Thursday, June 21, 2012

A Resolution By The People Of Los Angeles To Regulate Medical Cannabis




PAN has received numerous requests from our community to present Los Angeles City Council with a resolution to regulate medical cannabis collectives.  The following was submitted to the Council during their June 20, 2012 meeting.

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RESOLUTION


A Resolution before the City of Los Angeles by the People of Los Angeles in order to amend the Los Angeles Municipal Code to regulate medical cannabis business activities as to protect the rights of patients and the will of the voters.

WHEREAS, the voters of California approved Proposition 215, The Compassionate Use Act of 1996 (CUA) so that, with the recommendation of a physician, people with serious illnesses for which cannabis offers relief, can grow, obtain, transport and use cannabis without criminal jeopardy; and

WHEREAS, scientific medical research continues to demonstrate the therapeutic applications of cannabis for conditions such as Cancer, HIV/AIDS, Multiple Sclerosis, Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, Heart Disease and many other ailments; and

WHEREAS, cities such as West Hollywood, San Francisco, Palm Springs, Berkeley, Santa Cruz and others have successfully implemented workable, enforceable local guidelines for medical cannabis collective businesses sometimes called “Dispensaries;” and

WHEREAS, the People of Los Angeles support safe, legal access to medical cannabis for the nearly 400,000 qualified patients in the Greater Los Angeles area that utilize the over 800 patient collectives in the City; and

WHEREAS, the City of Los Angeles benefits from the local taxation it implemented on the Dispensaries yet has failed to create a workable, legal set of guidelines causing frustration among our law enforcement and our communities and prompting scores of lawsuits; and

WHEREAS, the City of Los Angeles has passed numerous motions since 2005, approving the implementation a local regulatory system and seating a Medical Marijuana Working Group for the purpose of drafting such guidelines and the Council's intent subsequently thwarted by the Los Angeles City Attorney's office with possible violations of State law; and

WHEREAS, the majority of the Dispensaries in the City of Los Angeles have self-regulated and been good neighbors by following The California State Attorney General Guidelines For The Security and Non-diversion of Marijuana Grown For Medical Use, August 2008, as well as creating jobs and revenue for Los Angeles and that many LA Dispensaries have grandfathering rights; and

WHEREAS, any ban on medical cannabis is a violation of the CUA, and the City of Los Angeles voted for a workable set of local medical cannabis guidelines and the People of Los Angeles support regulations that protect patients' rights, our communities and the will of the voters.

 
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NOW, THEREFORE, THE PEOPLE OF LOS ANGELES DO RESOLVE AS FOLLOWS:

1.  The City of Los Angeles shall immediately:
            a.  Consult with outside counsel and any other related experts to draft a workable, enforceable set of local medical cannabis dispensary guidelines and look to other communities that have successfully implemented such for guidance;
            b.  Seat a citywide Medical Marijuana Taskforce made up of pertinent City staff and officials, medical cannabis patients and providers, and community and business leaders for the purpose of providing input on regulations and any future amendments, addressing concerns and creating any necessary subcommittees as needed;
            c.  Work with the California State Legislature and the U.S. Congress to realize a federal solution to the state-federal conflict regarding medical cannabis.

2.  Medical Cannabis Dispensaries in the City of Los Angeles shall:
            a.  Be any group of legally qualified patients and caregivers as defined by California State law that associate as a business entity for the purpose of legally dispensing medical cannabis exclusively amongst its registered members;
            b.  Be solely comprised of a private membership of legally qualified patients and their caregivers and obtain all of its medical cannabis products exclusively from its registered members;
            c.  Be good neighbors and operate within The California State Attorney General Guidelines For The Security and Non-diversion of Marijuana Grown For Medical Use, August 2008;
            d.  Follow reasonable security protocols by maintaining good lighting, appropriate signage, security cameras, safes, security guards or any security features deemed appropriate;
            e.  Be allowed fair permit hearings in their communities and be allowed to operate in accordance with the character and fashion of their neighborhoods and business communities.

I hereby certify that this Resolution by the People of Los Angeles was presented to the Los Angeles City Council at the Council meeting held on June 20, 2012.

                                                           
                                                           
Degé Coutee, Resident of Los Angeles
Medical Cannabis Patient & Social Justice Advocate

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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Is It Too Late To Stop LA’s Ban?

City of Los Angeles Speaker Card


If medical cannabis patients and their advocates are waiting to speak-out against the citywide ban on collectives until the day the Los Angeles City Council takes its final vote , it will be too late.   LA City Council acknowledges that it only puts items on the agenda for a vote when the item has enough support to pass.  Similarly, since the ban has had two public hearings in committee already, the Council can choose to not take any public comment on the day of the vote, however, unlikely.  What is likely is that anyone who signs up to speak on the day of the final vote will get a minute or less to speak on a matter that has already decided. 

