Judge Issues Injunction Against L.A.'s Medical Marijuana Law
A judge handed Los Angeles a setback in its faltering drive to limit the number of medical marijuana dispensaries, granting a preliminary injunction on Friday that bars the city from enforcing key provisions in its controversial six-month-old ordinance.
The decision, issued by Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Anthony J. Mohr, leaves the city with limited power to control pot stores, which opened by the hundreds, angering neighborhood activists when city officials failed to enforce a 2007 moratorium.
Near the end of his 40-page ruling, Mohr acknowledged "there is a good chance that a large number of collectives could open once this injunction takes effect," but said his order was warranted because the dispensaries that sued the city are highly likely to prevail in a trial.
The City Council first discussed regulating dispensaries 5 1/2 years ago. At the time, the Los Angeles Police Departmentcould find just four of them. It was five years before the city's ordinance, one of the most complex and convoluted in the state, took effect.
Colorado could change zero tolerance for marijuana
A special legislative panel in Colorado is recommending passage of a bill that would relax the zero-tolerance rule for marijuana.
Colorado law now has a zero-tolerance policy for drugs in a driver’s bloodstream. Drivers suspected of being impaired are required to submit to a blood test or face a suspension of their driving privileges.
The Colorado Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice is calling for lawmakers to change the state’s rules. Similar to Pennsylvania, a threshold of 5 nanograms per milliliter of blood will be pursued during the session that begins Jan. 6, 2011.
Rep. Claire Levy, D-Boulder, a member of the panel, is expected to introduce the bill setting a marijuana driving impairment level similar to the 0.08 percent blood alcohol level.
The issue is drawing attention at the statehouse due to the rising use of medical marijuana.
Supporters say the 5 nanogram limit would protect the public while not putting undue burden on legal users.
N.J. Reaches Deal Allowing Medical Marijuana Sales
New Jersey governor Chris Christie reached a compromise with medical marijuana supporters, paving the way for sales of marijuana to the state's "seriously ill" patients by next summer, The New York Times reported Dec. 3.
New Jersey became the 14th state to legalize medical marijuana when the previous governor, Jon S. Corzine, signed the legislation last January. Governor Christie's administration then lobbied legislators and supporters for stringent regulations on growth and sales. For example, Christie advocated for two growing sites and four distribution sites; the compromise deal allows six locations for growing and distribution; home-growing will not be allowed.
Christie also wanted to limit access to medical marijuana to patients who had tried every other treatment first. Only seizures, glaucoma, and "intractable muscle spasms" will be covered by that rule.
However, New Jersey will be the only state that limits the drug's potency. State regulations will place a ceiling on the amount of the psychoactive ingredient that can be in the medical marijuana grown and sold in the state. Potency will be limited to 10% of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC.
Doctors who want to prescribe medical marijuana for their patients will have to register with the state and undergo training. Patients who are certified to have the drug will be limited to two ounces a month.
According to Mr. Christie, the regulations represent "the best way to move forward on a responsible, medically based program that will avoid the significant fraud and criminal diversion that other states have experienced."
Advocates felt the deal unnecessarily restricted access to medical marijuana. Doctors would have to "attest that they've provided education for the patients on the lack of scientific consensus for the use of medical marijuana," said Ken Wolski, a registered nurse who leads the Coalition for Medical Marijuana New Jersey. He said this was contradicted by the language of the law itself, which had "found legitimate uses for marijuana therapy in a number of specified conditions."
Wolski said that the two-ounce monthly limit would not be enough for half the patients and that marijuana dispensed by pharmacies in the Netherlands had 13 to 18 percent THC.
Arizona Comfort Care Now Writing Medical Marijuana Recommendations
This week, in our blog "Medical Marijuana Rip-Offs: Five Reasons to Not Pay for Patient Pre-Registration,'" we referred to two different companies: Arizona Dispensary University, and Arizona Comfort Care.
Our opinion on ADU, where we attended a class, has not changed. But at the time the "rip-off" blog was written, we hadn't had an opportunity to speak with a physician from ACC, and the company website gave no information about its physicians. So when we received blog comments and contact information from a Dr. Edgar Suter indicating some of our statements about ACC were incorrect, we called him right away.
As medical marijuana proliferates, pot prices decline
The price of cannabis, of course, varies wildly — depending on the strain purchased, its potency and the parts of the plant. Top quality pot in New York, for example, costs nearly $442 per ounce, while low quality is just $161, according to one website that tracks costs, PriceofWeed.com
n the whole, though, prices have been dropping nationwide over the past three to four years.
High Times magazine, in its October issue, declared "It's a buyer's market!", noting that the average price per ounce nationwide had fallen $49 in the past month alone.
Oregon boasts the country's cheapest pot, with the price of a high quality ounce running $259.13, according to PriceofWeed.com, a site that uses crowd-sourcing methodology to track marijuana prices around the country. (Anonymous users who buy the drug on the street input what they paid — and for how much — and the site averages out prices for the state or territory.) Montana comes in second at $273.87 per ounce. Both states are among the 14 to have passed laws allowing the medicinal use of the drug.
