Posts Tagged ‘california’
by Marc Benjamin, The Fresno Bee
A murder warrant has been issued in the disappearance of Sammy Mercado, the Sanger teenager who vanished after attempting to steal marijuana from an outdoor growing site last month, the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office said.
Sheriff’s investigators say Ernie Chanmany, 21, of Fresno is wanted on suspicion of murder, attempted murder and weapons charges.
Chanmany was identified three weeks ago as one of the suspects possibly involved in Mercado’s disappearance.
Mercado’s body has not been found, sheriff’s spokesman Chris Curtice said.
Mercado, 16, has been missing since April 12 when authorities say he and two friends attempted to steal marijuana from an outdoor grow at Annadale and Willow avenues.
Two men emerged from a hut, and one of them started shooting at Mercado. His two friends drove away, leaving the boy lying on the ground. When they returned, Mercado was gone, but evidence at the scene indicated the teenager might have been shot.
Chanmany is described as Laotian, 5 feet 6 inches tall and weighing 135 pounds. He has black hair and brown eyes and tattoos of a dragon on his left shoulder, “Chanmany” on his chest, and “01-01-10″ on his left wrist.
It’s not known where Chanmany is, but his last known address was on South Chance Avenue in Fresno. Chanmany has relatives in Las Vegas and Memphis, Tenn., Curtice said, but it’s not known if he is in either city.
Anyone with information on Chanmany’s whereabouts is asked to call the Sheriff’s Office at (559) 488-3111, or CrimeStoppers at (559) 498-STOP(7867).
Walking Buster was the hardest part of watching his friend’s house. It meant he had to walk around the neighborhood with the dog, without making eye-contact with the neighbors.
“Just don’t offer any information,” Jake lectured. “I don’t even know their names,” he added. “And they don’t know mine, and that’s the way we all like it.”
Jake said there were a lot of grow houses here in Cutten. The town was an old, established neighborhood in Humboldt’s County seat, and still considered a family neighborhood with parks, a school and a town center.
This was just one of Jake’s houses and no one lived here. A four bedroom California ranch-style, with four grow rooms for the ladies and a false room in the garage for growing babies. Nick was just one of several house-sitters keeping watch at any given time.
Unlike other neighborhoods he worked in, you could still see the occasional mom walking with a stroller, and parents walking kids to school in the morning.
Nick quickly led the dog out of the cul-de-sac and onto the busier street of Walnut. “Less people wondering who I am on this street,” he thought, averting his eyes from a passing car.
School was letting out and he had a moment of dread as carpool mom’s filed past him in a sea of mini-vans. “Note to self: don’t walk dog during school rush.”
Back at the house Nick rinsed out Buster’s water dish and filled it up again, reminding himself to dump the humidifier in the big room.
“It was nice outside, eh boy?” he said, patting him on the head. If only he could open a window or the blinds for some light. But that wasn’t going to happen.
The list of have and have-nots lie face-up on the kitchen table. “No open curtains or shades, no open blinds. When opening front door, make sure hallway curtain is pulled shut. When opening grow room door, make sure other doors to outside doors are blocked…” The list went on and on.
The house was always too warm from the hot lights in the grow rooms, and no matter how many fans were on back there you could still smell the green of thriving plants. Well, thriving except for the occasional spider mite, but that’s another story altogether.
Nick propped pillows on the open futon in the living room and eyed the cover of an old North Coast Journal, “Best Weed Strains.”
“How would they know,” he laughed to himself. “Let’s see what they think…‘OG Kush’ and ‘Headband,’ well, I can agree with Headband – that’s stuff’s killer. Wonder if they even know what the ‘OG’ stands for. Obviously not, or they wouldn’t spread the lie of its So Cal creation. Ocean Grown in Petrolia, on Humboldt soil, assholes.
The futon felt hard as a rock. Jake said he could sleep in the bedroom, but the noise from the fans was deafening, so he slept on the couch in the living room. Not that he slept much. All of the work was done at night when the lights in the rooms were on.
Last night was exhausting, first pinching back larger plants, then spraying babies with Neem for the never ending mite situation, then fertilizing. Feeding the plants was a bear, as Jake’s notes were always sketchy and each set of plants had different requirements at various stages.
Nick stuck the pH tester into the runoff water in the drain dish under the more mature ladies and checked the meter. “Six-point-eight, time for vinegar,” he whispered to himself.
There were at least 15 gallon jugs of fertilizers to choose from in Mike’s garage and he used them all – Tiger Bloom, Big Bloom, Open Sesame, Beastie Bloom, Bio Bud, Bio Weed, you name it. He was always amazed at the amount of stuff needed to get a few pounds out of this small,
The money was good at a hundred bucks a day, but his better side felt guilty about the waste, the runoff and the energy consumed. He read that grow houses use sixty percent more than the average household. And most of the growers he worked for didn’t recycle all those big, plastic jugs of “organic” fertilizer for fear of being found – either at curbside, or at the recycle yard.
Regulations are out the window too, with spraying without a mask or bending over in cramped spaces a given – with no complaint department, and no Christmas ham.
Yes, everything about this gig was bleak with no future, sans a bigger black market grow to tend.
Nick pulled the brochure from the Small Business Center out of his backpack. “Developing a Business Plan,” he read the first entry aloud.
Outside a car door slammed. The dog began to bark wildly. Inching the curtain away from the blinds, he carefully peeked out and held his breath.
by Shannon Young, Associated Press
HARTFORD, Conn. — Connecticut lawmakers’ approval of the use of medical marijuana includes strict regulations for the cultivation and distribution in an attempt to avoid problems other states have run into when legalizing the plant for medical use.
The bill, passed early Saturday by the state Senate, is headed to Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who said in a statement that he plans to sign it, as he believes the law would “avoid the problems encountered in some other states.”
Sixteen states and the District of Columbia have laws authorizing the use of medical marijuana. Since California passed the country’s first such law in 1996, states have struggled with disorganization and clashes with the federal government, which considers the drug illegal and of no medicinal value.
“Everything from California back is trying to get away from chaos,” said Allen St. Pierre, the executive director of the National Organization to Reform Marijuana Laws.
Advocates say the Connecticut proposal goes further than any other state in regulating the drug.
Under the legislation, marijuana would be sold in multiple forms at dispensaries, which must have a licensed pharmacist on staff. It would be marketed only to patients authorized to use it. The measure also outlines diseases that would be treated by the drug, establishes a registry for patients and caregivers and restricts cultivating the plant to growers with permits.
“Experience has shown that having statewide structures in place makes it easier for everyone to understand what the rules really are,” said Alan Shackelford, who serves on a state advisory work group for medical marijuana in Colorado and helped advise Connecticut lawmakers on their proposal.
Opponents in Connecticut, however, point to a letter from U.S. Attorney David Fein, who wrote that while the Department of Justice would not go after seriously ill patients who use the illegal drug, federal laws would be enforced against those who manufacture and distribute it.
“The violation of a federal law to me is a big stop sign and I just can’t bring myself to go through it,” said Rep. Steven Mikutel, a Griswold Democrat who voted against the legislation when it passed the state House.
In addition to federal efforts to shut down dispensaries in California and, to a lesser extent, Colorado, problems with regulation have arisen in states where the drug was legalized through ballot initiatives and the system was implemented without regulations in place, advocates say. Likewise, some states don’t allow medical marijuana dispensaries and patients are left to grow their own.
Because of this, several states have been taking steps to strengthen regulations.
Colorado imposed tight regulation and state government control over dispensaries in 2010. New Jersey and Delaware also have passed laws to strictly regulate medical marijuana.
California state Sen. Mark Leno said he was working to enact legislation that would further clarify that care providers be exempt from prosecution for providing the drug to patients.
But Leno said he is uncertain how states’ attempts to improve regulation will succeed in reducing federal scrutiny. He points to small patient-owned and patient-run dispensaries in his district that the federal government has shut down.
Allison Price, a DOJ spokeswoman, said in a statement the department “is focusing its limited resources on significant drug traffickers, not seriously ill individuals who are in compliance with applicable state medical marijuana statues.”
by Norimitsu Onishi, The New York Times
VALLEJO, Calif. — On a suburban block with six family homes, palm trees and views of the surrounding green hills, nothing at 110 Windsor Court stood out. Its occupants, who had moved into the foreclosed house a few years earlier, were quiet types.
On a street in Vallejo, a burned-out house that had been used to grow marijuana. Unsafe wiring for lights for the plants often causes such fires.
Until the noise from falling roof tiles alerted neighbors to a fire there one recent morning, and Stephen Snowden, who lived nearby, banged on the front door. Nobody was inside, but firefighters discovered that the house had been converted into a type of illegal business found increasingly in suburbia: a marijuana grow house.
The entire second floor of the five-bedroom, 2,251-square-foot home, as well as parts of the first floor, was used to cultivate marijuana plants.
“They just blended right in,” Mr. Snowden said of the residents. “They left early for work and came back late in the afternoon. They mowed their lawn, took out their trash and got groceries. There was never any extra foot traffic.”
Organized marijuana growers are shifting to the suburbs from rural and commercial areas, helped by a housing crisis that created a glut of affordable, spacious houses and a stream of new residents to previously more stable communities. Houses that sold for $1 million before the crisis have been turned into grow houses, equipped with the high-intensity lights, water and air-filtering systems necessary to produce potent, high-quality marijuana.
Many grow houses go unnoticed, even by next-door neighbors, until there is a fire, typically caused by unsafe electrical wiring. Local police forces, especially in California, which has permitted the limited cultivation of marijuana for medical use since 1996, have stopped seeking out grow houses.
Rusty Payne, a spokesman for the Drug Enforcement Administration, said crime syndicates used to concentrate production in low-income areas. But now, he said, “you’re hearing more and more in middle-class, upper-middle-class, high-end neighborhoods.”
“They either buy them or rent them,” Mr. Payne said. “They’re buying them in places like Northern California, where the real estate market’s really taken a turn for the worse.”
In Northern California, grow houses have been discovered in older suburbs hit hard byforeclosures, including Vallejo, a city 25 miles northeast of San Francisco that declared bankruptcy in 2008. They have also been found in newer communities that mushroomed during the housing boom, like Elk Grove, near Sacramento.
“They were located in suburbia, pretty much,” Officer Christopher Trim, a spokesman for the Elk Grove Police Department, said of the grow houses discovered there. “Residential streets, kids playing outside and going to soccer practice, folks going to and coming from their work.”
California accounted for more than 70 percent of all marijuana plants confiscated nationwide in 2010, the last year for which statistics are available, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration. The authorities seized 188,297 plants at 791 indoor grow houses, compared with 107,047 plants at 572 locations in 2005.
Vietnamese-American crime groups have specialized in running grow houses, which produce marijuana that can fetch up to twice the price of the outdoor kind, Mr. Payne said.
Law enforcement officials, especially in local forces that have been downsized during the financial crisis, say they lack the resources to go after grow houses. They also say that California laws have created an environment tolerant of marijuana cultivation in general.
“Ten years ago if there was a grow house, we’d seize all their equipment and lamps, and they would be prosecuted,” said Sgt. Jeff Bassett, a spokesman for the Vallejo Police Department. “Now the chances of being caught, or of being prosecuted if you are, are substantially less than they were 10 years ago.”
No one has been arrested in connection with the grow house at 110 Windsor Court or at another previously foreclosed house that also caught fire in Vallejo recently, the police said. Firefighters responding to that house — a one-story, 1,304-square-foot house on Evelyn Circle — quickly realized that it was a grow house.
Like other neighbors, Tim Langford, 54, said nothing aroused suspicion about the occupants, who had been spotted at the house for a couple of years. But Mr. Langford said the housing crisis had weakened the social ties on his block.
“You have a much more transient population now, so you mind your business,” he said. “It’s not the day when you take an apple pie over and say, ‘Hi, I’m your neighbor.’ ”
The housing crisis also led to the emergence of grow houses in new real estate developments, creating lasting problems for those communities.
In Pittsburg, a city about 40 miles northeast of San Francisco, marijuana growers occupied a five-bedroom house on Pilar Ridge Drive, across the street from an elementary school. The house, part of a sprawling, luxurious community that was built about a decade ago, sold for nearly $1 million in 2007 but went into foreclosure three years later.
In June 2010, acting on a tip from a neighbor, the police found that the house had been transformed into a grow house. Last fall, Stephen Tucker and his wife, Tomasita, bought the property from a bank for $363,000, Mr. Tucker said, after looking at hundreds of other places.
“My daughter came to this house, and she’s the one who said, ‘That’s the house I want,’ ” Mr. Tucker, 51, said of his daughter Veronica, 8.
Mr. Tucker said he learned after the purchase that the house had been used as a grow house. He began discovering mold and other damage under the new carpet and in the drywall.
Not all stories involving foreclosed houses and grow houses have ended unhappily, though. Mr. Snowden, who banged on the door of the house on fire, said that despite the discovery of a grow house on his block, he did not regret moving there three years ago. In 2009, he purchased his house — which had been foreclosed the year before — for roughly 60 percent of what it had sold for in 2004.
“It was cheaper than renting,” he said. “This is actually a pretty quiet, decent neighborhood.”
by Peter Hecht, The Sacramento Bee
ARCATA – The pot market is crashing in California’s legendary Emerald Triangle.
The closure of hundreds of marijuana dispensaries across California and a federal crackdown on licensing programs for medical pot cultivation are leaving growers in the North Coast redwoods with harvested stashes many can’t sell.
Some pot cultivators who sought legitimacy through the medical market are fleeing to the black market. So much cheap weed is getting dumped in the college town of Arcata, some local dispensaries say business is down 75 percent. Even the region’s itinerant and colorful bud trimmers are going broke.
By the scores, people have long trekked into the marijuana fields and indoor greenhouses of Humboldt, Mendocino and Trinity counties. Workers used to earn as much as $200 a pound meticulously cutting leaves from marijuana buds, prepping them for display at dispensaries or for sale in a purely illicit market.
