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John Hoeffel, Los Angeles Times May 5, 2010

 

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Los Angeles city prosecutors began notifying 439 medical marijuana dispensaries Tuesday that they must shut down by June 7, when the city's ordinance to regulate the stores takes effect. It's the first step in what could be a lengthy and expensive legal battle to regain control over pot sales.

 

The letters, which were sent to both dispensary operators and property owners, warn that violations of the city's laws are a misdemeanor and could lead to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. Collectives that stay open after the deadline could also face civil penalties of $2,500 a day.

 

"We're hopeful that the fact that we've given them more than 30 days to comply that a significant number of them will cease operating," said Asha Greenberg, the assistant city attorney who has handled most of the efforts to close dispensaries.

 

Los Angeles became the epicenter of the state's dispensary boom last year, following the Obama administration's announcement that it would not prosecute medical marijuana stores that adhered to state law. Although the city had a moratorium on new dispensaries, it failed to enforce the ban and hundreds opened with no oversight, triggering complaints from neighborhood activists.

 

 

The letters were welcomed by city officials and activists as a sign that the contentious issue, which was first considered by the City Council five years ago, is nearing a resolution.

 

"We've arrived. It's like being on a journey and saying, 'Are we there yet? Are we there yet?' " said Councilman Ed Reyes, who oversaw the laborious process that led to an ordinance after two years of debate. "It feels good that we have finally reached this threshold."

 

Michael Larsen, the incoming president of the Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council, was the most tenacious spokesman for residents worried about unregulated dispensaries. "There's actually something happening based on an ordinance that we worked very hard to get into place. On that level, I am relieved," he said. "The truth about the actual enforcement, that will just be a big question mark."

 

Under the new ordinance, only dispensaries that registered with the city after the council adopted the moratorium in 2007 will be allowed to operate. City officials estimate that more than 130 of the original 186 registered dispensaries are still in business.

 

The Los Angeles Police Department cased the city to try to find every dispensary. Estimates from city officials and medical marijuana activists had ranged as high as 1,000. But Capt. Kevin McCarthy, who heads the LAPD's Gangs and Narcotics Division, said, "We came up with less than 600, which is good."

 

Greenberg said the city attorney's office will send out more letters if residents point out additional dispensaries. "We're making our best efforts, and we're using information from really our eyes and ears out there, which is the community," she said.

 

The city's enforcement efforts, however, could be stymied by court cases.

 

Two related lawsuits filed by dispensaries challenge the City Council's decision to close stores that did not register under the moratorium, which a local judge ruled was illegally extended. "We're looking for the court to just acknowledge that our clients are unlawfully discriminated against," said David Welch, a lawyer who represents 36 dispensaries in the lawsuit.

 

Eric Shevin, another lawyer with experience in marijuana issues, is preparing to sue on behalf of patients. "We are putting together a very comprehensive lawsuit to strike down L.A.'s ordinance," he said, arguing that the law imposes unreasonable restrictions on patient access to medicine. "There is really nothing that allows medical marijuana patients to be treated differently than, say, Vicodin patients."

 

Los Angeles has tried twice to persuade dispensaries to shut down, with mixed results. City prosecutors sent letters last year ordering 53 stores to close after the City Council denied their applications to operate despite the ban, and 28 did so. Earlier this year, letters were sent to the landlords of 21 dispensaries targeted by LAPD undercover operations, and six stores closed.

 

McCarthy said he hopes most dispensaries will close voluntarily. He believes many operators are conscientious, but notes that others are not. "I don't know what percentage of them are knuckleheads, and because the money is pretty good, we're not going to get 100%" compliance, he said.

 

Noting that medical marijuana is not the narcotics division's highest priority, he said it could take some time to determine which dispensaries remained open beyond the deadline. He said his officers would focus on the biggest nuisances: "Obviously, the ones that the community is screaming about are the ones we are going to go to first."

