Thursday, June 11, 2009

City of Los Angeles Medical Marijuana Dispensaries Policy According to ZD (Part 1):

With LA Times doing a recent story on the emergence of Medical Marijuana dispensaries, which have seen a dramatic increase in number of locations opening recently, Los Angeles City Council once again, has to try and put a genie back in the bottle, once it has become an 800 lb gorilla genie in the chambers.(See Clear Channel billboards.)

If you look at the local magazine, LA JEMM, which is the main publication listing advertisements for medical marijuana co-ops, they went from a 100 page issue in March to a 200 page issue in June. And a whole lot of “grand openings.”

An I.C.O (moratorium) went into effect in 2007 which was supposed to prevent new dispensaries from opening within the city.

Since medical marijuana was approved by voters and there are two State of California laws allowing for medical marijuana (under certain conditions, which many operations may or may not be adhering to), the City Attorney’s office (under Deladillo) reported back to council, the way to “regulate” (control/close) some of these co-ops could be done through zoning in the Building and Safety Department.

Things like, you can’t open up less than 1000 feet from a school, church, library or anywhere kids are nearby. (GOOD LUCK FINDING A PLACE IN THE CITY LESS THAN 1000 FEET AWAY FROM ANY OF THAT!) But they couldn't find a way to shut them down over the actual sales of marijuana itself.

However, for whatever reason (that ZD will be checking into more) the city attorney’s office felt that the need for a “hardship” exemption was needed to be added to the I.C.O. (Some potential reasons are for things like people didn’t know about the deadline, or they were kidnapped overseas and couldn’t file in time, or whatever.

IN THE MEANTIME, all of these hardship exemption filers were allowed to open up until the city gave them a hearing. AND OF COURSE, they handled this the same way the handle everything from Clear Channel flashing U.F.O. billboards to the problem with Villaraigosa being allowed to appoint 5 of his own “picks” to the pension board (that just lost $7 billion dollars in Wall Street investment firms that are now being investigated nationwide)…AFTER THE FACT! Approve the budget FIRST assuming the unions will “give back”

So now, there may be up to 500-600 dispensaries in the city. (Although there are 500-600 hardship exemptions filed, not all of them are open. And although a co-op opens for business, many of them close within a month or a few months, because it’s not as easy as it appears, and you need a lot more money than it takes to just open up.)

So now, the LA Times article came out calling attention to how profusely the situation has escalated, and Zuma Dogg calls attention to the last three months.

First of all, they are going to extend the I.C.O (ban on new co-ops) for another six months (after it expires in September), and next week, is expected to amend the I.C.O. by removing the hardship exemption clause.

So that will mean, when it is finally all approved and goes into effect (45 days after being approved, I was told), NO MORE CO-OPS WILL BE ABLE TO OPEN UNTIL THE I.C.O. expires.

Between now and then, the city will have to come up with a regulation policy on how these things will be allowed to operate. They are drafting it up, and if you know anything about the city, I’m sure it will be all fucked up and tons of problems and all kinds of legal messes. (I could be wrong.) But it’s just a “starting point” anyway.

IN THE MEANTIME, the city now has to go through the process of going through the overloaded backlog of the 500-600 hardship exemption applications to decide whether their case has been approved.

AND NOW, here’s where you have to take off your “how you feel about medical marijuana dispensaries and if we already have enough, or not” hat…and put on your “city attorney, hoping the city doesn’t open themselves up for massive lawsuits hat” for what ZD is about to breakdown.

During Tuesday’s meeting, the City had the first round of 14 hardship exemptions to review. (I know I covered this yesterday, but will be re-capping WITH NEW INFORMATION LEARNED TODAY.)

Three of the cases were called, “special,” meaning someone showed up to speak about the case. Zuma Dogg was one of the speakers on behalf of a co-op that didn’t even show up. Plus, two other operators appeared to plea their case. All three of those were rejected.