These days, a 47-year-old man called Mover, a dreadlocked migrant from Ohio who is a fixture in downtown Arcata, says the tedious work isn’t worth his trouble as the per-pound pay rate has dropped to $100 or often just a few nuggets of pot.
“I got paid in weed,” Mover, who refused to give his real name, said of his last trimming job. “It’s worthless here. You can’t give it away. And I’m not going to transport anything. I’m too old, and I don’t want to go to jail.”
The region’s pot pilgrimage had accelerated in recent years as people were drawn by local cannabis traditions and dreams of cashing in on the medical marijuana market. They planted marijuana in the backwoods and in rewired houses with high-intensity grow lights.
But the saturation of pot growers set off a price tumble by 2010, as a pound of prime Emerald weed slipped from $5,000 to the $3,000 range for marijuana grown indoors and to the $2,000 range for product grown outdoors. Lately, prices are in free-fall.
“Last I heard, a pound of marijuana is $800 for outdoor grown,” said Mendocino County Sheriff Tom Allman in Ukiah. “That’s plummeting. You might do better with tomatoes.”
The marijuana meltdown could have major regional effects. In Humboldt County, a recent study by a local banker estimated marijuana accounts for more than a fourth of the county’s $1.6 billion economy.
In recent years, many locals already thought the influx of pot growers exceeded demand in the state’s sanctioned medical pot market. When U.S. authorities in October announced a crackdown on medical marijuana businesses that they contended were profiteering in violation of federal and state laws, it darkened growers’ fears.
Raid heightened fears
Lelehnia Du Bois, 41, was one who thought she had found a safe niche. A former fashion model in Southern California, Du Bois started growing marijuana indoors in Eureka after rupturing her spinal cord. She supplied her unused home-grown “Sweet God” to a Eureka dispensary, earning $5,000 a year on top of her disability income, she said.
Du Bois had spent her childhood in Trinity County and remembers growers having “a big potluck” meal after the outdoor marijuana harvest. She said the weed culture changed markedly as indoor growers in Arcata and Eureka competed for access to the medical market – and many went into illegal trafficking.
As indoor pot prices dropped as low as $1,800 a pound, “People started taking risks. All of a sudden, people were not farmers. They were drug dealers,” Du Bois said.
Last year, months before federal prosecutors began targeting California dispensaries for closure, Du Bois got out of the pot business and moved out of Humboldt County. She now lives in Utah.
At Arcata’s Humboldt Patient Resource Center, a dispensary that grows its marijuana on site, cultivator Kevin Jodry said fewer people are coming to buy seedlings for this year’s outdoor marijuana crop or quarterly indoor yields.
“Many people distributing in the medical marijuana market didn’t get into it for the risk situation,” he said. “The people who were formerly in the black market were able to stay functioning. People who were not criminals can’t move their product.”
Pressures on growers intensified after federal Drug Enforcement Administration agents raided a marijuana farm that had been licensed by Mendocino County and was considered a model for establishing local compliance rules for medical cultivation.
The raid prompted Mendocino County supervisors in January to rescind a program that allowed the sheriff to enforce a 99-plant limit on pot farms by attaching $50 zip ties to each plant and inspecting the gardens of nearly 100 growers who provided documentation to show they were serving medical pot users.
The program, which also offered cheaper tags for smaller quantity growers, brought in $630,000 in county fees in two years.
Sheriff Allman said it allowed his department – which spends 30 percent of its $23 million budget on pot enforcement – to target major cultivators who he says are illegally growing thousands of plants, diverting water and fouling the environment.
Humboldt County had sought to put a similar program in place last summer as District Attorney Paul Gallegos called for licensing to ensure “sustainable and responsible cultivation.” After the federal government launched its crackdown, supervisors tabled work on the plan, and Eureka and Arcata placed moratoriums on new dispensaries.
Outdoor growers struggle
Among the most worried cultivators are the outdoor growers who increasingly struggle to compete with the exotic strains produced in climate-controlled indoor grow rooms.
Alison Sterling Nichols, executive director of the Emerald Growers Association, which seeks to protect the Emerald Triangle’s sun-grown pot traditions, said outdoor growers were most directly affected by the collapse of local licensing programs. The group backs legislation to regulate medical marijuana statewide as long as it would preserve growers’ ability to supply dispensaries.
“People shouldn’t have to sleep with one eye open,” Sterling Nichols said. “People should be able to move from the black market into the light. We haven’t been able to bridge that gap. We have hills of healthy outdoor product we can’t take to the market.”
Meanwhile, many worry that the Emerald Triangle will go back to being the hub of California’s illegal marijuana trade.
Last month, authorities in Pennsylvania arrested the former operator of a Humboldt dispensary for allegedly shipping more than 25 pounds of pot in heat-sealed packets to a home he was visiting. State officers in Nebraska also stopped a Mendocino County man and a companion with 62 pounds of weed stuffed in duffel bags.
On consecutive days in late February, Humboldt authorities conducted two separate raids on growers suspected of criminal distribution, seizing nearly $700,000 in cash and 7,000 plants.
In Mendocino, Allman said his officers last year eradicated 642,000 plants, some loosely tied to Mexican trafficking networks but most involving Californians or residents from other states who secretly grew on public lands and private property.
With a federal crackdown and a shrinking market, Allman said, many out-of-towners may leave and “everything is going to go underground.”
by Gia Magnoli, Noozhawk
Under forfeiture laws, property owners may face loss of properties where storefront and growing operations are located.
In their stepped-up battle against local marijuana dispensaries and growing operations that supply them, federal authorities are employing a powerful weapon: asset-forfeiture laws.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office this week filed legal complaints for forfeiture against the property owners of two South Coast medical marijuana storefront dispensaries and one indoor farm. They allege that the owners should have known what the buildings were used for — growing and/or selling marijuana, which the government considers illegal under both federal and California law, even if the marijuana is considered medicinal.
Citing past testimony that points to each establishment selling and/or buying marijuana products and making a profit off it, the properties were allegedly used to facilitate law violations and are subject to U.S. forfeiture laws, according to the complaints, signed April 20 by U.S. Attorney Andre Birotte Jr.
The cases will go through U.S. Central District Court.
Drug Enforcement Administration agents and local police raided the Pacific Coast Collective on Milpas Street and an indoor farm on Haley Street this week, and filed the forfeiture complaints and sent out enforcement letters to known marijuana-related operation in Santa Barbara County, authorities said.
No arrests were made.
The letters were very similar to those sent out in October, said Thom Mrozek, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
The letters warn property owners that their buildings are being used by marijuana dispensaries, which violates federal law, and both the property and rent paid by the dispensary operator could be seized.
“Please take the necessary steps to discontinue the sale and/or distribution of marijuana at the above-referenced location within 14 days of this letter,” an October sample letter states.
Regardless of local laws, federal law — which doesn’t recognize medical marijuana — takes precedent, the letter states.
“Accordingly, it is not a defense to either the referenced crime or to the forfeiture of property that the dispensary is providing ‘medical marijuana,’” the letter says. “Even under these circumstances, an owner of real property with knowledge or reason to know of illegal marijuana distribution occurring on real property that he owns or controls may have his interest in the property forfeited to the government without compensation.”
Santa Barbara County has banned dispensaries while the City of Santa Barbara has an ordinance allowing up to four medical marijuana storefront dispensaries on the condition that they abide by strict operational standards and state law.
But state law regarding the dispensaries has been fuzzy, even with then-Attorney General Jerry Brown’s guidelines that left the door open for not-for-profit storefront collectives for qualified patients (with doctors recommendations).
The city’s permitted storefronts, including Pacific Coast Collective, sell marijuana to their members and have paid employees, but local court cases have shown the legality of an establishment often hinges on the amount of money coming in (covering overhead is acceptable) and where the product comes from.
According to the legal complaint, the Pacific Coast Collective at 331 N. Milpas St. is leased from property owner Matilija Investment Property LLC, with principals Jeffrey Becker of Ventura and William Jonker of Ojai. It’s managed by The Becker Group Inc. of Ventura.
The property was used as a “marijuana store” that distributed marijuana to its customers and accepted money for it in this type of business since at least 2008, the complaint alleges.
The storefront collective claims to be a medical marijuana dispensary abiding byProposition 215, the Compassionate Use Act, but the DEA and the U.S. Attorney’s Office think otherwise.
Search warrants were served there in 2008 — when it was still Pacific Greens and owner David Najera was later convicted of drug-related charges — and 2010, when operator Charles Jeffrey Restivo was arrested and charged with felony cultivation and possession for sale of marijuana, according to the complaint.
Pacific Coast Collective was raided by the DEA and Santa Barbara police a third time on Wednesday, but no arrests were made. The establishment is one of four permitted by the City of Santa Barbara, but those permits are zoning-related and are conditional on the storefronts following state law.
The city sent cease-and-desist letters to the establishment, and Becker Group was sent a copy, and ordinance violation letters in 2008 and 2009. A police detective called Jeffrey Becker of Becker Group in 2010 and told him about the search warrants and resulting arrests, so the owner knew or should have known the property was utilized for illegal purposes, the complaint states.
Diane Norman is the property owner of 2173 Ortega Hill Road in Summerland and the operator of the Miramar Collective at that location. She has pleaded guilty to felony possession of concentrated cannabis as a result of a February 2010 raid, during which authorities found plants, packaged marijuana for sale and price sheets.
She told authorities at the time that her establishment sold plants, marijuana and edible products to members and she bought product from vendors and growers. Miramar Collective started making a profit in January 2010, according to the complaint.
Norman’s other business is the French Market antique store at the same property, and she said in a 2009 newspaper interview that she was trying to open dispensaries in the Santa Ynez Valley or elsewhere in the North County.
Senior Deputy District Attorney Brian Cota, who is assigned to most of the dispensary-related cases, said the federal government’s move to take property will likely have a chilling effect, with fewer landlords willing to rent to dispensaries.
“I wouldn’t want to lose a commercial property in Santa Barbara,” he said.
The 305 E. Haley St. property, which allegedly was used as an indoor marijuana grow by renter Steven Kessler, is owned by Janna and John Price, the complaint for forfeiture states.
The Prices own numerous properties on the South Coast, including gas stations and car washes.
The two-story building was used as a farm since at least October 2010, when neighbors complained of marijuana smells coming from the vents, and city code-enforcement and fire-inspector teams saw the plants during site visits.
They sent violation letters to the owners and Kessler over the unpermitted electrical and plumbing additions, which likely were made to support the marijuana-growing equipment, the complaint states.
The city inspectors observed plants in various stages of growth, and “the heat, humidity and marijuana odor inside the defendant property was overwhelming,” according to the complaint.
Architects were hired to help with the required renovations, and the property owner was in touch with city code-enforcement teams to provide updates on the plans for bringing the building into compliance.
In October of last year, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Price called the city and said he wanted to evict Kessler, but it could take six months because of the lease. In January, his attorney called the city to ask about the pending code-enforcement action, the complaint states.
It appears the Harmony Wellness Cooperative is still cultivating and distributing marijuana at that location and so the property itself can be forfeited to the United States, the complaint says.
DEA agents and local police seized a trailer-full of pungent evidence Thursday from the Haley Street building during the raid, and also served a search warrant at Kessler’s house in Santa Barbara’s Mesa neighborhood.
Attempts by Noozhawk to reach the affected property owners were not successful Friday.
by Doug Oakley, Contra Costa Times
After nearly 13 years in business, a San Pablo Avenue medical marijuana dispensary in Berkeley was set to close Monday evening under pressure from the federal government for being too close to two schools.
The 9,000 member Berkeley Patients Group has not yet found a suitable new location in Berkeley and plans to open a delivery service, dispensary management said Monday. Sixty nine employees of the dispensary will be out of work come Tuesday, but they will be paid through the end of the month.
“There’s a lot to take into account in trying to follow state and local laws in finding a place,” said Sean Luse, chief operating officer, as customers streamed in to the dispensary on its last day. “There’s a lot of fear out there in the community and that’s part of the challenge. We’re keeping our fingers crossed.”
The dispensary at 2747 San Pablo Ave. is across the street from a school called the Center for Early Intervention on Deafness and three blocks from a second school called Ecole Billingue de Berkeley. City and state laws require dispensaries to be at least 600 feet from any school. The dispensary was established before city guidelines on proximity to schools were put into law.
Luse said Berkeley Patients Group signed an agreement with building owner David Mayeri to vacate the current location May 1. That agreement was overseen by an Alameda County judge with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in San Francisco looking on, Luse said.
Goldsberry, who helped found Berkeley Patients Group but is no longer involved, and who now is a consultant to dispensaries, said the current federal pressure under President Barack Obama is the worst it’s been since former California Attorney General Dan Lungren went after dispensaries in the late 1990s.
“This is the most difficult period that we’ve ever faced because we can see the end of prohibition,” Goldsberry said. “The department of justice wants to unsettle us, but for most of us it just reinvigorates the fight. We’re fighting a war on drugs.”
Debby Goldsberry said she thinks the medical marijuana movement will emerge stronger from the latest crackdown because people in the industry have learned better business practices and “are more focused on politics and social justice issues than ever before.”
Mary Davis, 60, of Berkeley, was at the dispensary Monday and is sad to see it close its doors.
“Berkeley Patients Group is like family to us,” said Davis, a nurse who uses marijuana to combat the constant pain that comes with severe osteoarthritis in both her knees. “So many of us need it to get by day to day and to just start our day. It’s going to be really hard for all of us.”
by Jennifer Abbey, ABC News
A California company hopes to make medical marijuana a little easier to obtain and to control.
Dispense Labs, a division of the Dispensary Group, unveiled Autospense Friday, an automated dispensary that distributes medical marijuana and looks like a vending machine.
All that is needed to tap an Autospense machine is a registration card and unique PIN number, said Joe DeRobbio, Dispense Labs’ founder and CEO.