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John Hoeffel, Los Angeles Times May 5, 2010

 

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la-me-0505-medical-marijuana-20100505 rating_on.jpgrating_on.jpgrating_on.jpgrating_off.jpgrating_off.jpg TUGS.setInitCount('{"rate_summary":{"total_score":2700,"average":61,"total_count":44}}'); TUGS.tugsURL = "http://discussions.latimes.com/"; TUGS.init_starRating();

Los Angeles city prosecutors began notifying 439 medical marijuana dispensaries Tuesday that they must shut down by June 7, when the city's ordinance to regulate the stores takes effect. It's the first step in what could be a lengthy and expensive legal battle to regain control over pot sales.

 

The letters, which were sent to both dispensary operators and property owners, warn that violations of the city's laws are a misdemeanor and could lead to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. Collectives that stay open after the deadline could also face civil penalties of $2,500 a day.

 

"We're hopeful that the fact that we've given them more than 30 days to comply that a significant number of them will cease operating," said Asha Greenberg, the assistant city attorney who has handled most of the efforts to close dispensaries.

 

Los Angeles became the epicenter of the state's dispensary boom last year, following the Obama administration's announcement that it would not prosecute medical marijuana stores that adhered to state law. Although the city had a moratorium on new dispensaries, it failed to enforce the ban and hundreds opened with no oversight, triggering complaints from neighborhood activists.

 

 

The letters were welcomed by city officials and activists as a sign that the contentious issue, which was first considered by the City Council five years ago, is nearing a resolution.

 

"We've arrived. It's like being on a journey and saying, 'Are we there yet? Are we there yet?' " said Councilman Ed Reyes, who oversaw the laborious process that led to an ordinance after two years of debate. "It feels good that we have finally reached this threshold."

 

Michael Larsen, the incoming president of the Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council, was the most tenacious spokesman for residents worried about unregulated dispensaries. "There's actually something happening based on an ordinance that we worked very hard to get into place. On that level, I am relieved," he said. "The truth about the actual enforcement, that will just be a big question mark."

 

Under the new ordinance, only dispensaries that registered with the city after the council adopted the moratorium in 2007 will be allowed to operate. City officials estimate that more than 130 of the original 186 registered dispensaries are still in business.

 

The Los Angeles Police Department cased the city to try to find every dispensary. Estimates from city officials and medical marijuana activists had ranged as high as 1,000. But Capt. Kevin McCarthy, who heads the LAPD's Gangs and Narcotics Division, said, "We came up with less than 600, which is good."

 

Greenberg said the city attorney's office will send out more letters if residents point out additional dispensaries. "We're making our best efforts, and we're using information from really our eyes and ears out there, which is the community," she said.

 

The city's enforcement efforts, however, could be stymied by court cases.

 

Two related lawsuits filed by dispensaries challenge the City Council's decision to close stores that did not register under the moratorium, which a local judge ruled was illegally extended. "We're looking for the court to just acknowledge that our clients are unlawfully discriminated against," said David Welch, a lawyer who represents 36 dispensaries in the lawsuit.

 

Eric Shevin, another lawyer with experience in marijuana issues, is preparing to sue on behalf of patients. "We are putting together a very comprehensive lawsuit to strike down L.A.'s ordinance," he said, arguing that the law imposes unreasonable restrictions on patient access to medicine. "There is really nothing that allows medical marijuana patients to be treated differently than, say, Vicodin patients."

 

Los Angeles has tried twice to persuade dispensaries to shut down, with mixed results. City prosecutors sent letters last year ordering 53 stores to close after the City Council denied their applications to operate despite the ban, and 28 did so. Earlier this year, letters were sent to the landlords of 21 dispensaries targeted by LAPD undercover operations, and six stores closed.

 

McCarthy said he hopes most dispensaries will close voluntarily. He believes many operators are conscientious, but notes that others are not. "I don't know what percentage of them are knuckleheads, and because the money is pretty good, we're not going to get 100%" compliance, he said.

 

Noting that medical marijuana is not the narcotics division's highest priority, he said it could take some time to determine which dispensaries remained open beyond the deadline. He said his officers would focus on the biggest nuisances: "Obviously, the ones that the community is screaming about are the ones we are going to go to first."

