LA Takes Out Its Incompetence on Dispensaries, Patients

It looks like L.A.’s dispensary limit will go into effect on Monday, forcing hundreds of dispensaries to close or pay exhorbitant fines.  If you’re looking for a clue as to why L.A. is in this situation, you could do worse than this line:

Last-minute legal challenges from pot shop owners and patients seeking temporary restraining orders were denied Friday by Superior Court Judge James Chalfant, paving the way for officials to enforce the long-awaited law that will slash the number of dispensaries to somewhere between 70 and 130.

The range is between “70 and 130”? Are you kidding? How is it possible that a city with a large bureaucracy, including tax collectors, fire inspectors, and a host of other agencies, not to mention beat cops who should, between them, know the entire city backwards and forwards, they can’t get an accurate count of all the dispensaries that abide by the law? What the hell are Los Angelinos paying these people for, if not to keep track of things?

I’m sure a lot of these “rogue” dispensaries haven’t made it easy for the city to keep track of them, but that range refers specifically to the ones that are legal. We learn later in the article what constitutes a legal dispensary:

Dispensaries that registered before a 2007 moratorium can stay open if they adhere to the new guidelines, which include being 1,000 feet from schools, parks and other public gathering sites. The dispensaries also must pay more than $1,000 in administrative fees.

So the city has had more than two years to look at dispensaries that already existed, make sure they pay their fees, and draw lines on maps to check if they are too close to schools and parks. This does not sound like a tall order to me.

The city clearly has failed to do its job. All they have ever had to do was task every beat cop in the city to write the address of every dispensary in his area, then collect that data, plot it on a map, check to see if their paperwork is in order, and identify the dispensaries that are out of compliance. That’s what a competent government would do.

Instead, they have spent years failing to do their jobs, while complaining publicly about the “Wild West” atmosphere among dispensaries in L.A. Now that they have finally managed to get their act together (to what degree, we’ll see…) the people who pay for their years of mismanagement are the dispensary owners who opened their businesses legally and the sick people who patronize those dispensaries, only to have the city pull the rug out from under them.

Hat tip to THE Weed Blog.

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Oakland considers sanctioning large-scale grows

The City of Oakland, one of the most marijuana-friendly in the country, is tired of indoor growers starting fires, so the City Council is planning introduce legislation to sanction a few large-scale commercial grow operations. At this point,they are envisioning three to four commercial grows, located in an industrial section of the city.

While I applaud the ongoing efforts of Oakland city authorities to legitimize marijuana and bring it into the mainstream, I have many problems with this proposal.

First, it won’t work. Small growers don’t grow because the cops let them, they grow because it is profitable. All this proposal would do is flood the market, making it marginally less profitable to grow at home, but not likely to drive out small indoor growers altogether.  Mostly, it will reduce the growers’ profits, making them less likely to spend money on, say, properly hooking up their electricity.

Second, this would establish a “big business” model, in which the entire medical marijuana industry would be dominated by a few well-connected megagrowers. These few growers would reap huge profits (as Harborside, Oakland’s biggest dispensary and one of the most likely recipients of a grow permit, is already doing), while the small-time growers would be forced to either accept lower prices or be forced into an already bleak job market.

The concentration of power over the supply of medicine in the hands of a few big businesses flies directly in the face of California Attorney General Jerry Brown’s Guidelines for the Security and Non-Diversion of Marijuana for Medical Use, which mandate that all dispensaries operate as non-profit collectives or co-operatives, and that primary caregivers may only have multiple patients “in the same city or county.”

My recommendation would be to empower a local organization to certify, anonymously, the safety of a grow. Dispensaries could demand proof of inspection from each vendor. This would address the fire hazard problem while keeping the supply side populated with actively-employed collective members.

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Pot Conventions and the Appearance of Patient Care

At the last cannabis expo I attended, there was a doctor writing prescriptions for medical marijuana for dozens, perhaps hundreds, of people over a two-day period. The line was always wrapped around the corner, and it was never fewer than ten people deep.

I discuss medical marijuana and its related issues with a lot of people, both patients and non-patients alike.  Many are skeptical of marijuana’s medical value relative to other drugs, and see the entire medical movement as a front for drug dealers to make an “honest” living. How would they react to the sight of a doctor writing hundreds of recommendations for patients he had likely never treated before, who were lined up at least 10-deep for the entire two-day event. I’m guessing the convention doc would reinforce their negative view of medical marijuana.

I bring this up because the Montana Board of Medical Examiners has fined Dr. Patricia Cole $2,000 for operating in what sound like very similar conditions to the one described above. She saw 151 patients in 14.5 hours. From the Whitefish Pilot:

The peer reviewer concluded that Cole breached her statutory obligations to comply with “generally accepted standards of practice” and the state’s Medical Marijuana Act, including:

– Documentation was lacking whether she personally took comprehensive past or present medical histories, performed physical examinations, or performed medical marijuana risk-benefit analysis.

– Seeing scores of new patients in one day is considered below the standard of care, “particularly given that physicians commonly afford new patients greater time.”

– Cole failed to document if she advised patients about proper dosages and the potential dangerous side-effects and interactions of medical marijuana, including the dangers of operating machinery and motor vehicles.