After swiping the card, the patient is granted access to a caged, camera- monitored room. From there, a patient swipes his or her card again and is given a menu to choose medicinal variety and quantity, DeRobbio said. Payment can be made with cash, credit or debit card. Once payment is received, the door to the machine opens, much like an ATM machine, to allow patients to remove their medicinal marijuana.
During after hours, Autospense is open only to patients who have agreed to the fingerprint option – they run their prints through a scanner and swipe a registration card, DeRobbio said.
Autospense offers a secure, “businesslike” way to distribute and obtain medical marijuana, said DeRobbio. With cameras, locks and sensors, the machines are difficult to break into.
“The facilities are secure,” DeRobbio said. “There are cameras outside and inside. There are alarm sensors around and in the machine. If there’s any type of forced entry, it sets off an alarm.”
And there are consequences for tampering with the system.
“If you’re going to go in and try to rob that machine and do something silly, your membership and access to the machine is revoked permanently,” said DeRobbio.
The machine records all transactions and inventory 24 hours a day and seven days a week while securely managing a patient’s information.
The idea for the machine came when DeRobbio noticed a lack of control regarding medical marijuana. Autospense, which is currently allowed only in dispensaries in California and Colorado, is designed to mitigate problems surrounding medical marijuana distribution, including theft and the black market, DeRobbio said.
“It’s a difficult culture,” DeRobbio said. “This provides a solution. It’s manageable, it’s controllable, and it’s transparent. Taxation comes right from the machine and every dollar is accounted for.”
Although Dispense Labs supplies the machines, it is not involved in growing the product, DeRobbio said.
“We are not associated with the industry,” he said. “We do not provide the medicine that goes in the machine.”
Medicinal marijuana has been legal in California since Proposition 215 was passed in 1996.
DeRobbio believes the Autospense system is the perfect place for medical marijuana in society.
“Medical marijuana, we believe, is here to stay,” DeRobbio said. “Here’s a way that you can control that 800-pound gorilla.”
I will admit that I am not the biggest 4-20 head on the planet. It is normally a day that comes and goes like any other for me. I have never really bought into the hype of it all. But I do enjoy seeing the community get “fired up” for cannabis and I love that we have declared this day as our own. Because I am knee deep in cannabis policy and reform 365 days a year I am often simply too exhausted or have had enough of my fellow weedheads. I generally lay pretty low on 4-20 for the most part. It is almost as if I am so inundated with cannabis that most 4-20 events generally leave a lot to be desired…and with a cannabis event of some sort almost happening every week these days it seems that another cannabis party for me is often a mundane experience. That being said, when I force myself to be social and get to an event I generally have a pretty good time. Today I am gonna have a good time, if it kills me….
So what will a lowly foot soldier in the war for cannabis freedom do on the big day? Well I am glad you asked. I am in the Bay, so I will likely stay local for the daytime and attend the big protest at the Oakland Federal Building at 11:30 am. Why? Because protesting at the Oakland Federal building is like my most favoritest thing to do. Oakland Fed building is where I had to go to court for my case and I organized several actions at the building myself during that episode. My favorite was the Christmas protest where I dressed up like Santa, made a huge Grinch card for the DEA signed by dozens of activists, made them presents of books, studies, and yes…treats (because I figured they would test them), and stood on the street corner with my fellow soldiers and fought for my freedom. So a protest at the Oakland Fed building brings back a lot of emotion for me. Not to mention, the assholes who kicked in my door work on the 6th floor, so any chance I get to stand outside and scream at those cats is a good day for me. It is therapy.
After the protest I will likely reconvene with my fellow activist at the OU student union and try to make sense of it all for a minute over a J or two before having to go visit a good friend and enjoying some conversation and cannabis, and reflecting on life.
What I have not figured out is where I will be at 4:20. I may run to SF for an ASA event, or I may wander over to hippy hill to see what the kids are up to. It will likely be a beautiful day, so that may be a nice scene. I could just chill East Bay style and go burn one overlooking the Bay from my favorite spot in the Mountain View cemetery. I could end up spacing on the whole 4:20 moment and could be pumping gas at a Chevron at that moment. Who knows? Like I said, I am not huge on the ritual aspect of it.
In the evening, I plan on making the trek up to Sacramento for a rip-raging event at Harlow’s with Arden Roots and the great Selekta Lou playing. CSPARC will have a booth set up and I am sure there will be plenty of cannabis being smoked out back. Some great local collective groups have tables up there, so I am gonna join some friends for a cool evening of vibes and good times. After that I will drive my tired ass back to the house….sounds action packed right? It is a lot for me. I am not the young player I once was, but I will give it my best today for sure…for the cause.
So here are some events I have seen advertised happening in Cali and beyond. Hope to see you all out and about there today getting active and getting stoned.
THE RALLY WILL START AT 11:30 AM, NOT 11 (WE CAN’T GET A PERMIT FOR AMPLIFIED SOUND EXCEPT BETWEEN NOON AND ONE.)
CALIFORNIA’S BAY AREA PACKS IN 4/20 EVENTS
Galvanized rather than defeated by the recent federal actions in Oakland, California and throughout the state, activists are staging a protest and a film festival in the town known as Oaksterdam this Friday, April 20.
Supporters will gather at 11:30 AM (NEW TIME) at the Federal Building in Oakland (1301 Clay St.) to protest the federal attack on Oaksterdam and medical cannabis. At 12 PM we will go on the march to make our views known to the President’s campaign. Participants are invited to drop by the Oaksterdam Student Union, 1915 Broadway for refreshments after 1 PM.
At 3 PM, a 4/20 Film Festival will begin, with a showing of “A NORML LIfe,” a terrific film that should be widely seen by reformers and others. It’s an upbeat, well edited, educational and entertaining movie that features interviews conducted at NORML conferences and elsewhere. Ray Manzarek of The Doors as well as activists, doctors and others make a strong case for reason and for taking action.
At 4:30, “California 90420″ will hit the screen, as it will at theaters across the nation. Directed by one of the guys who produced the hit comedy “WAITING…” starring Ryan Reynolds and Justin Long, ”California 90420″ is a character-driven, informational comedy about real people, and a glimpse into the world of weed through the eyes of Cannabis College Students and Oaksterdam University’s Chancellor and Prop 19 Spokeswoman, Dale Sky Jones. “Digging deep into California’s pot culture, ‘California 90420′ is a thoughtful document of a moment in time and a growing American sub-culture,” writes The Puffington Host.
At 6 PM, “The Green Goddess” will be shown as a sneak preview. The ”almost true” story tells of four Northern California marijuana growers, who flee to Switzerland and grow six football fields of pot on an old Swiss farm. Their adventures take them across Europe: to a music festival in Germany, a medical marijuana clinic in London, and the coffeeshops of Amsterdam. And all the while, the Green Goddess - the divine feminine spirit that lives within the THC crystal - watches over them, choosing one lucky individual to meet her. This special screening of “The Green Goddess” will feature a Q&A with filmmaker Chris Iverson and other members of the cast and crew.
Tickets are $10 for the Film Festival, which benefits Oaksterdam University and California NORML.
The event will kick off the second annual Deep Green Festival on the following day in Richmond, held by the organizers of Earthdance and full of good music and speakers.
Tickets to The Film Festival
Hippy Hill will be popping at 4:20, I am sure….Golden Gate Park is a lovely time and it looks like it will be a lovely day….
The SF Guardian is also hosting a Stoned Soul Picnic (a benefit for Americans for Safe Access)
Please join the Guardian for a Stoned Soul Picnic , our contribution to Cannabis activism where all proceeds from the evening – including bar proceeds from 4-6pm, donations, and raffle ticket sales – will go directly to Americans for Safe Access. ASA is the largest national member-based organization of patients, medical professionals, scientists, and concerned citizens promoting safe and legal access to cannabis for therapeutic use and research.
The Guardian’s Stoned Soul Picnic will feature:
- DJ Carnita (Hard French) spinning stoned soul grooves as well as a special 420-themed reggae set from DJ Mr. Lucky (I&I Vibrations)
- Stand-up comedy from Travis McFarland (LA), George Chen (SF), and Jesse Fernandez (Berkeley)
- Safe Cannabis resources and outreach from dispensaries and activist organizations, including American for Safe Access, Sweetleaf Collective, Oakland 420 Evaluations, and more
- Raffle tickets with awesome prizes, including Roughneck skate brand goodie bags, museum tickets, restaurant gift certificates, stoner paraphernalia, medical marijuana evaluations, and more
- A free LiveFoto photo booth with marijuana-themed props
- Three kinds of stoner-friendly grilled cheese sandwiches made by Apothocurious for purchase
Friday, April 20 from 3:30-7pm @ El Rio, 3158 Mission, SF | FREE (donations encouraged), 21+ w/ID | Find our event on Facebook here .
Happening In Sacramento
Also…Sacramento late night film festival…
“420 Triple Feature” Presented by Apprehensive Films
Friday, April 20, 2012
For all you Sacramento/Northern California residents there is no better way to celebrate 420 than at the Crest Theatre on 4/20/12 with Apprehensive Films at the screening of the 420 Triple Feature!
Apprehensive Films will be hosting the 420 Triple Feature screening at the Crest Theatre on April 20th at 11pm, 2012. The Crest Theatre is located at 1013 K Street in Downtown Sacramento. Tickets are $10.50 each. The event will be hosted by Stand-Up Comedian Keith Lowell Jensen. This screening is proudly presented by Common Roots Medical Marijuana Collective and Trade School.
The 420 Triple Feature: 420 is an internationally recognized holiday and daily excuse for Stoners, Pot Heads and even the recreational marijuana user to light up, toke up and blaze a blunt on their way to the euphoric High-Way of mental freedom. Or is it an evil path to mental anguish, despair, desperation, crime and even death? The 420 Triple Feature takes on a trip down memory lane with some of the best, most idiotic, hilarious and downright absurd “educational” films on the subject of marijuana use. The three films to be shown are Drug Addiction (1951), Keep Off the Grass (1969) and Marijuana (1968) hosted by Sonny Bono!
420 Triple Feature Trailer: http://youtu.be/JzFY22qkZn8
Doors open at 10:15PM for 11PM show.
Tickets $10.50 on sale now tickets.com, Crest, 1-800-225-2277.
Playing in Theatre 2
Boulder, CO always has the biggest 4-20 event on the planet. Word is the Colorado University cops will be trying hard to dampen the spirits of the weedheads. Good luck with all that:
HT Cannabis Cup:
DEEP GREEN FESTIVAL in Richmond on 4/21:
I have spent the last couple of weeks organizing and fundraising for the Patients Access to Regulated Medical Cannabis Act of 2012 in Sac County, CA. This effort will lift a ban there that makes any patient who currently grows cannabis an outlaw in their community. The proposed initiative also allows for about 20 registered dispensaries to serve the unincorporated part of the county, which is a huge land mass with over 500,000 people, which are currently forced to drive long distances or access their medicine on the black market. It is also going to be a huge victory for medical cannabis, as it will show that our community WILL coome together and use our civic responsibilities to pass laws that represent the true will of the people. But in order for any of this to happen WE NEED MONEY!
In the last year Sacramento County lost over 100 dispensaries that created dozens of jobs and served tens of thousands of qualified patients. They have also lost the right to cultivate personally, or as part of a collective. Medical cannabis is banned outright there, with no exceptions. It is a devastating blow to the cannabis community, and an injustice of mega-proportion. This initiative will roll back this injustice and create a legal framework for patient access to personal choice medicines. When deciding whether to support an effort like this, I would think it was a no brainer; but alas, not all humans are create equal. My experiences have been more difficult than expected in some areas, but refreshing and inspiring in others. I guess it just shows that in this world we have three types of folks…the good…the bad…and the stupid.
Let us start with the good. I have been extremely lucky to work with some true cannabis warriors, who understand the magnitude of the effort at hand and have stepped up to help make this idea into a reality. Amazing people, groups and collectives have put their money, time, energy, and resources where their mouth is and have helped us get this thing off of the ground. The great ones never hesitate for a moment to do the right thing and put what is right for the community before what is most profitable for them. These folks are the heroes…the good guys, if you will. Some are gooder than others, but when you are working to raise $100,000 it is hard to split hairs and say this guy is better than the other because he has done more or given more. It is all relative and debatable; but the fact is that folks know in their hearts if they are doing what they can really, or if they are just doing the bare minimum. That is between them and their karma, but the big magnet in the sky will surely bless those who are the good and the universe will reward them for their actions. The fact that people are willing to step up and put their resources on the line is inspiring to me, and I look forward to becoming better friends and associates with the folks who I now know are the pure of heart and willing to be soldiers in this army for cannabis freedom. It is relatively clear to me who is who at this time, so it is easier for me to understand the landscape and not waste time on those who are simply unwilling to do what it takes to make the world a better place. So to the good out there, I just wanted to say “Thanks.” It is you guys who have kept me from losing my fucking mind completely, and for that I am very grateful.
Then there are the bad. It is no secret that there are some bad operators in the medical cannabis game. There are bad players in ANY game, but the lack of meaningful regulation and the possibility of fame and fortune have brought more seemingly bad folks to the table than I am really comfortable with. In my recent fundraising experiences I have been downright flabbergasted at some of the self-centered and egotistical responses I have gotten when asking people to contribute to the cause to lift the ban and expand safe access. For instance, as I went door-to-door at collectives yesterday to sell tickets to our BBQ Bonanza Fundraiser, a super fun event that goes directly to gathering signatures for our initiative, I was taken aback by some of the responses I got. I went to a collective and spoke to a person named “Billy.” I told him about the fundraiser and the initiative and how it would directly help the patients he claims to be serving. His response was a flat “We are not interested.” HUH? How is this possible, I thought? How could a person who runs a dispensary in Sacramento, who serves hundreds of patients from the unincorporated county not be “interested” in an effort that returns his patients’ right to grow their own medicine and allows them to have access points closer to their home, so they can save time and resources in accessing their medicine. I was astonished at the response, and even had to ask twice…”Are you sure?” The response was unwavering..”Yup.” I point this out not just because this person did not want to buy tickets to the event, but because several other local activists have told me that these folks have also made statements to the effect of “We do not want places to open in the county. Our business is just picking up again.” It is these types of self-centered and inconsiderate statements that make me wonder about some people. Obviously some do not have the game required to compete on a level playing field and feel their interests are better served by forcing people to drive long distances to spend their money with them, rather than having safe and convenient access where they live. Super. I am not sure how people like this sleep at night, as my theory is that patients deserve options and there is enough market for everyone. Here is the first clue…If you have good medicine, good prices, and a friendly and caring staff you can succeed anywhere, regardless of how stiff the competition is. Obviously, anyone who is so worried about their success that they would not support, and seemingly work to undermine, an effort to lift a ban on their own patients right to cultivate because of the thought that they might actually have to step their game up to compete, likely is missing one of those key elements. Maybe their medicine is lacking, as often the great growers gravitate towards collectives that treat them well. Or maybe their service stinks. Who knows? God knows these cats are not alone, but are representative of a larger underlying issue in our community….the desire for people to get ahead at the expense of others.