 

http://www.latimes.com/news/custom/topofthetimes/topstories/la-me-0505-medical-marijuana-20100505,0,5755191.story

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CNN) -- The Billings, Montana, City Council will take up the issue of regulating medical marijuana on Monday night in a meeting expected to be intense in the wake of the firebombings of two of the city's medical marijuana storefronts in the last two days.The southern Montana city's dispensaries legally provide marijuana to medical patients who use it for maladies from glaucoma to nausea to lack of appetite. In the latest incidents, the phrase "Not in our town" was spray-painted on the businesses, police say.

 

Police Sgt. Kevin Iffland said Big Sky Patient Care was hit early Sunday morning and Montana Therapeutics was the target early Monday. Both had a rock thrown through the front door, followed by a Molotov cocktail. In both cases, Iffland said, the fire was put out swiftly and damage was not extensive.

 

Iffland said Billings police are working with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and that the two firebombs are being handled as felony arsons carrying sentences of up to 20 years in prison and a $50,000 fine.

 

The attacks on the storefronts come as the Billings City Council considers a moratorium on licensing new dispensaries while it works up a regulatory ordinance.

 

Sixty-two percent of Montanans voted in 2004 to allow caregivers to grow marijuana for qualified patients, but the state law said nothing about distribution. In that absence, municipalities and county governments began licensing the establishments on their own.

 

But, Iffland said, Billings was ill-prepared for the number of applications and has very little regulation in place. Billings, he said, is a town of about 100,000 and has had nearly 90 applications for medical marijuana storefronts -- and some residents are angry. He fully expected a heated council meeting.

 

Meanwhile, investigators are still reviewing evidence in the firebombings and are working with one of the businesses that has surveillance video but is reluctant to hand over the tape because of privacy concerns.

 

While the investigation is ongoing, police have stepped up patrols in the areas where the medical marijuana storefronts are located, Iffland said.

 

 

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CNN) -- The Billings, Montana, City Council will take up the issue of regulating medical marijuana on Monday night in a meeting expected to be intense in the wake of the firebombings of two of the city's medical marijuana storefronts in the last two days.The southern Montana city's dispensaries legally provide marijuana to medical patients who use it for maladies from glaucoma to nausea to lack of appetite. In the latest incidents, the phrase "Not in our town" was spray-painted on the businesses, police say.

 

Police Sgt. Kevin Iffland said Big Sky Patient Care was hit early Sunday morning and Montana Therapeutics was the target early Monday. Both had a rock thrown through the front door, followed by a Molotov cocktail. In both cases, Iffland said, the fire was put out swiftly and damage was not extensive.

 

Iffland said Billings police are working with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and that the two firebombs are being handled as felony arsons carrying sentences of up to 20 years in prison and a $50,000 fine.

 

The attacks on the storefronts come as the Billings City Council considers a moratorium on licensing new dispensaries while it works up a regulatory ordinance.

 

Sixty-two percent of Montanans voted in 2004 to allow caregivers to grow marijuana for qualified patients, but the state law said nothing about distribution. In that absence, municipalities and county governments began licensing the establishments on their own.

 

But, Iffland said, Billings was ill-prepared for the number of applications and has very little regulation in place. Billings, he said, is a town of about 100,000 and has had nearly 90 applications for medical marijuana storefronts -- and some residents are angry. He fully expected a heated council meeting.

 

Meanwhile, investigators are still reviewing evidence in the firebombings and are working with one of the businesses that has surveillance video but is reluctant to hand over the tape because of privacy concerns.

 

While the investigation is ongoing, police have stepped up patrols in the areas where the medical marijuana storefronts are located, Iffland said.

 

 

 

http://www.cnn.com/2010/CRIME/05/10/montana.medical.marijuana/?hpt=Sbin

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County District Attorney Evert Fowle. PITTSFIELD, Maine — A man whose home was raided by drug agents said the state owes him thousands of dollars for 19 seized marijuana plants that he says he was growing in compliance with Maine’s medical marijuana law.

