A medical marijuana advocate urged a federal appeals court to require the U.S. government to relax, or at least rethink, a more-than-40-year-old rule that treats marijuana as a highly dangerous drug with no medical value. Federal drug regulators "have failed to weigh the evidence" from a growing number of medical studies showing that marijuana is effective for relieving pain and nausea, said Joe Elford, counsel for Americans for Safe Access. (See also: Appeals Court hears case on medical value of marijuana)
The city of Oakland has sued to block U.S. authorities from closing down a medical marijuana dispensary that bills itself as the world's largest, marking the latest clash with federal authorities over California's cannabis industry. The lawsuit, which was filed by Oakland's city attorney in U.S. District Court, seeks an injunction to halt efforts by federal prosecutors to shut down Harborside Health Center through civil forfeiture actions they filed in July against two properties where the clinic operates.
On October 16, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, the federal appeals court that usually handles cases involving government regulations, will hear oral arguments on Americans for Safe Access v. DEA. Specifically, Americans for Safe Access (ASA), a California-based patient-advocacy group, is trying to get the Drug Enforcement Administration to move marijuana out of Schedule I, the Controlled Substances Act of 1970s category for drugs with "a high potential for abuse," "no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States," and no "accepted level of safety for use under medical supervision."
One year after federal law enforcement officials began cracking down on California’s medical marijuana industry with a series of high-profile arrests around the state, they finally moved into Los Angeles last month, giving 71 dispensaries until Tuesday to shut down. At the same time, because of a well-organized push by a new coalition of medical marijuana supporters, the City Council last week repealed a ban on the dispensaries that it had passed only a couple of months earlier.
Advocates for medical marijuana will go before the US court of appeal as part of a historic lawsuit that they hope will challenge the federal government's classification of marijuana. Under the Controlled Substances Act, marijuana is classified alongside heroin as a dangerous drug, with no medical benefits. Advocates argue that marijuana has a medical benefit and so should be reclassified. A wide range of US organisations support either medical access to cannabis, its reclassification or both.
Seattle's first-ever Medical Cannabis Cup — part gourmet weed contest, part trade show, part smoke-in — showcased the entrepreneurial drive and explosive growth of the local medical-marijuana industry. From dispensaries offering dozens of marijuana varieties to new potency-testing labs to makers of cannabis-infused capsules and candy corn, storefronts displaying the trademark green cross dot nearly every Seattle neighborhood. The city estimates there are at least 150 marijuana-related businesses here, more ubiquitous than Starbucks.
Amanda Reiman, lecturer at the UC Berkeley School of Social Welfare, policy manager for the Drug Policy Alliance.
02 October 2012
The Times' Sept. 27 editorial, "In a haze on pot policy," says, "In the face of this chaos, the federal crackdown is, to some, good news -- finally, definitive action is being taken to stem the uncontrollable expansion of medical marijuana franchises.” The federal crackdown in L.A. is thought to be in reaction to a void of attempted regulation. But while the city itself may have run into barriers to the regulation of medical marijuana, the industry has been working to ensure community safety and patient access.
After struggling for years to regulate storefront pot shops, the Los Angeles City Councilretreated Tuesday, voting to repeal the carefully crafted ban on medical marijuana dispensaries it approved a few months ago. The move shows the political savvy of the increasingly organized and well-funded network of marijuana activists who sought to place a referendum overturning the ban on the March ballot, when the mayor and eight council seats will be up for grabs.
Late last year, U.S. Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. affirmed the Obama administration's long-standing policy of taking a hands-off approach to states that had legalized medical marijuana, saying federal resources wouldn't be expended on enforcement actions as long as purveyors obeyed state law. On Tuesday, Los Angeles got a taste of the current interpretation of that policy — which is that our dispensaries are out of bounds. Federal officials started their first major operation in L.A. by raiding dispensaries. (See also: Marijuana: A failure to regulate, but not by dispensaries)
Federal officials brought their war on medical marijuana dispensaries to Los Angeles, raiding several shops and issuing warning letters to dozens more. Officials at the U.S. attorney's office said it was the first large-scale federal action taken against cannabis shops in the city, and said more will probably follow. "We couldn't do all of L.A. at once," said Thom Mrozek, a spokesman for the office. "There's just too many stores." The crackdown adds a dramatic element to the already tense fight over the fate of medical marijuana dispensaries in the city.