It is shameful really, and breaks my heart to think there are actually people who would sacrifice an effort to lift a ban on local patients rights in hopes of gaining market share for themselves. I am sure the karma faerie will be buy to meet these folks soon enough though, so I digress. Just know that there are people out there who would sacrifice your rights for their own benefit, and that this is very sad. When you go to pick up your medicine, do yourself a favor and look around. Does it look like your collective is a group that supports efforts to advance cannabis freedom and/or goodwill in the community, or does it just look like a weed store who wants nothing more than to sell you their goods and use their resources to benefit their own. That is a big deal. If we, as Americans, took more time to research where we spend our money based on the conduct of the companies we patronize, chances are a lot of these companies would do more to make the world a better place, and medical cannabis is no different. I have not shopped at Target in months because of their political affiliations and their policies, and while it can be inconvenient to go elsewhere, it makes me feel better about where I spend my money and in turn makes it more difficult for Target to spend my money on their causes that I do not agree with. So if you look around your collective and notice that it is devoid of any signs of activism, support, and outreach to make the world a better place for YOU, the patient, find a new collective whose morals are more in line with your own. It is really that simple.
Then there is the stupid. Some might say you have to be stupid to even be in the medical cannabis game…or at least a little crazy. I mean who wakes up everyday to go to work in an industry where any day armed gunmen can take you to prison, and where you constantly have to defend your right to even exist from the evils of cannabis prohibition. It can be a difficult existence at times, but that is no excuse to be stupid though. In an industry like this, people need to be educated and intellectually curious. Ignorance can get you into some hot water, as we have seen time and time again. Many are just too caught up in their own mess to see the bigger picture, I suppose. It amazes me sometimes that folks cannot see that we are all an inter-connected group of people that share mutual goals and similar objectives. We are all fighting for the right to exist and be contributing members of our community…at least most share those goals. For a person not to make a real effort to understand how their piece makes up the whole is unacceptable. When we, as a community, do not understand how our actions affect others and how others’ efforts can help or hinder the people we serve, we lose.
This industry is WAY deeper than selling medicine. This is a political and social fight for justice that tears at the fabric of our society. We are on the front lines of a battle for the hearts and minds of our community. It is our duty to be an active and informed member of that community. So in my recent experiences in fundraising for a very worthy cause, I guess I have been a bit taken aback by some folks pure lack of knowledge. Now I do not expect everyone in medical cannabis to be as obsessed with cannabis policy and politics as I am. Very few are. But I would expect for people to know the basics about the law and be aware of what is happening in their own communities. Many do, but there is definitely a constituency of those who do not, which makes me feel a bit dismayed. I almost feel responsible. Have I not done enough to reach out to people and to offer my knowledge for them to be more informed? It is almost like when I used to tutor college students in English at Laney College. There were some cats in college who literally could not make a sentence, much less a paragraph, and the were in college. I could only think to myself, “The system has failed these people.” I somewhat feel like our system has failed many operators, or that the operators have just failed to make any effort to be more knowledgable. That is a harsh reality, and unfortunately for the rest of us, a very dangerous situation. We, as a movement, are often held to our lowest common denominator in the press and in the court of public opinion. So when ill-informed people operate organizations that have the ability to seriously damage the reputation of an entire industry, one can see how there might be a real problem. Most of the public does not discern between good and bad operators. All they hear is that this stupid pot club did some really stupid shit and they think “Those dispensaries are bad for the community.” If people do not see that and work to be more informed, then I suppose the movement will continue to be hampered by the ignorance of those who make up the ranks of the stupid.
Fortunately, there are MANY very good people in this movement and I have been heartened by those experiences. Sacramento is a great microcosm of the entire state and the entire industry. The community is learning to come together to solve the bigger problems and it seems as if some of the inherent division is going away. Nothing like Federal interference to make people put aside differences and be more open to working together…myself included. I have come to learn that I do not dislike some people as much as I did, and that some others were not as great as I once thought they were; but overall I have been impressed with my experiences and have learned a hell of a lot. Each person and organization that make up the fabric of this community are unique and interesting in their own right. But when you can step back and assess the community as a whole you see a mosaic of beauty and inspiration that can touch your heart. Sure, it is tattered and torn in some areas; but the beauty of this industry, and the people who are willing to put their asses on the line to make it happen is inspiring. Yes…there are the good, the bad, and the stupid. But as a whole, there is mostly the good and the stupid are coming around, as we educate and inform them of their duties and responsibilities to activism and social change. I look forward to working with these folks and helping them to grow in their journey. We should all be interested in seeing the movement grow and grow up. Together we are a mighty force to be reckoned with. Never forget that.
If you are good…be better. If you are bad…get good. If you are stupid…get educated.
Courtesy of Oakland North
After a federal raid in early April on Oaksterdam University, an education center located in downtown Oakland that trains students to work in the marijuana industry, founder Richard Lee has decided to step down as head of the institution. His successor will be former executive chancellor Dale Sky Jones, which will officially be announced on Wednesday morning.
“It is safe to say that I will be taking over the lead position at Oaksterdam University to ensure that the institution will go on,” Jones told Oakland North in an interview.
Oaksterdam University, the first cannabis college in the United States, was founded in 2007. Ever since visiting the cannabis college in Amsterdam, Lee had wanted to open a trade school for the cannabis industry in the US. Medical marijuana has been legal in California since the 1996 passage of Proposition 215, although it remains illegal under federal law. Lee, who has been working to end cannabis prohibition for over 20 years now, put his idea into practice by creating a school with a curriculum that focuses on the entire cannabis trade, offering classes such as Legal Issues, Politics, Cooking, Concentrates, and Horticulture.
“I started the university to promote the cannabis industry and to create jobs in this industry that pay taxes,” said Lee. “The other reason was to teach people who want to get involved in the cannabis industry and politics but did not know anything about it.” In 2008, a satellite school was launched in Los Angles and classes were also held in Michigan in May, 2009. (Both locations are now closed due to financial shortfalls.)
Lee, who moved to Oakland in 1997, played a huge part in passing Oakland’s Measure Z, making private sales, cultivation, and possession of cannabis local law enforcement’s lowest priority. He was also a supporter of Proposition 19, a failed 2010 ballot initiative to control, tax, and regulate recreational marijuana use in California. Even though Proposition 19 did not pass, Lee considers the effort, which he helped finance, a success. “It was successful in moving the legalization debate forward,” he said. “One of our main goals was to get people to talk about this issue. And it just was on the agenda with the presidents down in South America. Columbia and Guatemala have come out for legalization of cannabis now.”
You can read Oakland North’s complete coverage of marijuana-related issues in Oakland here.
by Patrick McGreavy, Los Angeles Times
A proposal that could make it easier to open medical marijuana shops in California was approved Tuesday by the Assembly’s Public Safety Committee despite objections from cities and law enforcement agencies that it unreasonably ties their hands.
The measure by committee Chairman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) would shift the regulation of the industry from local governments, some of which have banned the dispensaries, to a new state Board of Medical Marijuana Enforcement that would adopt rules and set fees for medical pot cultivation and sales.
The measure would require that no fewer than one pot dispensary be allowed per 50,000 residents. Ammiano said statewide rules are needed because dispensaries have been harassed by law enforcement in some areas even though they were legalized by California voters more than 15 years ago.
“The worst public policy choice for California is to sit idly by doing nothing and let this failed war on medical cannabis continue unchecked,” he said before the committee vote. “The point of regulation is to bring these activities above board to guarantee safe and effective access, with clear rules for those involved in the industry.”
The panel voted 4-2, with Republican members opposed, to approve AB 2312, which now goes to another committee before it can reach the Assembly floor. The League of California Cities and the California Police Chiefs Assn. opposed the bill in part because of concern that it takes control over the clinics away from cities and counties.
“It forecloses the ability of local government to take control over their own destiny,” said John Lovell, government relations manager for the police chiefs’ group.
Assemblyman Stephen Knight (R-Palmdale) voted against the measure, saying it puts local law enforcement at odds with federal law, which still prohibits the sale of marijuana. “This is still an illegal activity,” he said.
by Colleen Curry, ABC 20/20
A California teen who was allegedly trying to steal pot from an illegal marijuana farm is missing after armed men fired at him while his friends drove away.
Police believe that Sammy Mercado, 16, of Sanger, Calif., was shot or wounded when he and friends drove to an illegal marijuana “grow” in rural Fresno County last Thursday.
Mercado was the only one of his friends to leave their vehicle and walk toward the farm, at which point two armed Asian guards emerged from a building and began firing shots at him, according to ABC News affiliate KFSN.
Mercado’s two friends drove away, but returned later to retrieve their friend and saw a third Asian male pull up in an old Toyota Camry with the trunk opened, KFSN reported. Police do not know whether Mercado was placed in the trunk.
“The other subjects are cooperating with detectives, who have been working the case straight through trying to track these three men down,” Fresno County Sheriff’s spokesman Chris Curtice said while referring to the teens who were with Mercado.
But investigators have found no one at the pot farm and police have faced challenges in determining who owns and runs the marijuana patch, which is illegal in Fresno County, Curtice said. The land had been leased and then subleased subsequent times, and it is unclear to authorities who was in charge of the five-acre parcel.
Curtice said that marijuana “grows” are common throughout the county, and are often guarded by armed men in towers on the property. The grows are illegal.
“There are so many of them, and we only have so many resources. This was a four- or five-acre grow, which is even considered smaller than a lot of the other ones,” Curtice said.
As illegal marijuana farms have sprung up throughout hte valley in Fresno County, crime has risen along with it, Curtice said. The county had a similar case recently of armed pot guards shooting and killing a thief who was trying to steal marijuana from their farm, he noted.
Curtice said that detectives are working primarily on locating Mercado, but will investigate the marijuana farm as well. Police are asking the public to offer any tips regarding Mercado’s wherabouts, including reports of two vehicles in connection with his disappearance: a green 2002 Dodge pickup lifted on larger tires or a later model red Dodge pickup truck from the mid-2000s, occupied by an Asian male in his mid-twenties. Both cars were seen leaving the marijuana grow, Curtice said.
Family members told KFSN that they have been trying to look for Mercado, but have no idea where to begin.
“It’s not about snitching or ratting, it’s about a human life. This kid has his whole life ahead of him,” relative Virgil Garza said. “I’m not saying he’s perfect, but he needs to come home. Somebody out there knows what happened to Sammy.”
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Medical marijuana advocates on Tuesday vowed to reopen a San Francisco-area college devoted to cannabis cultivation and known as the “Princeton of Pot” a day after federal agents shut down the school in a raid.
Hundreds of protesters rallied in front of San Francisco’s City Hall, some on crutches and in wheelchairs and smoking hand-rolled joints. The demonstrators carried signs that said, “Cannabis is medicine; let states regulate” and chanting “Feds off my meds.”
Monday’s raid on Oaksterdam University, which offers courses on growing and dispensing of marijuana, turned the Oakland-based school into the latest flashpoint between federal law enforcement and medical cannabis advocates in states where pot has been decriminalized for medicinal purposes.
Federal authorities also searched the home of veteranmedical marijuana activist and Oaksterdam founder Richard Lee, as well as a nearby medical marijuana dispensary he runs.
Lee, confined to a wheelchair by a spinal injury, was a leading proponent behind a failed California ballot initiative in 2010 that would have legalized possession and cultivation of small amounts of marijuana in the state for recreational use.
“In a wheelchair, he’s a threat,” Wayne Justmann, an adviser for medical pot supply shops, said facetiously as he spoke to Reuters at the rally. “He’s a guy who’s helped so many people.”
Rather than targeting Lee, Justmann added, “Go after that guy who killed seven and injured three.” He was referring to the former student of a private, Christian college who killed seven people and wounded three others in a shooting rampage on Monday.
Lee himself said he worried that he might be prosecuted.
“They can indict me any day,” he said, recounting how he was awakened by federal agents armed with assault rifles appearing at his Oakland apartment with a search warrant. “They can arrest me any day.” Agents briefly detained but did not arrest Lee.
The school was closed after agents searched it, but it will reopen Wednesday, Lee’s lawyer, Laurence Jeffrey Lichter said.
Although marijuana remains classified as an illegal narcotic under federal law, 16 states and the District of Columbia have enacted some sort of legalized medical-cannabis statutes, according to the Drug Policy Alliance.
In those states, including California, the U.S. government has sought in recent months to shut down storefront dispensaries and greenhouses deemed by federal investigators to be drug-trafficking fronts, as well as those that are located close to schools and parks.
The Obama administration has said it would not single out individual patients who possess or grow their own marijuana in states with medical pot statutes. But federal prosecutors have warned they will continue to go after operations that support for-profit, illegal drug dealing under the guise of medical pot.
Federal action has led to dozens of medical marijuana dispensaries being shut down in California, but so far no one has been charged with criminal activity in connection with the crackdown, Lichter said.
by John Hoeffel, Los Angeles Times
LOS ANGELES – Richard Lee, whose bid to legalize marijuana in California brought him international attention, plans to give up ownership of his Oakland-based marijuana businesses after a federal raid this week seized many of their assets, including plants, bank accounts, records and computers.