 

James P. Fowler, 44, of Pittsfield, who was charged with cultivating marijuana and possession of marijuana after the March 19 raid, said that based on figures used by drug investigators to value marijuana plants, he is owed up to $38,000.

 

“If they can use $2,000 a plant against me, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander,” said Fowler, who lives alone at 139 A St. in Pittsfield. “I want some sort of compensation.”

 

Fowler maintains a sophisticated marijuana growing operation in his home to supply himself and three other patients who have deemed him a “designated caregiver” under the state’s medical marijuana law. That means Fowler can possess up to 2.5 ounces of processed marijuana and six plants for each patient — for a total of 24 plants and 10 ounces of pot.

 

Investigators found 25 plants in the March 19 raid, but Fowler said some of the plants were male juveniles, which he said are not considered marijuana plants under the law.

 

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Somerset County District Attorney Evert Fowle said the charges against Fowler would be dropped if Fowler can prove that his marijuana plants were legal. But Fowle dismissed Fowler’s contention that he deserves compensation.

 

“I think that’s ridiculous,” the district attorney said. “I think he has an inflated view of his talents and abilities in the area of marijuana cultivation.”

 

Fowler said he was home alone when nine law enforcement officers showed up with a search warrant at about noon on March 19. One of the first things Fowler said to the officers was that he is a medical marijuana patient and designated caregiver for others.

 

He said he showed the officers his prescription, signed by Dr. Dustin Sulak of Hallowell, and offered to show paperwork verifying his “designated caregiver” status.

 

But an officer implied that Fowler was still in violation of the law, which prompted Fowler to stop volunteering information.

 

“I’d been read my Miranda rights,” said Fowler. “I chose to remain silent.”

 

Fowler, who faces a June 30 court date in Somerset County District Court, said he moved to Pittsfield from Massachusetts about a year ago, mostly because of Maine’s medical marijuana law. Fowler said he is supported by Social Security Disability Insurance and Medicare. He has a marijuana prescription because of severe degenerative disk disease that was exacerbated during a workplace injury in Massachusetts in 2003. He has been through numerous treatments for the ailment and has been told by doctors that the next logical step is a risky back surgery that Fowler is trying to avoid. He said he is prescribed a cocktail of powerful painkillers and muscle relaxants, but he takes them rarely.

 

From the BDN Archives:

 

Marijuana patient calls law's limits impractical

Friday was harvest day for Donald Christen, but unlike a potato or banana or wheat harvest, he left most of the goods on his marijuana plants.

Click to read the rest of this story.

 

 

 

 

 

“I can’t even get out of bed when I take them,” he said. “They zone me right out. I don’t want to live my life that way.” Asked to what degree marijuana impairs him, Fowler said not much.

 

“It’s not about getting high at all,” he said. “If I wanted to get high, I’d eat their morphine.”

 

Fowler said he realized the medical benefits of marijuana when he stopped smoking it for a while and his symptoms, which include continuous muscle spasms and chronic pain, intensified.

 

District Attorney Fowle said the Somerset County officers who conducted the March 19 raid acted “appropriately and with restraint.” In fact, Fowle said he was contacted during the raid with a question from an officer in regard to Fowler’s medical marijuana prescription. Fowle instructed the officers to leave behind six marijuana plants — which they did.

 

“He didn’t provide any information to police about his caregiver status,” said Fowle. “To this day we haven’t seen any of the caregiver information. We remain receptive to that at any time.”

 

Fowler said he would wait for his court date to present prosecutors with the paperwork, which consists of signed statements from his three patients.

 

“I’m not going to do that until I can get in front of them with an attorney,” said Fowler. “I’m not going to give them the opportunity to [screw] me again.” Fowler said an attorney has agreed to represent him for free, but that attorney could not be reached on Tuesday.

 

Fowle would not say exactly what paperwork Fowler would have to produce.