Interestingly, last week, :LAPD busted some co-ops in the mean streets of Woodland Hills, where you can do donuts in the middle of the street it is such a chill, low-key area on the edge of city limits. Well, wasn’t it special to find out one of the co-ops just also happened to be having it’s hardship exemption case being heard in Council chambers on Tuesday. And of course, the councilmember was able to say, “We had a bad report on this co-op from LAPD who said there were problems, and crime and all kinds of really, really bad things…”(Or something like that.) Point is, interesting that the co-op up for hardship exemption review was just written up by cops. (Maybe they needed a good reason to reject the exemption.)

I need to look into which other of the busted co-ops were up for review that day (or are up for review). Because here’s the other issue: 11 of the 14 dispensaries (co-ops) up for review that day, WERE NOT EVEN DISCUSSED AND HAD NO HEARING AT ALL!

And guess what…they were all rejected, too. So you had 14 out of 14 rejected. (Hey, had to give the LA Times another story to diffuse the other one. NOW, it can be said, “LA CITY COUNCIL CRACKS DOWN ON REEFER MADNESS!!!”)

But here are two problems and the smaller one first:

This reason is smaller, because only 14 co-ops were heard that day, and they can fix the problem, which they should.

There may be a reason only 2 out of 14 co-op owners chose to show up for their own hearing (trial, if you will) where the decision on the entire future of their operation was being made: The City of Los Angeles sent notices out by mail on FRIDAY, for a hearing on TUESDAY.

Now keep in mind, they were sent out on Friday, over the weekend, including a non-delivery day of Sunday. So MAYBE you walk in on Monday and go through all your mail, right away, and open the letter and find that the hearing you may have been waiting up to two years to hear about, is coming up tomorrow. Not a lot of time to contact your attorney, or to hire one, to be able to appear in court (council chambers) first thing the next morning.

So that may be why only two of fourteen appeared. So if I were a co-op that was denied on Tuesday, I would check the postmark of the letter. And I would see if it was illegally short notice. Maybe you can have you can get some “exemption redemption.”

And to my good friends running the City of Los Angeles, perhaps planning a little more in advance on items like these, and send out a legally compliant 30 days notice, unless you are comfortable hinging all of this on 72 hours. (I think my hardship exemption rejection appeal would be that I only got 72 hours notice.)

But here is a bigger, more fundamental problem regarding the rest of the 500-600…

One of the councilmembers told me, “There are too many co-ops and we are going to reject all the hardship exemptions…” [BRAKES SCREETCH ON ZUMA DOGG’S “Subaway to the Sea” train.]…DID YOU JUST SAY “WE”RE GOING TO REJECT ALL OF THEM???”

How do YOU know, already? All of the cases have not had a hearing, yet? You may FEEL there are enough co-ops already…and you may BELIEVE that ALL of them used bullshit reasons for filing the hardships (because to say you were going to reject them all means you must believe they are all B.S.); HOWEVER, there’s a little concept this country was founded upon, and that’s “if it doesn’t fit, you must acquit”…I mean, “Innocent until proven un-hardshipped!”

I’m no Jackie Childs, but I would think the city could find itself in trouble if they rejected all the co-ops, most without hearing, just because they fucking felt like it. Especially, if 72 hours notice (over a weekend) is not proper legal notification.

So first of all, I need to speak with this Councilmember about recusing theyself from all hardship exemption votes, because they have already stated to a potential witness that they already decided in advance the city was voting no on all of them. (Now the other CMs will say this one doesn’t speak for them, so only the one CM should have to step down on votes.)

Secondly, the Councilmember DID say, “WE are voting on all of them.” Suggesting Council had already discussed to matter. The Councilmember appeared to be on target since 14 of the first 14 were rejected.

So an argument could be made that Council was in violation of the Brown Act on all 500-600 hardship exemption cases and maybe they can all be appealed. (BUT, this is not likely, but a demonstration and warning to the procedure, here.)

HOWEVER, I’m sure the city can’t be THAT dumb as to reject all of them, just for rejections sake, if the hardship exemption was added, after the fact, by the city attorney’s office. (It was obviously needed to be inserted for SOME reason.)

