of the state’s three counties will eventually have at least one dispensary, but that can grow to six.

In other news, ASA lawyers in Washington, D.C. filed papers in federal district court to compel the Obama Administration to answer ASA’s 2002 petition to reclassify medical cannabis. A formal rejection of the petition will allow the ASA coalition to challenge in court the federal government’s claim that marijuana has no medical value.

War on Drugs
It’s well-known globally that the so-called ‘War on Drugs’ has failed, but law enforcement brass dogmatically supports it to get the big money budgets involved. However, a high profile commission led by a number of former Latin American presidents has released a formal report that found how nearly a half century of global policies to combat drugs has backfired. The result of that failure has driven up the rates of drug use and created a huge black market run by lethal cartels.  U.S. usage since ’98 includes a 35% increase in opiates, a 27% increase in cocaine, and an 8.5% increase in cannabis.

Active duty and former law enforcement officers are urged to call me at (619)757-4909 to confidentially get involved with supporting L.E.A.P. locally. E-mail is leopowerhere@msn.com

bringing you that fire! stay tune for more posts.

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