– Cole failed to recommend timely follow-up evaluations to assess the effectiveness of the medical marijuana treatment.

– Questions were raised about whether Cole had enough time to preview patients’ records-release consent forms and whether she allowed the Montana Caregivers Network, which organized the conference, to manage the patients’ records.

If that report was about my regular physician, I’d find myself a new one.

In Dr. Cole’s defense, there has been much more demand for medical marijuana recommendations in Montana than there has been a supply of doctors willing to write recommendations. Given the choice between recommending a benign, mostly harmless herbal remedy and seeing a sick person go without care because there just aren’t enough doctors to go around, Cole made the ethical decision.

Even so, is there any doubt that the standard of care from a random doctor in a convention center is likely to be much lower than the standard of care in your own doctor’s office?

I’m not saying patients should be forced to only use their family doctor for marijuana recommendations–all patients have the right to seek a second opinion–but doctors who prescribe medical marijuana have a special responsibility to both act and appear to act in accordance with all standard medical practices.

The public often suspects that the “medical” part of marijuana is just a convenient way to make it legal to get high. Those of us who use cannabis for medicinal purposes know this to be false, but it doesn’t help our case when people on our side play into our critics’ worst suspicions.

Furthermore, as someone who believes very strongly in the legalization of cannabis, I see state medical laws as an opportunity to show the country that cannabis users are responsible citizens. Irresponsible behavior on the part of our doctors does not help our cause.

Via Cannabis Culture.

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Muddy Waters, “Champagne and Reefer”

Champagne and Reefer

Bring me champagne when I’m thirsty.
Bring me reefer when I want to get high.
Yeah bring me champagne when I’m thirsty.
Bring me reefer when I want to get high.
Well you know when I’m lonely
Bring my woman set her right down here by my side.

Well you know there should be no law
on people that want to smoke a little dope.
Well you know there should be no law
on people that want to smoke a little dope.
Well you know it’s good for your head
And it relax your body don’t you know.

Every time I get high
I lay my head down on my baby’s breast.
Well you know I lay down be quiet
Tryin’ to take my rest.
Well you know she done hug and kiss me
Says Muddy you’re one man that I love the best.

I’m gonna get high
Gonna get high just as sure as you know my name.
Y’know I’m gonna get so high this morning
It’s going to be a cryin’ shame.
Well you know I’m gonna stick with my reefer
Ain’t gonna be messin’ round with no cocaine.

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Federally-Funded Anti-Drug Task Force Seizes Marijuana Legalization Petitions

In May a federally-funded anti-drug task force seized up to ten sheets of signatures for a marijuana legalization initiative from Washington state residents as “evidence” in a raid against Tacoma’s North End Club 420. Law enforcement has returned two of the sheets (after photocopying them and refusing to destroy the photocopies), but the 420 Club insists that there were 10 sheets in total.

The officers involved are claiming that it was all a mistake, and that they have no problem destroying the photocopies; they just need “an agreement between the prosecution and the defense” to do so.

The question remains, however: why did they seize the petitions in the first place? Why didn’t they return them immediately, if indeed they had made a mistake in seizing them in the first place? What guarantees do the citizens who signed that petition, as they have every right to do without fear of recrimination, have that their names have not been filed away somewhere in police headquarters?

Or, as Brian Sonenstein of FireDogLake put it:

Many are concerned the seizure of petition signatures will put a chilling affect on efforts to get marijuana legalization on the ballot.  WestNet’s work is likely to intimidate legalization supporters who now stand only a few weeks away from the signature filing deadline in June.

It’s also an appalling affront to first amendment rights.  The seizure of petition signatures in favor of legalizing marijuana by a federally-funded drug task force has effectively silenced the voices of hundreds of voters who signed the petition, only to have their signatures “lost” during the raid.

This is not a marijuana issue; it’s a constitutional issue. Democracy is meaningless if the government can intimidate the citizens who exercise their democratic rights.

FDL has a petition. Sign it.

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Life Really is Better in California

In the middle of a good primer on evaluating bud, I saw this little gem:

Chances are if you are on the West Coast or in Colorado, you have a great sense of what’s good and what’s bad.  If you live somewhere else in the US, I hate to break it to you, but the weed just isn’t that good where you are.  Now I’m not saying good weed doesn’t exist anywhere else in the US, but I am saying that it is hard as hell to find, costs an arm and a leg, and doesn’t come in large supplies.  There are always home cultivators in any part of the nation that are producing top quality nugs, but that doesn’t always mean that they share!  On the West Coast and in Colorado, due to SO MANY GROWERS, top quality marijuana flows like water, and therefore, the consumers in those areas are exposed to many more top quality strains.  As a result, they are much more educated on the topic of cannabis quality.

I don’t mean to toot my West Coast horn or anything, but this is undeniably true. In most of the country, you simply smoke what’s available, because obtaining it is so difficult. In California, on the other hand, there is so much superior weed going around that Humboldt outdoor isn’t even up to snuff anymore for many California medical marijuana dispensaries!

Just a reminder that despite the many problems in the world of medical marijuana, those of us lucky enough to live where cannabis can be obtained safely and legally are blessed with an abundance of high-quality medicine.

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