“I’ve been doing this for a long time. Over 20 years. … I kind of feel like I’ve done my time,” Lee said Thursday. “It’s time for others to take over.”
Lee said he would remain an outspoken marijuana advocate. “I believe that cannabis prohibition is unjust and counterproductive,” he said. “What I’ve done is ethical, and I tried to use the resources that I had to do everything I could to change the laws.”
In some of his most extensive comments since the raid, Lee acknowledged that he was worried he could face major federal drug charges. It’s a risk he has lived with for many years, first as an underground pot grower and then as the leader of a serious legalization effort, which drew vigorous opposition from the federal government.
“I never wanted to be the quote unquote leader of the legalization movement,” he said in a telephone interview. “I saw myself as just one small soldier in a big war. But I look at it as a battlefield promotion.”
Lee’s Oaksterdam University, the first marijuana trade school in the nation, remains open, although its classes have been scaled back. Lee’s dispensary is also open. He plans to transfer the businesses to new operators. But he will shut down his marijuana nursery because his stock of mother plants, which he had nurtured for years, was confiscated.
The former rock-band roadie is one of the highest-profile marijuana activists in the nation, if not the world. His school drew wide-eyed media coverage after it opened in 2007, helping him promote his vision that marijuana could be a legitimate business.
A paraplegic who uses a wheelchair, Lee, 49, became the telegenic spokesman for ending pot prohibition after he spent more than $1.5 million trying to pass Proposition 19 to legalize the drug in 2010.
He is a well-known and highly regarded figure in Oakland, where city officials praise his businesses for resuscitating a shabby downtown area embarrassingly close to City Hall.
Lee was detained during Monday’s raid by the Internal Revenue Service and the Drug Enforcement Administration, but not arrested. His allies had feared he would be arrested in 2010, when he spoke frequently, candidly and enthusiastically about his pot ventures.
On Thursday, Lee suggested that, if he is charged, it could become another watershed event in the march toward legalization by turning more Americans against the drug war. ”In some ways, I see the possible prosecution of myself as another Proposition 19,” he said.
Federal penalties for growing marijuana increase with the number of plants. More than 60,000 can bring the death penalty, Lee noted. He said he did not know how many plants were seized. “We didn’t have 60,000 plants on site, but they can add up …,” he said.
Lee said his operations had been audited by the IRS, but he did not know what triggered the raid and seizures. “The company is bankrupt,” he said, suggesting that employees, who could lose jobs, and Oakland, which could lose revenues from taxes on marijuana, were also victims.
Until he knows whether he has to mount a legal defense, Lee said, he plans to work on a book and a television series about his career. “I think the nationwide coverage of the raid shows that there is a story here that a lot of people would like to see and like to hear about,” he said.
Lee also said he would consider helping legalization efforts in other states: “This may free me up to be able to go campaign.”
He noted that Oaksterdam University has trained about 15,000 marijuana experts and activists who are now at work around the country, suggesting that he has marshaled an army for the legalization fight. “We are getting very close to a tipping point on this issue,” he said.
On the April 5 episode of NORML SHOW LIVE we spoke live with Richard Lee, founder of Oaksterdam University. Click this link to hear the interview.
Richard told me he’s doing as well as can be expected when federal agents violate your home and business. He tells us the nature of the federal warrants that were served Monday in early morning raids.
Richard was “treated well” by the authorities – “they didn’t even break anything,” he told us – and he was not arrested, though that possibility still exists.
Most remarkably, Richard expressed an optimistic view that these actions will galvanize the public opinion even more in our favor for ending this tragic medical marijuana crackdown.
Richard reminded us that juries cannot be punished for their verdicts and urged everyone to work hard to get on jury duty so we can begin to dismantle the prosecution of prohibition.
In closing, he lamented the IRS tax charges being used against him and others in the cannabis industry. ”They can’t have it both ways,” he complained about the government’s claim he owes taxes on something that is illegal. ”No taxation without legalization!”
Join with Richard Lee and NORML in demanding an end to federal raids. Make President Obama keep his campaign pledge to not devote federal resources to prosecuting medical marijuana providers that are in compliance with state law.
by PR Web, Courtesy of SFGate
Attorney Bruce Margolin announces his bid for US Congress in California’s newly formed 33rd district. With his innovative platform, he brings grassroots energy and a new approach to solving some of the district’s most pressing, heartfelt issues.
Beverly Hills, CA (PRWEB) April 04, 2012
With his name now added to the ballot for California’s open primary election on June 5th, Bruce Margolin, respected attorney and marijuana law activist enters into the US Congressional race for CA’s new 33rd district. At the center of Attorney Margolin’s platform, is a proposal to Bring Congress Home to Work, a high tech solution for the serious problems caused by the influence of D.C. Lobbyists upon Congress. Bring Congress Home to Work is a telecommuting solution for our times that he believes would produce the kind of shift needed to balance the influence of voters with that of big industries and special interests.
Bruce Margolin, a practicing attorney for forty years in the Los Angeles area, has served on the Site Council for Beverly Hills Unified School District. He was Chairman of the Ethics Committee for the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, and has stood as director of the Los Angeles chapter of NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) since 1973. He has acted as an advisor or sponsor to numerous pieces of California state legislation including California’s prop 215, the nation’s first medical marijuana law. He has been awarded the Certificate of Appreciation from the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union), as well as received honors for his work on behalf of the Constitutional Rights Foundation. Mr. Margolin has been awarded an Honorary Teaching Degree by the Los Angeles Unified School District and is an ad hoc teacher and law school lecturer.
Bruce Margolin knows firsthand about the concerns of L.A. County’s Westside and Valley residents, as he has resided, worked, and received his education while living his entire life in the district. He is the father of six children; all have or currently are attending public schools with kids in elementary, high school, and university, including U.C. Berkeley.
As a frequent user and passionate supporter of public schools, Mr. Margolin can be counted on to protect and rebuild our public education system, ending school closures, cuts to education, and skyrocketing tuition.
Mr. Margolin served in the U.S. Army and his father was WWII Marine drill sergeant. He is committed to both our active and veteran soldiers and to restoring the promise and rightful use of the West Los Angeles VA Campus, another top priority for the candidate, one he believes to be a birthright to every soldier who has served our country, and one he sees could create a large number of good professional jobs in his district as an added benefit. He promises to stand strong with those who are fighting to give the VA Land back to the veterans.
Bruce Margolin intends to put an End to the Failed War on Drugs using education and treatment over incarceration as a way of solving the plague of street drugs being pushed upon our cities. Mr. Margolin believes that the amount of resources which we could save by changing the way we wage war on drugs would be great and the social benefits almost too many to count. Mr. Margolin emphasizes that redirecting our tax dollars from jails to public schools and educational programs through more sensible policies is the only logical way forward.
With the advent of new technologies being introduced into all areas of government, Mr. Margolin knows that we must build safety checks and balances into the system to protect our civil liberties, and that a free internet is essential to the well being of our democracy.
With his innovative platform, Attorney Bruce Margolin brings grassroots energy and a new approach to solving some of the District’s most pressing and heartfelt issues, putting veterans and public education at the top of the list. Bruce Margolin promises to bring the spirit of the “Occupy” movement into our justice, financial, healthcare and regulatory systems.
Bruce Margolin is a participant in the movement to Replace Congress, a movement to elect real working people who are part of the 99%.
by Carly Schwarz, Huffington Post
SAN FRANCISCO — Hundreds of medical marijuana activists gathered on the steps of City Hall Tuesday to support California’s multi-million dollar cannabis industry, under siege since the federal government launched an aggressive crackdown last fall.
A handful of local legislators and cannabis patients addressed the heated crowd before marching down the street to the federal courthouse to address U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag, who has championed anti-marijuana actions in the Bay Area.
“We’re patients, not criminals!” the protesters chanted, along with cries of “DEA, go away!” and “Fire Haag!”
“Today, we are all green,” said San Francisco Board of Supervisors President David Chiu in a fiery speech. Chiu and fellow city supervisors who attended the event pledged to expedite the permitting process for local pot shops that have been forced to close and wish to reopen elsewhere.
California’s medical marijuana industry has been struggling since federal prosecutors began targeting dispensaries in October. More than 100 California busineses have been forced to shut down, and hundreds more have received threatening letters claiming their landlords could be jailed if they continue to operate.
Five cannabis clubs in San Francisco have shuttered, leaving employees without work and patients without access to their medicine. Haag sent the same threatening letters to roughly a dozen more (some dispensaries won’t go on the record as to whether they had received a warning). On Monday, federal authorities raidedOakland’s world-famous Oaksterdam University and the home of its founder, Richard Lee, one of the state’s most outspoken medical marijuana activists.
The U.S. attorneys’ actions mark a sharp departure from the Obama administration’s 2009 Ogden Memo, which declared that prosecutions in states that have legalized the plant for medicinal purposes would not be a priority. Advocates argue the federal government should direct its energy elsewhere.
“It’s a total waste of federal resources,” Stephanie Tucker, spokesperson for theSan Francisco Medical Cannabis Task Force, told The Huffington Post. “They’re attacking a peaceful, regulated community and it’s wasting money. Shame on them.”
Though the drug remains illegal under federal law, California became the first state to legalize cannabis for medicinal purposes when voters passed Proposition 215 in 1996. Studies have shown that California’s medical marijuana industry generatesupwards of $100 million in annual tax revenue.
Haag has remained relatively mum on the issue, repeatedly citing dispensaries’ proximities to schools and parks as justification for the crackdown. “I hope that those who believe marijuana stores should be left to operate without restriction can step back for a moment and understand that not everyone shares their point of view,” she told HuffPost in a statement. “People are deeply troubled by the tremendous growth of the marijuana industry and its influence on their communities.”
But advocates said they believe Haag’s argument thin. Cathy Smith, co-founder and manager of HopeNet, a dispensary in San Francisco’s SoMa neighborhood, told HuffPost that the neighborhood has become dramatically safer in the nine years since her business opened its doors. Crime has dropped significantly, largely due to the increased presence of lighting and surveillance cameras her store installed in order to adhere to the city’s strict regulations surrounding cannabis clubs.
“Nine years ago I wouldn’t be open past 5 p.m. because I was worried about our female customers,” Smith said. “Now we’re open until 9. The neighborhood has improved that much.”
So much, in fact, that a few years ago, a private school opened around the corner. And now HopeNet’s landlords have received their own threatening letter from Haag because of the shop’s proximity to that school.
“Haag says she can’t tell the difference between a good club and a bad club,” Smith said. “I’m here to show her the difference. We are the club that is different; there’s no question about it.”
In addition to selling medical marijuana and related supplies, HopeNet offers a series of weekly community events, including a veterans’ support group, a ladies’ afternoon tea and various life skills workshops. “We like to think of ourselves as a family,” Smith said. “We don’t just sell pot here — we help people.”
And the family is willing to fight. Supporters of Smith’s business have sent hundreds of handwritten letters to Haag’s office demanding she back off, and others have tried (unsuccessfully) to schedule in-person meetings.
Similar to the HopeNet’s community’s outpouring of support, he actions of Haag and her counterparts have served to strengthen the ties of pot proponents across the Bay Area. “It’s only emboldening us and bringing us together,” said Tom Angell, spokesman for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, a coalition of active and retired police officers, prosecutors and judges who actively speak out against the drug war. “People who used to compete in the marketplace are now standing shoulder to shoulder.”
Advocates have drawn the endorsements of a fair share of legislators, as well. California Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-S.F.) recently introduced a measurethat would establish uniform regulations for pot shops throughout the state based on San Francisco’s strict and successful standards for operating dispensaries. On Monday, a coalition of lawmakers from five states penned an open letter to the Obama administration demanding an end to the crackdown.
Meanwhile, as some San Francisco cannabis clubs close down, others plan to open. Last month, the planning commission approved three new dispensaries for the city’s Excelsior district, and another opened in the Mission last week.
Those targeted by federal authorities vow to defend their businesses and the industry until the end. “They can indict me any day. They can arrest me at any time,” Lee said during Tuesday’s rally. “One way or another, Oaksterdam will fight on.”
So will San Francisco.
Photos and story by Angela Bacca
APRIL 2, 2012- At 8am the DEA took Richard Lee, the iconic wheelchair-bound founder of Oaksterdam University and the man behind California’s failed 2010 legalization initiative into custody and raided two of the buildings affiliated with his college. It is also being rumored that Todd McCormick, the man behind the first THC Expo in Los Angeles, also had his Oakland home raided and is in custody.
By 8:15 Oakland Americans for Safe Access (ASA) sent out messages to thousands in the Bay Area through their local raid alert system encouraging them to come down to the main campus at 1600 Broadway to protest and show support.
Officers gave the press conflicting messages about whether would be a press conference and who would be making comment to the press. All public officers from the IRS and DEA are refusing to comment, saying the investigation is sealed. It is unclear if Oakland Police were notified about the raid, however it is clear that they were not participants.
“If the Federal Government has extra resources to spend in Oakland they should be using them to get illegal guns off our streets,” said Jason Overman the Communications Director for Councilwoman Rebecca Kaplan. Kaplan was a mayoral candidate in the last election cycle and an outspoken supporter of Oakland’s cannabis industry.
Supporters from the community and other cannabusinesses in Oakland quickly came to support Oaksterdam and show their disapproval.
“In ten years the public has become more educated but the federal government hasn’t,” said Jane Klein co-owner of Quick Trading Company, an Oakland-based company that has been publishing marijuana books since the 70s. in 2002, Klein’s Oakland home was raided in a similar show of force by the DEA and her husband, cannabis-writer Ed Rosenthal, was arrested and put on trial. He was famously sentenced to a day in jail with credit for time served.
by 9:30am the crowd had more than tripled. Attempts by officers to exit the adjacent parking lot were met with crowds of angry protestors surrounding them, their vehicles and preventing their exit. As the crowd slung insults at the officers, rumors spread throughout the crowd. It is being assumed that no employees of Oaksterdam University were in the building at the time of the raid and there is fear among alumni that student records may be a DEA target as well as cash and marijuana.