Georgia and Virginia are the states with the most expensive cannabis, both coming in at roughly $452 per ounce. Neither has legalized the drug in any form.
Geographically, pot tends to be more expensive along the East Coast — with the exceptions of Florida and Maine. Users there generally pay $425 or more for high quality product Midwest tokers pay a bit less.. And Western marijuana users – from Colorado onward –pay the least (typically less than $400 per ounce).
PriceofWeed.com is one of four sources insiders look to as they track the street price of pot. Allen St. Pierre, executive director of Norml (the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) cites it as one his organization regularly monitors.
The others are the official DEA pricing index (which St. Pierre says is the least accurate), High Times' monthly Trans-High Market Quotations, and Weedmaps.com, which has employees call medical dispensaries weekly for price, potency, strain name and more and then determines pricing trends from that information.
But even with the cost declines of the past few years, prices remain steep, which surprises some people.
"The vexation for the customer has been that for years, the individuals who would pay [high costs for recreational pot] did so because suppliers had all these legal threats," says St. Pierre. "As that has been removed, there has not been a commensurate reduction in prices."
That doesn't mean it won't happen, though.
In California, the price of high-grade cannabis is down roughly 17% over the past 12 months — a trend that is likely to accelerate, due in part to changes in the business practices of marijuana farmers.
"Ten to 20 yeas ago, the people who were, for lack of a better term, the migrant marijuana workers were paid in cash," says St. Pierre. "Two or three years ago, they started getting paid in product … which they have trouble converting to cash, so they logically begin selling it illegally. People are walking to the dispensary with the mindset that they're going to pay X dollars, then these workers will undercut that by 50%. That phenomenon is the equivalent of having a wholesaler stop people before they walk into a Wal-Mart."
The rise of city-sanctioned grow farms, like those being planned in Oakland, could also put pressure on street prices of pot, because it would substantially boost supply.
And if more states pass medical marijuana laws and wider legalization efforts prove successful down the road, that should continue to impact prices.
A recent California ballot initiative to legalize the sale and consumption of marijuana (as well as tax it) was defeated, partly because producers feared it would result in drastically lower prices.
St. Pierre says Norml expects the price could eventually fall to something comparable to a pack of cigarettes.
Wyoming's medical marijuana decision spawns threat of City Council recall effort
WYOMING — Marijuana advocates want to kick the entire City Council out of office for enacting a ban on the drug that state law permits for medicinal use.
The council Monday reaffirmed a November vote, giving the ban a second and final reading that makes medical marijuana illegal within city limits.
Mayor Jack Poll, a pharmacist, and his peers said the voter-approved state law is dangerous because it does not regulate distribution of marijuana through typical medical channels.
Now Wyoming voters may be asked to choose which they stand behind: The 2008 statewide marijuana proposal or the elected seven-member council?
A lawyer who has sued the city now also plans a campaign to recall all seven elected officials: Sam Bolt, Dan Burrill, Kent Vanderwood, William Ver Hulst, Joanne Voorhees, Richard Pastoor and Poll.
John Ter Beek said he was scheduled to meet today (12-7) with the American Civil Liberties Union to pursue an injunction on Wyoming’s ban. He also is recruiting volunteers to circulate recall petitions.
“If I have to be recalled because I vote on preserving safety in our community, then so be it. Move somebody else into my chair,” Pastoor said. “The only way to handle (medical marijuana) is like we handle any other drug.”
In line with statewide results, voters in 27 of 28 Wyoming precincts supported the marijuana proposal in 2008.
“They went against the will of the voters,” Ter Beek said of the council’s actions on Monday.
Lynette Brunink, manager of Grand Rapids Alternative Care, a Grand Rapids Township clinic that certifies a patient’s medical need for marijuana, said the ban “is just like taking insulin from a diabetic.”
Dan Van Dussen, a marijuana patient from Holland, feared the decision may set precedent for other communities exploring regulation of medical marijuana.
“They’re making a knee-jerk reaction from a pharmacist’s point of view,” Van Dussen said. “What they do here, Holland is going to look at it and say ‘Wyoming did this.’”
The medical marijuana law permits licensed caregivers to grow up to 60 plants and distribute the drug to as many as five licensed patients, who can possess up to 2.5 ounces at a given time.
Ver Hulst said the medical marijuana proposal “sounded good (in 2008), just like apple pie and motherhood.” But “I guess I assumed it would be properly controlled by medical dispensaries,” he said.
He and his colleagues said medical marijuana should be dispensed through pharmacies. There’s also concern that enforcing the state law would burden city police at a time when Wyoming’s budget is strapped.
Jazmin Valencia, a recovering alcoholic, agreed with city leaders, saying odor from a marijuana patient who lives in her Wyoming apartment building creates unwanted temptation to break her sobriety.
“I feel I should be safe at home and I don’t feel that I am,” Valencia said. “We should push for more regulations. There is a better way to do it.”
Poll said he is “not at all” fearful of being recalled because the 2008 marijuana proposal was passed “without full knowledge of the ramifications.” Voters would not endorse the same proposal today, he said.
“I have a major problem with the way this is being dispensed,” Poll said. “This is not a vote against the people that need this medication. This is a vote against the way it’s being dispensed.”
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