 

In 2009, Maine voters approved a citizen initiative that made changes to the medical marijuana law. The new law requires marijuana patients and caregivers to possess a state identification card, effective July 1. Under the previous law, providers were required to hold a state-produced form signed by the providers’ patients.

 

Asked why he waited until now to take his case to the media, Fowler said it took him this long to gather his paperwork.

 

“Once I got my paperwork in order I started making noise,” he said.

 

In addition to financial compensation, Fowler said he wants to know why he was raided in the first place and why investigators kept asking if he possessed child pornography. Fowler said he has never possessed such material and officers found no evidence of child pornography during the raid. Since the incident, Fowler said he feels like his neighbors see him as a criminal.

 

“Everyone in this trailer park thinks I deal heroin and worse drugs,” said Fowler. “I feel like I’m going to have to move.”

 

Fowle said the justice system is designed to shake out the truth in the long run. “We go where the evidence leads us,” said Fowle. “Any time we receive information, we act on it. When that happens in this case is up to Mr. Fowler.”

 

 

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Drug overdose: Medical marijuana facing a backlash

By MATT VOLZ | Posted: Friday, May 21, 2010 4:23 pm | Comments

 

Font Size:Default font sizeLarger font sizeThe vandals struck in the middle of the night, hurling Molotov cocktails through the windows of two medical marijuana businesses and spray-painting "NOT IN OUR TOWN" just before the Billings City Council was supposed to take up a ban on any new pot shops.

 

Montana and other states that have legalized medical marijuana are seeing a backlash, with public anger rising and politicians passing laws to slow the proliferation of pot shops and bring order to what has become a wide-open, Wild West sort of industry.

 

They are looking to avoid what happened in California, which allowed the pot industry to grow so out of control that at one point Los Angeles had more medical marijuana shops than Starbucks _ about 1,000 by one count.

 

"Yeah, it's out of control _ and it needs control, if not extinction," Montana Sen. Jim Shockley said Friday. "There's no control over distribution. There's no control over who's growing it. There's no control in dosage."

 

Fourteen states have legalized medical marijuana, beginning with California in 1996, and the District of Columbia followed suit this month. The laws allow chronically ill people to buy marijuana with permission from a doctor.

 

But many of these states passed their laws without working out the details. And they weren't ready for the boom in pot shops that occurred this past year after the Obama administration announced it wouldn't prosecute medical marijuana users.

 

In some places, law enforcement officials and civic leaders are complaining that there are too many marijuana dispensaries, that buyers and sellers are falling victim to robberies and break-ins, that driving-under-the-influence arrests are on the rise, and that the pot is being sold indiscriminately and winding up on the black market.

 

Some state and local governments are now rushing to put regulations in place.

 

Colorado lawmakers passed sweeping rules this month for pot growers and the estimated 1,100 shops selling marijuana, creating a new state bureaucracy led by auditors and criminal investigators who would monitor the industry to make sure, for example, that the drug is being sold only to patients who have a doctor's recommendation.

 

Regulators expect only about half of the state's dispensaries to continue operating under the stricter rules.

 

The Billings City Council approved a six-month moratorium on new medical marijuana businesses in May after the violence against pot businesses the previous two nights. On Thursday, the city of about 90,000 people ordered 25 of Billings' 81 pot businesses to shut down after discovering they were not properly registered with the state.

 

"I was hoping this would be a more civil discussion," City Councilman Denis Pitman said after the firebombings. "I wish it wouldn't have gotten to this level."

 

Los Angeles officials recently took steps to shut down hundreds of dispensaries and ensure that the remaining ones meet stringent new guidelines. Owners must undergo a background check, their stores must be 1,000 feet from schools, parks and other gathering sites, and their pot must be tested at an independent laboratory.

 

Montana's medical board is considering curbing mass screenings and teleconferences that make it easy for people to get a marijuana card. Montana in recent days has seen "cannabis caravans," mobile operations that pass through town, charging people $100 to $150 for a doctor's recommendation to smoke pot.

 

The push for tighter regulation has infuriated medical marijuana users.