Patients who want to oppose the ban must do so NOW while council members are deliberating the issue behind closed doors.  Some of the LA City Council members are conflicted over the ban and appear to favor reasonable regulations instead of inevitable continued lawsuits.  Hearing from hundreds of concerned citizens helps sway votes by giving law makers the ‘political safe space’ to act by demonstrating that his/her constituents support a specific position. 


What Can Patients Do To Help Stop The Ban?

YOUR voice is YOUR vote.  Make phone calls, send emails or faxes to LA City Council.  Attend any LA City Council meeting before the final vote and speak during general public comment.  You can learn who your council representative is as well as the council representative of your favorite collective by visiting http://lacity.org/index.htm.

In the middle of the page is ‘Neighborhood Resources’ where you type in your street address/address of your collective to learn whom your council rep is.  You can get all of the necessary contact info from the council member’s web page. 

Form letters are NOT effective as a form letter is not YOUR voice.  It is the voice of a special interest getting you to support THEIR position.  Support your OWN position.   If form letters worked, then prohibition would have ended decades ago. 


What Should Patients Say, Write To The LA City Council?

If patients wish to speak during general public comment, see http://panorg.blogspot.com/2012/06/patients-want-to-stop-ban-on-las.html for detailed information about the Brown Act, filling out a speaker card and preparing a two-minute statement.  You do not have to speak for a full two minutes.  Statements can be brief and to the point.  Some like to educate the Council with facts as the Council is making up their own.

When writing to Council, think similarly.  You want to be courteous, concise and accurate.  You want to state your position in the first or second sentence or your message may get ‘lost.’ 

Make your statements true to you and your circumstances.  Here are a couple examples:

General Public Comment – “Good Morning Councilmembers.  My name is Patient Mary Jane and I live and vote in Silver Lake.  I oppose any ban on our City’s medical marijuana dispensaries.  I am very ill and cannot grow my own.  I do not want to be forced to the black market.  Please do not turn me into a criminal.  Please draft workable regulations like other cities such as West Hollywood, Palm Springs and San Francisco where collectives are NOT suing the city.  Please vote NO on banning collectives.   I thank you for your time and consideration. “

Written Comment – “Dear Councilmember…  I write to oppose any ban on our City’s medical marijuana dispensaries.  I am a long-time resident and voter in Silver Lake but I am too ill to grow my own medical-grade cannabis.  I have come to rely on ‘The Best Silver Lake Caregivers’ for my medical cannabis needs.  The patient consultants there have always taken good care of me and I always feel safe when I’m there.  Please do not push patients to the black market and turn us all into criminals.  Collectives like ‘The Best Silver Lake Caregivers’ deserve workable regulations and a fair hearing process for a City permit.  Cities such as West Hollywood, Palm Springs and San Francisco have workable regulations and are not burdened with scores of lawsuits.  Los Angeles should take note and learn from our sister cities.  I thank you for your time and attention to this matter.  As my Council Representative I kindly ask for the favor of your reply.  Sincerely, Patient Mary Jane  -  (310) 420-KIND mary@patientjane.com

If patients choose to write to Council, they should still make public comment during one of the upcoming Council meetings – even if it’s to read your letter (or a 2-minute portion of it).  Council does not always acknowledge correspondence and your voice-vote will not be counted unless a speaker card is submitted. 

Contact PAN if you have any questions or wish to host a patient empowerment event. 




Thursday, June 07, 2012

Patients Want To Stop The Ban On LA's Medical Cannabis Collectives


The Late Richard Kearns speaks before LA City Council

The magnitude of LA’s upcoming ban appears to be sinking in with some.  PAN is receiving numerous inquires from concerned patients wanting to know how to stop this ban.  Below we try to best answer your questions.

What’s Going On? -
The resolutions to ban LA’s collectives are quickly moving through Council committees and will be up for a vote by the full Council as early as next week. 

See:
http://clkrep.lacity.org/onlinedocs/2011/11-1737-s1_mot_11-23-11a.pdf
http://clkrep.lacity.org/onlinedocs/2011/11-1737_MOT_10-12-11.pdf
http://clkrep.lacity.org/onlinedocs/2008/08-0923-s17_mot_5-9-12.pdf

The final committee hearing is Friday, June 8, 2012, at 8:30 a.m. at Van Nuys City Hall - 14410 Sylvan St., Van Nuys, CA 91401.  The resolution is being heard by the
Council’s Public Safety Committee and will move on to the full Council for a final vote soon after, potentially next Tuesday's Council meeting or ANY meeting thereafter.

