Impact of Medical Marijuana Ruling Examined
California Healthline highlights recent news on medical marijuana, including county regulation of dispensaries and the closure of several dispensaries. Summaries appear below.
San Francisco Supervisors Sean Elsbernd and Gerardo Sandoval introduced a resolution last week to urge City Attorney Dennis Herrera to take legal action against medical marijuana dispensaries that opened after the city's moratorium on new dispensaries took effect in April, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.
According to the Chronicle, the moratorium is "apparently having little effect," and as many as six new dispensaries have opened in recent weeks. The San Francisco Planning Department has referred three new clubs that opened after the moratorium took effect to the city attorney, but no action has been taken, the Chronicle reports.
Matt Dorsey, a spokesperson for Herrera, said the city attorney's office is continuing to analyze the legal factors surrounding the medical marijuana issue before taking action (Goodyear, San Francisco Chronicle, 6/10).
The Alameda County Board of Supervisors on June 7 approved an ordinance permitting three new medical marijuana dispensaries in unincorporated areas of the county, the Oakland Tribune reports (Maitre, Oakland Tribune, 6/8). The dispensaries will be in Castro Valley, San Lorenzo and Ashland/Cherryland. The board also had considered a proposal to open a dispensary in Fairmount Hospital (Herron Zamora et al., San Francisco Chronicle, 6/9).
In addition, the ordinance prohibits dispensaries within 1,000 feet of schools, parks or recreation areas. The distance can be amended to 850 feet if the dispensary's location can be shown to not adversely affect the safety of children. The county will grant two-year operating permits to the dispensaries pending an application review by the sheriff's department and the health care agency.
County Counsel Richard Winnie advised the board that it is unlikely federal authorities will move to regulate the dispensaries, despite the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling (Oakland Tribune, 6/8).
Compassionate Caregivers, an Oakland-based chain of medical marijuana dispensaries, has suspended operations at its seven locations because of an ongoing criminal investigation by the Los Angeles Police Department, the group's attorney said, the Oakland Tribune reports. The dispensaries will remain, "closed for good," the attorney said.
Lenore Shefman, the attorney, said she advised the closing of the dispensaries after she learned on Monday that the organization's bank accounts had been frozen by LAPD following a May 6 raid on a dispensary in West Hollywood. LAPD arrested 14 people, including some Compassionate Caregivers employees and charged 13 with the felony of maintaining a location for illegal narcotics distribution, according to LAPD Lt. Paul Vernon.
Shefman said Compassionate Caregivers is being singled out "as an example" because it is a large organization. She said she thinks the Drug Enforcement Administration and other federal agencies are involved in the investigation. DEA and Internal Revenue Service officials did not confirm or deny involvement, according to the Tribune (O'Brien/Beaver, Oakland Tribune, 6/11).
In related news, United Medical Caregivers closed two dispensaries in Ukiah and Los Angeles on June 7, citing concerns about raids by federal authorities following the Supreme Court decision, the Santa Rosa Press Democrat reports.
Gaby Flores, general manager of the Los Angeles location, said a member of Congress, whom she would not name, had notified her that DEA and IRS are forming a task force to investigate medical marijuana dispensaries.
Casey McEnry, a DEA spokesperson, would neither confirm nor deny an investigation, the Press Democrat reports. McEnry said the ruling did not change DEA's policies (Anderson, Santa Rosa Press Democrat, 6/11).
The New York Times on Sunday profiled one woman's pursuit of a medical marijuana prescription following the "startling discovery" that the state health code lists migraines as one of the conditions for which physicians can prescribe the treatment (Anderson, New York Times, 6/12).
In addition, the San Diego Union-Tribune on Monday examined the actions of two dispensary owners following the U.S. Supreme Court decision. One stopped distributing marijuana within hours of the decision, while the other is "willing to test" the DEA, according to the Union-Tribune (McDonald, San Diego Union-Tribune, 6/13).