Local business owners were confused and amazed by the strong show of force on the local campus. “There are so many adverse factors, like crime, here in Oakland. We should not be disposing of good businesses [like Oaksterdam], we should be encouraging them,” said Rosanna, an employee at the pizza shop on the corner, which has a good relationship with the school and its students.
Around 1pm, the crowd, which had grown to a few hundred, followed officers to 17th and Webster where they were raiding Coffee Shop Blue Sky, the former home of the Oaksterdam Dispensary. Blue Sky has been closed since the move but still under Oaksterdam ownership.
The crowd surrounded the door, which had been blocked off from the inside by sheets to prevent the public from seeing the action inside. Bella Eiko, a media promoter from Occupy Oakland was able to move her iPad up to a break in the sheets and display to the crowd the officers inside. The officers all wore medical masks covering their mouths and noses.
“Since you aren’t smoking in there you can take your masks off!” someone in the crowd yelled. A group of about 5 US Marshalls pushed their way into the crowd amid loud boos to get to the door. “Get the fuck out of Oakland!” another crowd member yelled. As the situation heated up, glass from the storefront exterior shattered. Many in the crowd believe the police smashed it from inside, as the glass fell out to the street on a few protestors.
“This system has got to die, HELLA HELLA OCCUPY!” many in the crowd chanted, a direct reference to the riots in the same part of Oakland in late 2011 surrounding the eviction of the Occupy Oakland camp.
The situation quickly devolved into chaos as officers gathered on street corners were swarmed by the mob. A van pulled up and parked in the intersection of Franklin and 17th and officers exited brandishing batons. Another officer moved through the crowd with a rifle strapped to his chest and his hand on the trigger.
Protestors followed DEA agents as they tried to flee the scene in cars. Four protestors were arrested and others were rumored to have been run over by DEA vehicles. Officers walked three blocks away with protestors behind them and jumped in the back of two pickup trucks to get away from the crowd.
Protestors then moved to City Hall, a block away, the site of the Oakland Occupation. An impromptu press conference was held by marijuana supporters in anticipation of the formal conference, to be held at 6pm at the Oakland Police Headquarters.
The conference, led by local cannabis union leader Dan Rush of the UFCW featured Steve D’Angelo of Harborside Health Center and Weed Wars fame, Dale Skye Jones, chancellor of Oaksterdam University and husband of activist Jeff Jones, California NORML Director Dale Gieringer, Mickey Martin, ASA Director Steph Sherer, Chris Conrad and Mikki Norris of the West Coast Leaf, Jane Klein, wife of Ed Rosenthal who was raided in a similar fashion exactly 10 years ago in Oakland and Rob Raich, ex-husband of famous patient Angel Raich.
“This is the new Jim Crow… revolutions do not happen in reverse, we will win,” said Dale Skye Jones, infant son Jackson Jones in tow.
“This attack was not just on Richard Lee, it was on us all,” said Steve D’Angelo “at the same time Federal agents were twiddling their thumbs here at Oaksterdam, five others lost their lives here at an Oakland University.” D’Angelo is referring to the shooting that happened simultaneous with the raid at Oikos University in Oakland, where seven are now confirmed dead.
“This whole thing is backwards, at Oaksterdam University we pride ourselves in teaching our students to follow the law,” said Chris Conrad, instructor at Oaksterdam and cannabis expert witness on criminal cases, “Nixon couldn’t stop us, Reagan couldn’t stop us, Bush Senior couldn’t stop us, Clinton couldn’t stop us, Bush Junior couldn’t stop us and I’ll be damned if–”
“Obama’s gonna stop us!” the crowd finished for him.
A press conference scheduled for 6pm at Oakland Police Headquarters was diverted to instead discuss the shootings at Oikos academy. Oakland Police say they have no plans to discuss the raid and that it did not involve their department.
San Francisco ASA had previously planned a protest tomorrow in front of San Francisco City Hall, protestors from today’s events in Oakland plan on joining the protest.
by Irma Widjojo, The Times-Herald
For the second time in 30 days, a Bay Area marijuana dispensary was raided Friday afternoon.
At about 4:25 p.m., Vallejo police officers served search and arrest warrants at Better Health Group, 3611 Sonoma Blvd., police said.
During the raid, owner Jorge Espinoza, 25, and three other workers at the dispensary were arrested on suspicion of selling marijuana, police said.
They were identified as Jeffrey Hughson, 38, of Novato; Aaron Castillo 21, of Daly City; and Jonathan Linares, 22, of Vallejo.
It was not immediately disclosed if any marijuana or other products were seized Friday, which marks the fourth marijuana dispensary raid since Feb. 21. There may be as many as 20 other dispensaries operating in Vallejo.
Better Health Group, located inside a former Chinese restaurant, was first raided on Feb. 29. At that time, police said they seized about 400 plants from the dispensary, and booked into evidence about 340 marijuana food products, an ounce of hash and 30 pounds of “processed” marijuana, during that raid. Espinoza was also arrested then.
However, the dispensary recently opened its doors again to its members.
In an interview earlier this week with the Times-Herald, Better Health Group’s attorney said no cease and desist order was ever issued, and that the collective believes it is doing nothing wrong, at least under state law. Federal law prohibits marijuana possession and sales.
On March 20, Vallejo City Manager Dan Keen released a memo addressing concerns about what he viewed as the mixed message the city was sending by passing measures to tax dispensaries, while at the same time raiding them. Keen also cited a number of conflicting court cases dealing with medical marijuana.
At the same time, Keen also suspended the city’s plan to begin issuing business certificates to those dispensaries that have paid a $500 city business fee. The fee was authorized under a ballot measure voters overwhelmingly approved in the November election. The measure’s passage has also led to the city approving a 10 percent tax on medical marijuana sales.
Times-Herald staff writers Jessica A. York and Tony Burchyns contributed to this article.
by Chris Roberts, San Francisco Examiner
The City’s 21 licensed medical marijuana dispensaries are all illegal, according to a court filing by District Attorney George Gascón that could portend a seismic shift in San Francisco cannabis policy.
City law allows medical marijuana to be bought in businesses called dispensaries and delivered to patients who have been prescribed marijuana by a licensed physician. Dispensaries must acquire business licenses and seller’s permits from the state Board of Equalization before receiving city Department of Public Health permits to sell marijuana.
Yet in December, a woman was arrested for making a delivery on behalf of Mr. Nice Guy, a city-licensed dispensary whose storefront was shut down under pressure from the federal Justice Department. Police said the woman was arrested with $631 in cash, more than 100 plastic bags of dried marijuana buds and hashish, and 48 “edibles” — marijuana-laced cookies, brownies, or other treats.
Despite being presented with paperwork showing that the woman and buyer were licensed patients and that she was working on behalf of a registered dispensary, the DA charged her with two felony counts for marijuana possession and sales, said her attorney, former District Attorney Terence Hallinan.
In a legal brief, Gascón argued that the law is not on her side.
“While California’s medical marijuana laws may be complex, the law is clear that all sales of medical marijuana are illegal,” Gascón wrote. “The … shell game that continues to be played with medical marijuana immunities does not change that conclusion.”
Gascón’s office cites the 1996 Compassionate Use Act as well as state court decisions to make his argument, which says medical marijuana patients must “participate directly in the cultivation of marijuana” to enjoy protection under the law.
“This means that people with AIDS have to be out digging in the dirt to enjoy protection under the law,” countered former District Attorney Terence Hallinan, who is representing the woman in court. “This is impossible.”
Gascón’s office declined to comment on the pending court case, but spokeswoman Stephanie Ong Stillman said the brief in question actually dates back to the administration of former District Attorney Kamala Harris, who is now state Attorney General. Her nuanced comments suggest that the DA’s office may be having second thoughts about its position.
“We have since reviewed the brief and while it accurately reflects state law, we have determined it needs to be revised to reflect the positions of the city of San Francisco and also the policies of the District Attorney’s office,” Stillman wrote via email.
Local defense attorneys say they haven’t previously seen this argument in San Francisco, and that it resembles filings made in Los Angeles by District Attorney Steve Cooley, who ran against Harris and lost in 2010.
“It’s disappointing to see the San Francisco district attorney’s office parroting the garbage spewing out of Steve Cooley’s office when they try to torture an interpretation of [state law] beyond any recognition,” said Oakland attorney Robert Raich, who argued a 2005 medical marijuana case before the United States Supreme Court.
The inconsistent policies — with one county agency calling illegal what another one issues permits for — is “emblematic of the ongoing disconnect in San Francisco with regard to the city’s approach to medical cannabis,” complained Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco.
Read more at the San Francisco Examiner: http://www.sfexaminer.com/local/2012/03/gasc-n-all-sales-marijuana-are-illegal#ixzz1qNn8aZEr
by Kate Linthicum, Los Angeles Times
With the fate of the city’s medical marijuana industry in question, workers at more than a dozen Los Angeles pot shops have formed a labor union in part to help ward off a proposed citywide ban on dispensaries.
The employees joined the ranks of grocery workers, healthcare providers and pharmacists at the United Food and Commercial Workers, Local 770. At a news conference Thursday, the president of the union vowed to leverage the “full force” of its 35,000 members to keep dispensaries open.
The City Council is weighing a ban that would forbid businesses to sell marijuana but still allow patients who are seriously ill and their caregivers to cultivate it.
In January, City Atty. Carmen Trutanich called on the council to revoke the city’s existing ordinance, which uses a lottery to choose which dispensaries to allow. He said a court decision limits what cities can do to regulate dispensaries.
The California Supreme Court plans to review rulings by lower courts on how much oversight local governments can have over medical marijuana operations. But a ruling is probably a year or two away.
Councilman Jose Huizar has been the major champion of the ban. His Eastside district includes Eagle Rock, where community activists have complained about the neighborhood’s large number of dispensaries.
Huizar has close ties to labor unions. The Los Angeles County Federation of Labor endorsed him during his reelection campaign last year, and UFCW members walked precincts on his behalf.
But the debate over dispensaries could put him at odds with those allies.
Huizar did not return calls for comment.
Rick Icaza, the president of UFCW Local 770, said the union plans to put the heat on city lawmakers to find a workable ordinance that avoids a total ban on dispensaries, and that unionizing the workers “is the next step in professionalizing and stabilizing this new sector of the healthcare industry.”
Yamileth Bolanos, president of the Greater Los Angeles Collectives Alliance, which represents dispensaries, said medical marijuana activists welcome the union’s help.
“It’s time to bring in some big guns,” she said.
A ban would affect more than just medical marijuana patients, she added. “Not only are they threatening access for patients, they’re also trying to take jobs away from our employees.”
Bolanos said all of the 14 marijuana dispensaries whose employees have joined the union are either members of the alliance or are accredited by the group. Each dispensary has five to 15 employees.
Don Duncan, the California director for Americans for Safe Access, said he hopes union membership will help legitimize a sector that he says is misunderstood. “I think this brings medical cannabis into the field as an industry,” he said.
Other branches of UFCW have already unionized employees of dispensaries in Colorado and other parts of California.
At the news conference, Delphine Pregnon, a pharmacist and longtime union member, said her industry and the medical-marijuana industry aren’t so different.
“Medical cannabis dispensaries are just another place for people to get their medicine,” she said.
by Michael Montgomery and David Downs, California Watch
One of California’s biggest medical marijuana establishments – embraced by local officials as a model business that donates to the poor and pays millions in taxes – has become the latest target in a statewide crackdown by federal prosecutors.
Berkeley Patients Group, founded in 1999 by leading names in the state’s medical marijuana movement, will cease operations at its current location later this year, according to an agreement between the dispensary’s owners and the landlord. The document was signed on Feb. 28 by Alameda County Superior Court Judge C. Don Clay.
“Berkeley Patients Group agrees to cease all cannabis-related activities and remove all cannabis-related property from the premises by May 1, 2012,” the document states. Legal experts said agreements of this kind can be revised, but it was unclear if that was possible in this case.
The decision to shutter the outlet on San Pablo Avenue was triggered by a warning from Melinda Haag, the U.S. attorney for Northern California. In a letter sent to the owner of the building that houses the dispensary, Haag said federal prosecutors would file a forfeiture action if marijuana continued to be distributed at the location. Berkeley Patients Group has leased the property since 1999 and operates under a city license.
The letter cited violations of federal law and the fact that the outlet is within 1,000 feet of two schools: the Center for Early Intervention on Deafness, which also houses a preschool, and Ecole Bilingue de Berkeley, a French bilingual grade school.
“Marijuana dispensaries are full of cash and they’re full of marijuana, and everybody knows that,” Haag said in an interview. “They are at risk of being robbed, and many of them are robbed.”
While marijuana is illegal under federal law, Haag said she doesn’t have the resources to target all the medical pot outlets that have proliferated in her district in recent years. So, she said, her office is focusing on protecting children.
“When a dispensary comes to my attention that is close to a school, a park or a playground or to children, that’s a line I’ve decided to draw, and those are the dispensaries that I’m looking at,” Haag said.
Since federal prosecutors announced a statewide crackdown in October, Haag said her office has sent letters to a number of dispensaries, including Berkeley Patients Group and an outlet in Santa Cruz that was robbed by armed gunmen in February. The outlet is next to a preschool.
“People in the community may be supportive of the dispensary,” Haag said, “until there’s an armed robbery and people come running out of the dispensary shooting guns.”
Berkeley Patients Group’s owners declined interview requests, but supporters said the outlet has never been the scene of violence or an armed robbery. The group issued a statement reading: “BPG remains committed to providing safe and affordable access to its patient-members, while working to preserve the jobs of its 70+ employees. We are grateful for the level of support we have received from the Berkeley community over the years.”
The dispensary enjoys widespread support among local officials. In 2009, the Berkeley City Council proclaimed a special day to honor the group.