Activists seeking to strike down a ban on medical marijuana outlets in Los Angeles saw their challenge qualify for the ballot, dealing a setback to the city's latest attempt at a crackdown. Backers of medical marijuana dispensaries needed 27,425 valid signatures to force a referendum on a law that prohibits the sale of cannabis but allows groups of three people or fewer to cultivate and share the drug. The Los Angeles City Council voted 14-0 in July to ban medical marijuana shops. Foes said the proliferation of dispensaries had gotten out of control.
This fall, Arkansas will be the first Southern state to ask voters whether to legalize medical uses for pot, a move that offers supporters a rare chance to make inroads in a region that has resisted easing any restrictions on the drug. The state's top elected officials and law enforcement agencies oppose the idea, but legalization groups hope the referendum shows that medical marijuana is no longer solely the domain of East Coast or Western states.
A referendum to repeal a ban on medical marijuana dispensaries in Los Angeles appears to be headed for the ballot, with pot shop supporters saying that they have collected nearly twice the signatures required to force a citywide vote and key City Council members signaling that they won't try to stop it. Medical cannabis supporters plan to turn in the names of 50,000 voters who want the referendum included on the March ballot. If the signatures prove valid, officials will be required to temporarily suspend the ban, which was approved with much fanfare last month and was due to go into effect Sept. 6.
A medical marijuana trade group and 11 patients sued the city of Los Angeles, seeking to block enforcement of an ordinance that would shut down most of the city's storefront pot dispensaries in three weeks. The lawsuit, which says users are protected by California's 1996 legalization of medical marijuana and the U.S. Constitution, seeks an immediate injunction to keep Los Angeles officials from shuttering dispensaries starting on September 6.
The Los Angeles City Council is plainly out of its depth when it comes to regulating medical marijuana. This was already clear after years of fumbling and court-delayed attempts to limit the number or locations of cannabis dispensaries, but it became painfully obvious when the council approved a ban on all dispensaries — along with a separate motion to draft an ordinance that would allow well-established pot shops to stay open, partially defeating the council's own purpose.
In what could be a turning point in the city's seemingly unending battle to regulate the distribution of medical marijuana, the Los Angeles City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to ban all pot dispensaries, while also opening the door to possibly let some remain. Under the ban, all of the 762 dispensaries registered in the city will be sent letters ordering them to shut down immediately. Those that don't comply may face legal action from the city.
A day after federal prosecutors moved to shutter the country's largest medical marijuana dispensary, city leaders and other officials came to the defense of Harborside Health Center, warning of dire economic and social consequences if Oakland's carefully regulated industry is quashed. "We cannot afford the money, we cannot afford the waste of law enforcement resources, and we cannot afford the loss of jobs that this would entail," City Councilwoman Rebecca Kaplan said.
Federal prosecutors have filed civil forfeiture actions against an Oakland medical marijuana dispensary that bills itself as the world's largest, as part of a crackdown by U.S. authorities on California's massive cannabis trade. The lawsuits seek forfeiture of two properties where Harborside Health Center operates, said the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of California. Harborside says it is the largest medical marijuana dispensary in the world, serving more than 100,000 patients and is subject of the Discovery Channel reality TV show Weed Wars.
More than 15,000 people are licensed to grow medical marijuana in Canada, but Health Canada has no record of staff ever inspecting any of the growers. Health Canada implemented its medical marijuana access regulations in 2001. Under the program, people with "grave and debilitating illnesses" can be granted legal access to marijuana for medicinal purposes. People seeking a permit apply in writing to Health Canada, with a supporting document from a medical practitioner. (See also: Medical marijuana growth rules to change)
Many medical marijuana dispensaries have been making huge sums of money even as they claim to be nonprofit, according to court and law enforcement records, industry insiders, police and federal agents. The Los Angeles Times found a cash-infused retail world unlike the one pitched to voters who passed the Compassionate Use Act for "seriously ill Californians" in 1996.