Medical marijuana patients are taking to the streets Thursday, Feb. 16, to protest the Obama administration's clampdown on medical marijuana across the country. And then, there's the action at the state and local level. Here's the latest:
Americans for Safe Access is calling for a coordinated day of action Thursday to protest the Department of Justice crackdown on medical marijuana providers. Rallies will go on in nine cities in six states. Rallies are planned to take place at an Obama fundraiser in San Francisco, as well as at the president's campaign headquarters in Sacramento (CA) and San Diego (CA), and at federal buildings in several cities, including Trenton (NJ), Phoenix (AZ), Seattle (WA), Eugene (OR), and Portland (ME). For more detailed rally information, go here.
Potential Arizona dispensary operators are chomping at the bit in the Phoenix metro area's East Valley. Now that a lawsuit filed by Gov. Jan Brewer (R) has been dismissed and the state has announced it will go ahead with licensing and regulating, there are more than 80 active applications for dispensaries in the East Valley. But under Arizona law, there can only be 12 in the area.
Last Wednesday, the Elk Grove City Council approved an ordinance restricting medical marijuana grows in the community to inside homes or detached backyard buildings. The 3-2 vote will allow patients or their primary caregivers to grow pot only on limited space indoors. The ordinance will take effect 30 days after a second reading. Other restrictions in the ordinance include a ban on growing within 1,000 feet of school or public park, an upper limit on grow lights of 1,200 watts, city-approved ventilation and security systems must be installed, and a cultivation permit is required.
Last Thursday, the San Francisco Examiner reported that the DEA had asked the city's Department of Public Health to turn over records for 12 of the city's remaining 21 dispensaries. Last year, the DEA asked for information on five dispensaries, whose landlords then received threat letters from federal prosecutors. All five dispensaries closed. San Francisco was the first city in California to license and regulate medical marijuana dispensaries under its Medical Cannabis Act, which became law in 2005.
On Monday, the Atwater City Council voted to continue a now year-long temporary dispensary ban. The Merced County town first approved the moratorium for 45 days on February 14, 2011, then extended it for another 10 ½ months. It would have expired Wednesday had the council not acted. The new extension is for 45 days, which can also be extended for 10 ½ more months. The city said it is looking into drafting an ordinance.
On Tuesday, the San Jose City Council repealed its dispensary regulation ordinance. Council members had voted to limit dispensaries in September, which prompted a municipal initiative campaign to overturn the ordinance.
Also on Tuesday, the Long Beach City Council voted to ban dispensaries, although it gave 18 existing dispensaries that had played by the rules a six-month exemption. The council was pressed to act after an appeals court threw out its regulatory ordinance last year. The council can revisit the exemption for the existing dispensaries in four months, and it could increase the extension, shorten the extension, or do nothing.
On Tuesday, the last dispensaries in Fort Collins closed their doors. That was the end result of a November election where voters approved an ordinance that banned the 20 or so dispensaries operating in the city.
Also on Tuesday, a bill in the state Senate that would have helped dispensaries with banking problems died in committee. Under federal pressure, banks and other financial institutions refuse to do business with Colorado medical marijuana enterprises. Senate Bill 75 would have allowed patients and dispensaries to join financial co-ops, but failed on a 5-2 vote in the Senate Finance Committee after being opposed by the banking industry.
Last Friday, Gov. Jack Markell suspended the regulatory and licensing process for his state's dispensaries. He acted after federal prosecutors responded threateningly to a request for clarification Markell's office had made. Now, Delaware has a medical marijuana law with no dispensaries and no provision for patients to grow their own.
Last Friday, House Bill 1973, which is opposed by medical marijuana supporters, advanced on a committee vote and is now before the House Judiciary Committee. Among other provisions, the bill would remove severe pain as a qualifying condition, making about half of existing patients ineligible for the program.
Last Thursday, Del. Dan Morhaim (D-Baltimore County) filed two bills based on working group approved by the legislature last year. House Bill 1024 would allow medical marijuana distribution only through university-affiliated hospitals, while House Bill 1158 would allow distribution through registered dispensaries. Maryland has a medical marijuana law, but it does not allow for access to medical marijuana and it only provides for a defense in court -- not protection from arrest. A broader bill was introduced last month as well.
On Monday, a Chesterfield Township dispensary avoided being shut down by performing a legal end-run on Attorney General Bill Schuette. Big Daddy's Hydroponics and Compassion Center got a judge to agree that Schuette improperly attempted to have the judge find the facility in civil contempt and potentially shut it down and/or jail the owners. Because the claim sought punitive, not coercive, action, the case should be treated as criminal contempt, Big Daddy's attorney successfully argued. They now face criminal contempt charges, though, but at least they're still open for business.