“I tell people that the Berkeley Patients Group is the Brooks Brothers of medical marijuana dispensing,” said Polly Armstrong, co-CEO of the Berkeley Chamber of Commerce. She said the dispensary has donated thousands of dollars to the chamber and other civic groups over the years.
That sentiment is shared by Jill Ellis, executive director of the Center for Early Intervention on Deafness, one of the schools cited in the warning letter from federal prosecutors.
“They really have been caring, supportive neighbors, concerned neighbors, clearly very interested in our mission, our families,” Ellis said. “Their security provides a great asset and enhancement to our
community. We’ve never had any incidents at all.”
The order to vacate comes at an inopportune time for the dispensary. Berkeley Patients Group still owes the state about $6.3 million in back taxes, interest and fees for marijuana sales from 2004 to 2007.
And the group faces a tough real estate market. Adam Peterson, a real estate agent for Cassidy Turley BT Commercial whose expertise includes the Berkeley market, said the dispensary has wanted to move for three years due to redevelopment on San Pablo Avenue, but the owners haven’t found a location.
“It’s almost impossible to relocate, especially under the rules and regulations that the cities and state have in place right now,” he said.
Only one property in Berkeley meets both state and local guidelines, Peterson said, and it’s not for rent to a dispensary.
But Dale Gieringer, state coordinator for the California chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, said he thinks the dispensary will find a new home and outlast the latest crackdown.
“That’s what we’ve seen with previous federal crackdowns,” he said. “They’re disruptive at first, then people move somewhere else or change their business plans.”
Prominent Oakland medical marijuana activist and businessman Richard Lee has been forced to move his dispensary twice due to warnings from federal prosecutors.
A version of this story aired on KQED’s “The California Report,” where the audio is available. Michael Montgomery and David Downs are investigative reporters for California Watch, a project of the non-profit Center for Investigative Reporting. Find more California Watch stories here.
by Mathew Artz, Mercury News
OAKLAND — Oakland moved to double the city’s medical marijuana dispensaries Wednesday, but a federal crackdown on the industry has cast doubt on whether any new dispensaries will be opening anytime soon.
With far fewer applicants than expected, and nearly half of the finalists losing the consent of their prospective landlords, the city approved four potential dispensary operators, only one of which also has an approved location.
The other three will be given four months to find a new location that satisfies city rules requiring dispensaries be located at least 600 feet from schools, parks and youth-serving programs. If they fail, the city also approved one alternate dispensary group.
Oakland received more than 100 inquiries last year when it announced it would issue permits for four additional medical marijuana dispensaries. The city’s existing four dispensaries generate about $1.68 million a year in tax revenue.
But in October, shortly before the application deadline, federal prosecutors announced stepped-up enforcement efforts against the commercial marijuana industry. In the ensuing months several Bay Area dispensaries have closed, and one of Oakland’s four dispensaries, Blue Sky Care Center, was forced to move to a temporary location farther away from a school.
Prosecutors have also sent notices warning dispensary landlords that they risk losing their properties if their tenants are found to be involved in illegal drug sales.
Oakland took federal concerns into account and was merely implementing the City Council’s directive in expanding the number of dispensaries, said Assistant City Administrator Arturo Sanchez.
United States Attorney Melinda Haag’s office declined to comment about Oakland’s move Tuesday to increase its dispensaries, but medical cannabis advocates said stepped up federal prosecution was the primary reason that the city got only 12 permit applicants.
“I think that people are understandably being cautious given the federal crackdown that’s going on,” said Dale Gieringer, California coordinator for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.
Even the co-owner of the lone dispensary that received city approval for its ownership group and location is proceeding with caution. “It’s a possibility we open; it’s a possibility we don’t,” said Salwa Ibrahim, who’s collective would be located at 21st Street and Broadway.
The other three groups greenlighted for dispensary permits — Agramed, Tidewater Patients Group and G8 Medical Alliance — face additional hurdles.
Agramed’s Jeff Wilcox said he will try to find a new location after lenders balked at his current property at 1820 Embarcadero.
Representatives for the other two groups could not be reached Wednesday. The city rejected Tidewater’s proposal because it would have been located within 600 feet from East Bay Regional Park District land and G8′s because it would have been within 600 feet from a school.
Both groups had strong ties to the owners of those properties. Tidewater’s proposal was based on it getting a new building and startup loan from the property owners, who include City Hall insiders Carlos Plazola and Ana Chretien. G8 was to occupy a building at 70 Hegenberger Loop, owned by Dhar Mann, whose cannabis supply shop had failed at the same location.
“Their funders and investors are associated with those properties, so it will be interesting to see if they can get another location,” said Mickey Martin of the blog Cannabis Warrior.
The alternative dispensary group selected by the city is Magnolia Wellness, Inc., which also would have to find a new location. The city rejected AMCD, Inc., which had proposed a dispensary at 578 West Grand Avenue for “questions about truthfulness and compliance with (city) requirements.”
by Chris Roberts, SF Weekly
Union Pulls Plug on Medical Reform, Other Ballot Measures Starved For Cash; Legislature, Ammiano Last Hope for Reform Now
Nobody likes to celebrate with a loss, but for the medical marijuana movement, 2010 and the historic defeat of semi-legalization measure Proposition 19 already look like the good old days.
Feast turned to famine quickly: Multiple marijuana legalization and medical marijuana reform ballot initiatives vied this year and last for a spot on voters’ ballots in November. But United Food and Commercial Workers and Americans for Safe Access withdrew on Thursday their Medical Marijuana Regulation, Control, and Taxation Act, and leading proponents of legalization initiative Regulate Marijuana Like Wine are already looking ahead to 2014.
But with the federal Justice Department’s crackdown on California cannabis in full swing, that may be too long to wait, leaving all eyes now on an outspoken lawmaker from San Francisco to save cannabis in California.
Oakland union organizer Dan Rush, chief of the Medical Cannabis and Hemp division of UFCW’s national chapter, told the Sacramento Bee on Thursday afternoon that the union was “pulling the plug” on the MMCRT, which would have created a state-level bureaucracy to oversee and regulate the state’s medical marijuana industry not unlike what Alcoholic Beverage Control does for liquor.
Cash was the main reason, ASA executive director Stephanie Sherer told SF Weekly on Thursday evening: with about six weeks left before signatures were due in Sacramento — initiatives need over 500,000 valid signatures to qualify; campaigns usually submit 750,000 or more by the April 20 deadline — the campaign had $1.25 million of the $2 million needed just to pay signature-gathering companies to qualify.
More cash would be needed to run a campaign, so the call was made to focus on Sacramento, said Sherer, who added that the campaign started late and nonetheless “achieved [its] dream: to get something in the Legislature.”
“We’re not dropping anything,” said Sherer, who said the money will be spent on a “public awareness campaign” to sway lawmakers’ minds. This may work now when it did not before: leery lawmakers in Sacramento wanted proof that the often divisive and divided medical marijuana movement was not “a mile wide and an inch deep,” she said. “Well, we’re not.”
ASA and UFCW raised the cash in increments of $500 to $10,000 from medical marijuana dispensaries, dispensary organization, patients, advocates, and pot growers big and small, she told SF Weekly (financial disclosure forms have yet to be filed with the Secretary of State).
It’s now up to the Legislature and Ammiano, who introduced a bill very similar in language to the UFCW-ASA effort. It has yet to be called for a hearing in committee. A spokesman for Ammiano was not immediately available for comment late Thursday.
Ammiano will need Republican cosponsors as well as support from his Democratic colleagues in order to make any headway.
Meanwhile, the three legalization measures are still starving for billionaires. A few weeks ago in LA, proponents for Repeal Cannabis Prohibition, Regulate Marijuana Like Wine, and the California Cannabis and Hemp Health Initiative issued a “statement of unity” that included a clarion call to rich people. All ballot initiatives were in desperate need of cash; they remain so today.
In 2010, recall, Richard Lee of Oaksterdam University spent millions of his own money to put Proposition 19 on the ballot. The initiative won more votes than Meg Whitman, but was still defeated on the ballot, 46.2 percent for to 53.8 percent opposed.
Once on the ballot, he received big money contributions from George Soros, Peter Thiel, and other progressive-minded angel investors; those rich pot-loving folk have yet to pony up this year, and it now appears they won’t.
Though “anything can still happen,” said Steve Kubby, one of the proponents for Regulate Marijuana Like Wine. “I’m all about miracles.”
And he might need one. RMLW has $54,000 in the bank and about 200,000 signatures, said Kubby, an “eyeball estimate, mind you” he gave via telephone after looking at a stack of papers in his South Lake Tahoe home. “We have to do an audit, but I can tell you we have a pile.”
The challenge now is to figure out how to get a voter initiative on the ballot and how to win a campaign without a billionaires’ largess. That has not been done: it was Soros who bankrolled Proposition 215 in 1996.
“I do not understand how a person with billions who enjoys cannabis even on occasion, and who sympathizes with the damages of cannabis prohibition on our society, would not take a shot at real reform for 2012 in the nation’s most populous state,” said East Bay-based organizer and activist Mickey Martin, who used to head up edibles collective Tainted, Inc. before a federal bust. “For a few million bucks we could have cannabis freedom for 12% of America in one effort. Someone needs to write that check.”
Martin pointed to 2016, a presidential cycle, as the more likely “next time around” for cannabis legalization or reform. Kubby pointed forward to 2014, when fundraising and signature-gathering can be done in the cheaper offseason.
“We’ll raise the money ourselves, between now and 2014,” he said. “I can tell you with certainty, if we don’t get onto the 2012 ballot, this will definitely be on the 2014 ballot.”
So keep the faith, marijuana users. And try to befriend some billionaires while you’re at it.
by Andrew Edwards, The San Gabriel Valley Tribune
The latest development in the fight over medical marijuana could sharply limit cities’ power to prohibit marijuana dispensaries.
A recent opinion, from the division of the state’s Fourth District Court of Appeals that meets in Santa Ana, holds that since California law provides for dispensaries, cities cannot ban them by declaring them to be a public nuisance.
A dispute between the Orange County city of Lake Forest and a dispensary called Evergreen Holistic Cooperative led to the new opinion.
The city asked for a court order to shut down the Evergreen Holistics because Lake Forest zoning laws did not allow dispensaries, but the appelate court ruled unanimously that Lake Forest’s law went too far.
“We conclude local governments may not prohibit medical marijuana dispensaries altogether, with the caveat that the Legislature authorized dispensaries only at sites where medical marijuana is `collectively or cooperatively cultivated,”‘ the opinion reads.
The court published its opinion last Wednesday. As of Monday, it was not clear how the ruling may affect cities like Upland and San Bernardino which have their own anti-dispensary laws.
“Case law in California has been all over the place,” said Jolena Grider, a senior deputy city attorney in San Bernardino. “That case and others will probably be heard by the state Supreme Court.”
Grider was not alone in her view on the need for an eventual ruling from the state Supremeourt to tell people on both sides of the medical marijuana divide what, exactly, California law says in regard to medical marijuana.
Los Angeles-based attorney David Welch, who represented Evergreen Holistic, said one to two years may pass before the state Supreme Court issues a definitive ruling on medical marijuana.
The California Supreme Court on its own cannot resolve the contradictions between state and federal law.
California voters approved medical marijuana use in 2006, but the drug remained illegal under the U.S. Controlled Substance Act.
Many cities have sided with the federal government in passing laws or moratoria to prevent the establishment of medical marijuana dispensaries.
Medical marijuana proponents, however, say marijuana’s medical benefits include pain relief, especially for cancer patients or those with long-term ailments.
In Upland, the G3 Holistic dispensary is but one place where the conflicts between local, state and federal marijuana laws have been at play and have gone as far as the state’s highest court.
Upland has its own anti-dispensary law, but a West Valley Superior Court judge in January ruled G3 Holistic can stay open pending a case between the dispensary and city.
The state Supreme Court has agreed to review that case, which is G3 Holistic’s appeal of an earlier appellate court opinion saying cities can ban dispensaries.
G3 Holistics operator Aaron Sandusky said he does not expect last week’s ruling to have much effect on his case, which is already set for state Supreme Court review.
The most recent opinion holds that collectives should grow medical marijuana supplies on site, but Sandusky said this conflicts with the guidelines then-state Attorney General Jerry Brown issued in 2008, which states that dispensaries can distribute marijuana among patients who are members of the dispensary.
Sandusky said G3 Holistics follows those guidelines, and said it would be very costly for collectives to grow marijuana on-site, saying at least 5,000 square feet of properly-lighted growing space would be needed.
“It would be very difficult for a cooperative to manage and break even,” he said.
The state case is not the only legal matter for G3 Holistics, as federal authorities raided the dispensary in November. Sandusky said he has not been charged with anything since the raids.
Upland City Attorney William Curley could not be reached directly for comment on the new opinion, but his office relayed a message saying he was studying the case and expects Upland’s law will withstand scrutiny.
Upland Mayor Ray Musser also defended the city’s anti-dispensary law, saying he views dispensaries as places where large amounts of drugs and cash are likely to attract criminals.
He also acknowledged his frustration with the state’s confusing legal landscape.
“You sort of roll the dice and hope you’ve made the right decision, and it’s not fun when you’re low on money and legal costs are rising,” he said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Courtesy of the Los Angeles Times
For the first time since Occupy L.A. rolled out of town, it was smoke instead of smog that permeated the air on Thursday outside Los Angeles City Hall.
More than 100 medical marijuana enthusiasts gathered on the steps outside Los Angeles City Hall on Thursday afternoon for a peaceful protest rallying against the city’s ongoing attempts to ban or limit medical marijuana dispensaries. The “SmokeOut for Safe Access Rally,” featuring Cypress Hill’s B-Real, Tommy Chong and the band Kottonmouth Kings, drew a respectable crowd ready to march in support of medical pot. And let’s not forget their mission to snag some easy promotion for the Cypress Hill SmokeOut Festival happening Saturday at the NOS Events Center in San Bernardino. The protest was a joint effort (rim shot, please!) between festival organizers, Americans for Safe Access and the Medicine & Music Project.