 

"They are creating ordinances and moratoriums that are blatantly against the law," said Jason Christ, founder of the Montana Caregivers Network, the group that organizes the cannabis caravans. "They do not serve to protect the welfare of our citizens, and they do no good."

 

In Colorado earlier this month, veterans in wheelchairs, college students and dispensary owners packed legislative hearings to speak out against the regulations. The hearings lasted eight hours and reached a fever pitch when several people had to be removed for shouting at lawmakers.

 

Medical marijuana has been around for more than five years in Montana, but the boom came this past year. The number of registered users in Montana, a state with a population of just under 1 million, has gone from 2,923 last June to about 15,000 today. The number of registered suppliers has increased from 919 to about 5,000.

 

DUI arrests involving marijuana have skyrocketed, as have traffic fatalities where marijuana was found in the system of one of the drivers, Montana narcotics chief Mark Long told a legislative committee last month.

 

Also, Montana confidentiality laws prevent law enforcement from knowing where most medical marijuana businesses are, and civic leaders complain they don't know whether the shops are up to city and fire codes or close to churches, schools or parks.

 

During Colorado's legislative debate, state Sen. Chris Romer quoted the Grateful Dead as he contemplated the spectacle of lawmakers actually passing regulations for the legal sale of marijuana: "What a long, strange trip it's been."

 

http://azstarnet.com/news/national/article_d67f2bb5-677a-5d58-97a1-c06bc773d3f1.html

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Million dollar bail ordered in historic marijuana bust

<BR itxtvisited="1"><BR itxtvisited="1">M.L.<BR itxtvisited="1"><BR itxtvisited="1">Boston (WBZ Newsroom) -- A Mattapan man was held on $1 million cash bail following his arraignment Thursday for trafficking in one ton of marijuana, one of the largest quantities of pot ever seized in Boston.<BR itxtvisited="1"><BR itxtvisited="1">Boston Police estimate the street value at about $5 million dollars.

 

Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel Conley says 40-year old Edgar Gonzalez, also known as Felix Soto, has also been ordered held on an immigration detainer lodged by U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement.

 

In addition to setting the high bail, Judge Rosalind Miller ordered Gonzalez to return to court on June 30.<BR itxtvisited="1"> <BR itxtvisited="1">“This is the single largest seizure of marijuana in recent memory,” Conley said. “Detectives said they hadn’t seen such a quantity in at least 20 years.”<BR itxtvisited="1"> <BR itxtvisited="1">Gonzalez was charged with trafficking in 2,000 to 10,000 lbs of marijuana, an offense punishable by up to 15 years in state prison.<BR itxtvisited="1"> <BR itxtvisited="1">Boston, state, and federal authorities were executing an unrelated search warrant yesterday morning at 32 Wilcock St. when their attention was drawn to a man fleeing the residence. That man, later identified as Gonzalez, was apprehended at Courtland and Greendale streets in short order. <BR itxtvisited="1"><BR itxtvisited="1">Earlier reports saying the apartment was in Dorchester were incorrect.<BR itxtvisited="1"> <BR itxtvisited="1">According to the D.A., Boston Police observed the rear door to Gonzalez’ apartment to be open. In light of the existing search warrant and Gonzalez’ flight, Boston Police announced their office and conducted a protective sweep of that apartment. <BR itxtvisited="1"> <BR itxtvisited="1">Once inside, the officers detected a strong odor of marijuana. In a front room, they observed a large quantity of plastic bundles from which the odor appeared to emanate. The officers completed the sweep and then froze the residence pending a court-authorized search warrant.<BR itxtvisited="1"> <BR itxtvisited="1">Later the same day, Boston Police obtained a warrant to search Gonzalez’s apartment. Inside, they found approximately 2,000 lbs of marijuana in 40 plastic-wrapped bales. The officers additionally found rolls of plastic shrink wrap, digital scales, and a vacuum sealer.

 

A Dominican Republic passport was also recovered: it featured the defendant’s photo and but gave his name as Felix Soto.

 

 

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