See:
http://ens.lacity.org/clk/committeeagend/clkcommitteeagend2777497_06082012.pdf

City Hall is only required to give 72-hour notice before any committee, commission or Council hearing or vote on a matter.  Patients and their advocates must remain poised and informed in order to participate in these public hearings. LA City Council meets three days per week: Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays.  The City posts agendas and supplemental agendas daily.


What Can Patients/Advocates Do To Stop The LA Ban? *
It is always critical for as many patients and advocates to sign up to speak as possible anytime medical cannabis is on the agenda here in LA. Not just the same people at every meeting - new faces all the time.

This participation takes place during the ‘public comment period’ of the meeting.  The public’s right to be notified and allowed to speak at official meetings affecting public policy is protected by the Brown Act.

See:
http://ag.ca.gov/publications/2003_Intro_BrownAct.pdf

There are ‘speaker cards’ available in the hearing room.  You will need to provide some basic personal information on the speaker card.  Street address is not necessary but including your LA neighborhood or zip code is very helpful.  You will need to indicate on the speaker card if you support or oppose the agenda item.  You will need to include the agenda item number and ‘council file number.’

For the sake of this Public Safety Committee hearing, patients are concerned with agenda item 6, council file number(s) 11-1737, 11-1737-S1 and agenda item 7, council file number 08-0923-S17.  Please refer to the link to the agenda above for details. 

Speaker cards are turned into the meeting’s clerk at the beginning of the meeting and names are called at the appropriate time.  Brown Act allows for up to two minutes for each person to speak.  However, because other bodies have heard these resolutions already, it is likely speakers will only get one minute to speak at the hearing on Friday.

Speakers need to provide their name and neighborhood of residence at the beginning of their comments.  It is best to write down your comments, practice them and time yourself.  One minute goes very fast.

PAN has received many inquiries as to what patients should say.  It is most important that patients speak from the heart but remain courteous, concise and accurate.  Some of the things patients might include in their comments are:  being a register voter; being a patient, veteran, cancer survivor; stating how important your collectives are to you, quality, safety, affordability, not wanting to turn to the black market, etc.

Here is an example script that patients can make unique and personal which is important to elected officials.  Not all of this info is necessary but just ideas on things patients can touch on when speaking. 
“Good morning council members, my name is…. I live in…”
“I am a (medical cannabis patient/[ailment] sufferer/survivor, war veteran, disabled, low-income, in government housing/a care home, can’t grow my own…).”
“I am a (your professional area of expertise – teacher, doctor, lawyer, collective staff…).
THE ASK – “I urge you to (delay any ban; look at the regulations working in other cities such as West Hollywood, San Francisco, Oakland; follow State law; protect patients’ rights;
“Don’t take away my right to safe, affordable access.”
“Don’t send me to the black market.”
“I vote.”
“I thank you… for your time and attention.”

You do not have to speak the full time allotted to you.  You can simply state your name and neighborhood and that you support or oppose the ban.  You can state that you agree with comment already made by others.  If public speaking is truly not your thing, you can fill out a speaker card and check all the correct boxes and waive your time when you are called.  The clerk will still record your speaker card stating your support or opposition.

How Many Patients Need To Show Up To Make A Differnce? **  –
Typically, when items are agendized at LA City Hall, they become law. If the current participation by a hand full of patients is the status quo, then the L.A. ban will definitely pass.

If 500 - 1,000 advocates (patients/operators/attorneys/doctors, etc.)  sign-up for public comment on day of the final Council vote while 5,000 - 10,000 patients peacefully rally outside City Hall, that may get enough of City Council's attention to consider amendments, tabling the vote, looking at alternatives...

These numbers are not arbitrary: 500 will fill the Council Chamber; 1,000 will require the fire marshal to put out the ropes in the hallway and safely line up all of the other speakers; 6,500 - 12,000 is the average range of votes that each council member received to win their current seat. For example, Tony Cardenas received 4,788 votes in the last City election while Paul Krekorian received 12,692.

Patients can sign-up for email updates from PAN to learn when LA City Council will hold its final vote. Contact PAN to learn more about organizing your group.

*  Should the ban pass, collectives are encouraged to seek legal counsel.  
** Should the ban pass, patients are encouraged to participate with Patients For Compassionate Use Policies, PAN’s sister Political Action Committee, in a local voter initiative to overturn the ban and put enforceable, workable regulations in place.  Contact director@compassionatepolicies.org to get involved.