The event began at 4 p.m. on the west steps of City Hall, where Cypress Hill rapper B-Real, Americans for Safe Access California Director Don Duncan, rapper MC Supernatural and comedian-activist Tommy Chong came to deliver brief speeches to protesters.
“Nothing better than rolling up a fat one, sittin’ on the courthouse steps, watch me rap one… yo I can handle this they’re so scandalous, tryin’ to ban medical marijuana in Los Angeles,” rapped MC Supernatural.
Police presence was relatively light at the event, which remained peaceful as B-Real and Duncan took turns giving short speeches into a megaphone on the steps above the protesters, who raised homemade banners emblazoned with slogans informing the crowd that ”Marijuana Is Medicine.”On Wednesday, a state appeals court in Santa Ana found that the city of Lake Forest could not ban medical marijuana facilities through zoning ordinances, as that contradicts state Proposition 215, which makes such dispensaries legal.Andrew Flores, 28, of Alhambra heard about the protest from a friend and hoped to lend his support, as well as get the chance to see B-Real address the crowd a few days ahead of Smoke Out.
“It’s always great to see that guy on the mike no matter where it is,” said Flores. “But I’m just really excited to see people coming out and showing support for this movement, which definitely affects me since I have family members that actually do depend on medical marijuana to treat glaucoma and other painful illnesses.”
The rally was followed by a protest march that began, appropriately, at 4:20 p.m. (The number 420 is a kind of code word for pot by marijuana advocates) Participants draped in green ganja-inspired outfits carried banners and flags and marched a few blocks east from the City Hall steps to the Edward R. Roybal Federal Building for an hour-long protest that included a brief speech from Chong. B-Real, whose annual SmokeOut festival is the only one of its kind that allows medical marijuana patients the ability to light up in a specified treatment area of the festival grounds, ended things by calling for even more support from the local community of cannabis users.
“How many people are here today? More medical marijuana patients and advocates should be here. But you showed up and that goes to show your dedication. From here, you go and educate everybody else.”
Something is up over in the MMRCTA camp. Has anyone noticed that there has been very little messaging AT ALL about the Medical Marijuana Regulation Control and Taxation Act from Americans for Safe Access, UFCW, or any of the other “supporters” they have lined up? I was just reading ASA’s “California Weekly Round Up” and was startled that an organization promoting an initiative in CALIFORNIA would not even have a mention, or a link, or anything about their massive effort in their California Round Up. Nope…nada. There is information on the big March 1st LA rally, where Cypress Hill is promoting their “Smokeout for Safe Access” and there is a mention about a local Lake County election happening, but zilch about MMRCTA.
But do not just look at the round up for evidence. Check the ASA website. Nothing there either. It is a mystery. Why, if ASA is asking our community to support this ill-thought effort, are they not supporting it themselves? Why is there no messaging on this matter if it is so important that they believe we should all jump on board and kick in money for it? I mean it is one thing to not answer the many questions I have posed regarding the effort; it is another to act as if it did not exist at all and work to keep the topic out of the marijuana mainstream for some reason. What gives? Why the eery silence? If this is such a great thing for our community, why is there no ASA or UFCW vocal and active support for the cause? And don’t blame me, either….I am just not that powerful. Something else is afoot….
There was supposed to be a press conference at the beginning of February, with Dan Rush from UFCW leading the parade. He stated in an email, “We need ALL endorsements ASAP for our press conference (on the state Capitol steps) in SAC on the 11th or the 12th. President Lind has said that he can only attend in SAC on the 12th (the later in the day the better).” Well the 11th and 12th passed without so much as a peep, and there was no press release even, much less a conference on the capital steps.
Then there was the message that they were waiting for the Title and Summary to come back on February 14th. That date also came and went, the Title and Summary were released, but not so much as a press release or public message about the thing. NO, “Hey, we got our Title and Summary back and will begin gathering signatures,” or anything. Nothing. Silence.
Then there was the message that they were doing polling, and that by February 20th, my opposition would be a “moot point,” according to UFCW rep, Matt Witemyre. February 20th, came and went, and the point is anything but moot. Maybe mute, but the discussion about whether this whole thing is a good idea or not are more alive than ever.
One of their supporters said that it would be polled for pros and cons arguments, and they were expecting it to come back in the low 60% range. Well, I am sure if that were the numbers that came back, or if they were better, we would have heard about them. If there was a huge positive polling to show that this thing had legs, I am positive there would have been at least a mention of that by either ASA or UFCW, but nothing. No message, No response. No releasing of the poll numbers to help other campaigns possibly. Just nothingness.
And then there is the Ammiano bill that was introduced that mirrored the MMRCTA effort on most fronts, and looked like Ammiano straight up stole their homework, changed a few answers, and put it out as his own. But still no public response.What is even more telling is that there is no mention of the Ammiano effort by ASA on their website…why? Is a major piece of legislation entered by long-time medical cannabis supporter, Tom Ammiano, not a big enough story to even do a blog about or post a story about?
Well, I will not say nothing…..UFCW representative Dan Rush did put out an email trying to convince folks that “THE GOVERNOR NEEDS TO SIGN THE LEGISLATION INTO LAW. That means you need a Governor that is willing to sign the legislation… WE DON’T HAVE ONE!” He even went as far as passing this falsified information on to an SF Weekly writer, who stated “Even if the bill is passed, however, it’s highly unlikely it will become law: A bill passed last year allowing California farmers in select counties to grow hemp was returned without Gov. Jerry Brown’s signature, and it’s generally taken as a given that Brown will not sign any medical marijuana-related bills.”
Now Chris Roberts of the Weekly is a great writer, but he is just off base with this assertion, and I can only believe it was based on misinformation being put out by UFCW’s Dan Rush, who is also quoted in the story. But the FACT is that Jerry Brown signed the FIRST EVER medical marijuana ordinance, as Mayor of Oakland. Even CANORML Dale Geringer disagreed with Rush’s assertion, stating,
“Jerry’s veto message to the hemp bill reads:
“Federal law clearly establishes that all cannabis plants, including industrial hemp, are marijuana, which is a federally regulated controlled substance. Failure to obtain a permit from the U.S. DEA prior to growing such plants will subject a California farmer to criminal prosecution.” Jerry was concerned that the bill would expose farmers, and by extension the state, to new liability under federal law. This objection doesn’t necessarily apply to medical marijuana, since California voters have already exposed the state to liability in this area by approving Prop. 215.
So why would UFCW try to undermine Tom Ammiano’s effort before it even had a chance to get to Committee? Well, first off, unlike MMRCTA, Ammiano’s effort does not define Medical Marijuana Industry Union as a union “currently” serving the medical cannabis industry; in fact, it does not mention unions at all. Secondly, UFCW likely has a lot riding on getting MMRCTA on the ballot and they are working to convince their funders not to jump ship in favor of the Ammiano effort. One can not fault them for protecting their interests.
What is troubling is that the only messaging coming out are blatant falsehoods, or pure speculation that attempts to discredit a legislative effort. There has been no positive messaging, or even responses to concerns…at least not publicly where we can all learn from them. There is no real effort to educate the community or garner our support. The only person they are trying to convince of anything is whatever cat they are trying to get to pony up the cheddar to get the signatures. The rest of us do not deserve any real information, I suppose. We do not have any real money, so it does not matter what we think anyway.
I asked again last night about the polls that were done, and why there was nothing released? I was told, “Should have a definitive answer within the next few days on whether this thing happens or not.” That is it….no information really….just waiting to see if the money comes through for them. Awesome…
The eeriness of the situation is troubling. The fact that ASA has not released any messaging on the effort, lists no link or info on their site, and have made no public statements regarding the effort makes me think they are trying to protect their brand for some reason. Like they do not want to be publicly associated with this effort. Almost as if they were pushed into it, and now regret their involvement. To me, it lacks courage and conviction and makes me even more concerned that there are puppet masters at play in this whole mess. I can tell you that I see a different angle being taken by the organization, not just in this effort, but in many of their current strategies, that has left me asking “What has changed?”
I was once a huge supporter of ASA nan their vision, and would fight to the death to defend their honor. I just do not feel that affection for them any longer. It is not my position on medical marijuana that has changed. I always believed that medical cannabis is a real and meaningful thing, and I have always believed that unless we move for legalization that there will always be people not sick enough to use cannabis and real patients would continue to get caught in that crossfire. So it is not me. What has changed IMO are the motivations and direction of ASA and its staff. There is something much deeper than I can put my finger on that is happening over there, and to me it is just kind of creepy after all these years.
Or maybe it is just my mind wandering too far again; but when there is nothing but silence to go on, that is bound to happen….
Yesterday we got news that Colorado qualified an effort to legalize cannabis for the November ballot, and Washington State has also qualified an adult use measure there. As I sit here in California, the mecca of cannabis, I am ultimately frustrated with the lack of support for a legalization measure here, as I firmly believe that in a Presidential Election year with very weak Republican candidates, we have a real shot at getting that 50% + 1 voter out to support this cause. Even with the opposition to 19, in a non-Presidential year we got 46%, so I have no doubt California would pass a legalization effort if given the opportunity.
At this point, I am praying for a miracle. Well, not so much praying any more, as trying to take destiny into my own hands. I have decided that quite possibly our best shot for legalization is if I played the lottery. That’s right. I said it. I went to the store and bought lottery tickets for tonights big $94 million Mega-Millions lottery drawing. If I win, I commit to spending the vast majority of the winnings on legalizing cannabis, here in CA first and then the World. I would hope that others would do the same. I figure, if the big magnet in the sky and the controlling powers of the universe believe in cannabis and want to see it returned to our society as the safe, enjoyable, and helpful plant it is, that the skies will open up and I will win the lottery tonight…or maybe next week. Who knows? I am committed to playing every week until cannabis is legal. It is really all a little guy with no money can do at this point.
Maybe one day I will be the big bucks millionaire and I will be able to put my money up for a cause I truly believe in. I sure hope that we see real cannabis reform for adult use allowance far before then, though….so I am playing the lottery. It is the least I could do. I want to be the guy who won the lottery and used his winnings to change the world. That would be the shit.
Does this sound delusional? Well maybe it is, but that is about the most hope I have at this stage of the game for legalization in CA for 2012. That is sad. It is all of our sad realities. In our best opportunity to actually pass the fucking thing, we have no major angel donors, or real effort to get the signatures to qualify for the ballot. We will likely fall short, and be forced to dance the “who is sick enough to use cannabis?” dance for another 4 years. It almost makes me cry to say it out loud….but I am still very hopeful about my lottery ticket prospects. In fact, it is all I really have going at this moment that makes me smile in this Godforsaken industry and its ever-lasting volatility and uncertainty.
I believe in miracles, so I am still hopeful that even if the lottery does not work out, one of these rich people who love weed as much as I do because it makes the world a better place will step up to the plate and do the right thing in CA. It is not too late to be that person who drastically improves the lives of millions of people with one stroke of the checkbook. And….I will be your best friend (or not, whichever you prefer). But myself, and millions of others, will cherish you, name strains after you, and the whole nine yards. You will be our new Bob Marley.
Until then, though, I am playing the lottery.
by Chris Roberts, SFWeekly
Call it an industry, call it a movement, call it a gigantic scam. Law enforcement and politicians can’t agree what to call California’s medical marijuana scene, except to say it exists in a legal gray area.
And how. A dispensary operator in Vallejo was arrested last week – twice – because the police chief and a majority of the City Council believe state medical marijuana law doesn’t allow dispensaries to conduct “sales,” and because there’s no local ordinance allowing dispensaries, they’re illegal.
But state law doesn’t say that, according to the retired legislator who wrote the law. And just in case there’s still confusion on the matter, a bill introduced Friday by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) not only allows for medical marijuana sales — and would appear to allow for profit — it also makes it clear that dispensaries are fine and dandy under state law.
If passed, Ammiano’s bill, A.B. 2312, would allow “collectives, cooperatives, and other business entities to cultivate, acquire, process, possess, transport, test, sell, and distribute marijuana for medical purposes.” This is a departure from current law, which says the above are not subject to penalties.
The bill also makes it a misdemeanor for a doctor to give a bad recommendation, and would limit dispensaries to one per a city of 50,000 residents. And — and most importantly — it creates a medical marijuana bureaucracy.
The governor, the assembly speaker, and the Senate Committee on Rules would appoint nine people to the Board of Medical Marijuana Enforcement, a new body within the Department of Consumer Affairs. This body would be in charge of the Medical Marijuana Fund, which would be funded with state fees and fines.
Ammiano’s bill is similar to a proposed ballot initiative: The Medical Marijuana Regulation Control and Taxation Act, the brainchild of medical marijuana patient advocacy group Americans for Safe Access and labor union United Food and Commercial Workers. A major difference is that the MMRCTA includes a state tax, which requires a two-thirds majority, according to a release from Ammiano’s office.
Nobody from team Ammiano was available for comment Sunday, but even if it doesn’t pass, the bill will “raise awareness” in the legislature that the industry needs some kind of fix, UFCW organizer Dan Rush said via e-mail.
Even if the bill is passed, however, it’s highly unlikely it will become law: A bill passed last year allowing California farmers in select counties to grow hemp was returned without Gov. Jerry Brown’s signature, and it’s generally taken as a given that Brown will not sign any medical marijuana-related bills.
So who’s going to convince local law enforcement that sales are allowed — and what about profit?
Claims that dispensaries turn profits has been used by both federal and state law enforcement officials to shut down pot clubs. But barring medical marijuana operators from turning a profit was never on the table, said retired state Sen. John Vasconcellos, the author of 2003′s Senate Bill 420.
“It was a deal-breaker,” he said in a recent telephone interview. The bill does include language saying “nothing in this section shall allow,” a profit, but that does not mean a profit isn’t prohibited either, he said.
But since law enforcement officers have gone on record with this newspaper saying that medical marijuana is a sham, good luck using that one in court.
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