Tuesday, December 28, 2010

What Will Michele Leonhart's Nomination As Head Of DEA Mean For Patients

On December 22, 2010, acting DEA administrator Michele Leonhart was nominated by the Senate to fill the top position permanently. Leonhart has been the acting director since November 2007, when Karen Tandy stepped down.

Leonhart’s appointment has been on hold due to concerns by Sen. Herb Kohl that nursing home residents don’t have adequate access to medications due to the DEA’s stepped-up efforts to combat prescription drug abuse. Kohl is supposedly pacified by the Obama Administration which has agreed to work with the Senator on future legislation.

Ultimately, medical cannabis patients must consider what her appointment means for us. During Leonhart’s acting term, she oversaw the landlord threat letters, a rash of raids and prosecutions – in California. Reports indicate that hearings around Leonhart’s nomination never touched on medical marijuana or the states that allow it. 30 Senators failed to consider the patients in their 15 medical cannabis states.

PAN will continue work with the Department of Justice, House Judiciary Committee and members of the Senate this next year to make sure patients’ concerns have a voice in Washington.

copyright © 2010 Degé Coutee

Michele Leonhart In The News:

Thursday, December 23, 2010

LA City Council To Consider Dispensary Ban

On December 15, 2010, Los Angeles Councilmembers Bernard Parks, Jan Perry and Greig Smith referred a motion to repeal LA’s dispensary ordinance to the Planning and Land Use Management Committee and requested that the City Attorney draft language to ban collectives in the City. (Link to motion: http://clkrep.lacity.org/onlinedocs/2008/08-0923-s14_mot_12-15-2010a.pdf )

Councilmembers Ed Reyes, José Huizar and Paul Krekorian sit on the PLUM Committee and will vote on whether to move the motion forward. Council will return to its regular meeting schedule the first week of January 2011.

The agony of defeat is driving the movers of this motion. Parks, Perry and Smith have actively worked to unravel any progress on a workable ordinance for five years. The recent court decision by Judge Anthony J. Mohr to issue an injunction against the City of Los Angeles, ruling that provisions in the current ordinance violate equal protection, due process and patient privacy, has put egg on the faces of those adversaries. (Link to story: http://www.latimes.com/news/la-me-1211-pot-injunction-m,0,1172776.story ) These officials have treated patients like ignorant, second-class citizens with no rights. Patient Advocates knew it would take a judge to reveal the error of their ways.

As a result Parks, Perry and Smith are spiteful and vengeful. Instead of acting in accordance with their constituents, they would rather tie up City resources in lengthy, expensive lawsuits that the City will continue to lose. Patients and their collectives are prepared to fight this for as long as it takes. Banning collectives already authorized to remain open during the registration process or those that have won their injunction is only going to cause the City further legal grief. But Parks, Perry and Smith are too arrogant to consider the legal ramifications of their actions. They have taken a page out the Carmen Trutanich Bully Handbook.

Patients are encouraged to contact LA City Councilmembers about their concerns. PLUM Committee members will hear the matter first. Parks, Huizar and Krekorian are up for re-election in March along with Tom LaBonge, Tony Cardenas and Herb Wesson. LaBonge and Wesson have also been hostile toward patients. Councilmembers Janice Hahn, Paul Koretz and Bill Rosendahl have tried to be the most help to us and most likely will adamantly speak out against this motion. Councilmembers Ed Reyes and Dennis Zine were heavily involved with drafting early motions, a draft ordinance and a working group. Both officials had best intentions but had their hands bitten by the City Attorney’s office and has left them bitter regarding our issue.

Contact PAN if you have any questions about contacting your elected officials.

copyright © 2010 Degé Coutee


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

LA To Decide On Collective Taxation

PAN President Degé Coutee with Councilmember Dennis Zine
On November 16, 2010, the Los Angeles City Council passed language that puts a Charter amendment on the March 2011 ballot allowing for a 5% gross receipts tax on all medical cannabis collectives in the City.

When collectives first began forming in LA, many patients agreed that paying our fair share to the City was reasonable. However, at the time Councilmember Dennis Zine had presented a reasonable motion seeking a temporary moratorium on new collectives while the Council drafted permanent regulations. In this September 2006 motion Zine writes,

“a legally existing medical marijuana dispensary is a retail establishment that is open for business in compliance with all applicable laws and regulations… has obtained all necessary licenses and permits and is conducted in a building… for retail occupancy.”

At the time it could not have been more clear that the intention of the Interim Control Ordinance and the future activity of collectives was going to be a retail model like other cities in California. Concurrently, Zine seated a Medical Marijuana Working Group to work on a draft ordinance that followed a retail model similar to that of the Los Angeles County’s ordinance.

Then, eventually comes the first draft from the City Attorney’s office. It could not be more opposite from Councilmember Zine’s motion or the input from the Working Group. The City Attorney, then Rocky Delgadillo and now Carmen Trutanich, argued that State law did not allow for sales but that patients were allowed to farm together and give it away to one another. After a year of arguing between Council and the City Attorney, nearly a thousand dispensaries operating, the moratorium expired and many angry citizens/patients– the Council finally caved and voted in what is called by many “The Worst Local Medical Cannabis Law In The Country.”

The current ordinance is so far from what the City Council mandated as a “legally existing medical marijuana dispensary” that collectives started to sue the City. Soon after the one-week registration period under the new ordinance, the City Attorney filed suit against 141 of these “legally existing” dispensaries citing a change in management as unlawful. The first ruling in these cases will be issued November 29, 2010.

A handful of councilmember’s are now starting to see what advocates had been stating during public comment. We attempted to point out that the ordinance was drafted with the intent of shutting down every collective in the City. We were treated as if we were irrational, didn’t know what we were talking about. The same people seated as advocates by a councilmember on the Working Group were falling on deaf ears.

The Council is now trying to amend the ordinance to stop the City Attorney’s attempt to shut down 141 “legally existing” collectives. As soon as the City Attorney sued these patient groups the City Clerk stopped the rest of the application process halting any other dispensary from moving forward in the licensing process. These collectives will be deemed illegal under the ordinance on December 6, 2010, if the Council does not act to protect them.

In the midst of all of this Councilmember Janice Hahn originally proposed a $500.00 fee on every medical cannabis plant grown by a collective. After hearing from patient advocates Hahn withdrew that motion and then proposed the 5% gross receipts tax, which passed Council vote 10-4. It will be on the ballot March 8, 2010.

The big question for the Medical Cannabis Community is do we support this tax in light of the current political and legal situation around LA’s collectives? How will you vote on this? PAN looks forward to hearing from you.

Image - Degé Coutee of PAN and LA City Councilmember Dennis Zine

copyright © 2010 Degé Coutee