Now we have a new City Attorney elect (Carmen Trutanich) who will be taking office on July 2, 2009. I’m sure he has a lot of important issues to deal with his first 100 days in office, especially dealing with the fact that he is saddled with a bunch of desperate, dead-weight losers who were tenured in by Rocky Delgadillo, so he’ll essentially be short-staffed in the first place, so it’s not like he PLANS on dealing with this right away. (However Zuma Dogg feels this one will be jumping up and demanding attention from the public in a way that may get it bumped up in the priority line.)

BUT, when it DOES get the attention of the city attorney’s office, the office can go back and see why the hardship exemption was legally inserted. Maybe they will be looking for a way to throw it out entirely. (Not that it is probable that you could have the clause thrown out, but you gotta double check all of Rocky’s homework, cause he’s a joke-ass clown, along with his un-iron clad staff of butter finger losers.)

RECOMMENDATION: I know the city won’t do this, because they are always stubborn and do the wrong thing, then get sued and in trouble and they end up having to do it the way I said in the first place. But first, this ISN’T exactly one of these examples where I am saying if the city doesn’t do this, they are violating an law or ordinance…it’s just the way I think this matter should be handled:

The city says there are too many co-ops, and Zuma Dogg could make an argument that there are more than enough co-ops than needed and some could be closed and no one would miss a puff.

But that’s just the same dumb council opinion based on zero facts that always gets them into hot water. It’s not based on any type of real study of demographics. They just kinda look around and say, “That looks good to us.”

So I am here to say, that there may be more than needed. FINE, free market conditions of supply and demand will take care of balancing out geographically where the dispensaries are most needed, and which ones are not needed…THEY WILL GO OUT OF BUSINESS, AND THE NECESSARY AMOUNT TO FILL THE DEMAND WILL BE MET.

And you cannot compare L.A. to San Francisco because even if you had the same amount of people (same population) and same amount of patients, LOS ANGELES CITY SPANS A MUCH LARGER GEOGRAPHIC AREA. In other words, you would more dispensary locations in L.A. because people are spread across a larger area. So you would probably need more, but smaller co-ops to allow patients to be close enough to a location, as opposed to San Fran or other areas.

So here is the suggestion: Since the city has already allowed these co-ops to open up through their own inaction (they allowed co-ops to open, people invested money – while the city dragged their feet and did nothing, when they should have been reviewing them all along, and they wouldn’t all have been allowed to open, or could have been closed by now; and since they have already revealed they are going to (perhaps illegally) “blanket no” (reject) all of the applications (even though a hardship exemption clause appears to have been required, because it was added by the city attorney’s office); and since the city does not really know if there are too many operations in fact…ALLOW ALL DISPENSARIES THAT ARE CURRENTLY OPEN AND OPERATING TO BE GRANTED PERMISSION (ALL HARDSHIP EXEMPTIONS APPROVED).

Then, if it is true that we have way too many and too many too close to each other, the ones we do not need will eventually close shop (and it won’t take long, because it’s a costly operation.)

So if they are using the argument that there are too many, this is the only true way to find out, along with finding out where they are needed more and where they are needed less throughout the city.

And regarding the claims that crime increases around these co-ops: What do you think will happen when ALL of this business is being done out on the streets, instead of just a small number of stray abusers who represent a very, very, minutely small number of patients? Currently, you have to enter a discrete, secure location where you are buzzed in, show ID, have the medication stapled closed in a bag and are warned not to open it up within 500 feet. BUT THEN YOU JUST WANT TO DO ALL OF THAT OUT IN THE PUBLIC.

So to sum it up, although the city thinks there are too many co-ops and want to deny all the hardship exemptions that they were required to offer, they should just approve them all and let free market “supply and demand “ conditions shake out the whole situation for us. Less litigation that way and you really get the answer and solutions you were attempting to achieve through random blind political deciding.

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