The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

ASA Media Liaison Kris Hermes 510-681-6361 or ASA Chief Counsel Joe Elford 415-573-7842

Advocacy Group Threatens to Sue Los Angeles if Medical Marijuana Sales Are Banned

Latest City Attorney proposal encourages City Council to defy state medical marijuana law


Medical marijuana advocacy group
Americans for Safe Access (ASA) has threatened to file a lawsuit
against the City of Los Angeles if it adopts an ordinance that bans the
"sale" of medical marijuana. The Los Angeles City Council is expected
to vote as early as Wednesday on a medical marijuana dispensary
ordinance proposed late Friday by City Attorney Carmen Trutanich. The
proposed ordinance states that, "No sale of marijuana or of products
containing marijuana shall be allowed, nor shall the manufacture of
marijuana products for sale be permitted."

"The City Attorney has consistently argued that medical marijuana sales
are illegal," said ASA Chief Counsel Joe Elford. "Neither the Los
Angeles City Attorney nor the City Council has the right to ban
activity that is protected under state law," continued Elford. "Medical
marijuana sales have been deemed legal by the state legislature, the
courts, and the California Attorney General." Medical marijuana
dispensaries, as mandated, turned over at least $100
million in annual sales tax revenue to the State Board of Equalization
in 2007.

ASA has litigated several landmark cases in California and now stands
ready to file a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) against the City of
Los Angeles to block the adoption of an ordinance that bans medical
marijuana sales. The Compassionate Use Act of 1996 encouraged "federal
and state governments to implement a plan for the safe and affordable
distribution of marijuana." The California legislature did its part in
2003 by passing the Medical Marijuana Program Act, which specifically
exempts collectives and cooperatives from criminal sanctions for
"sales" (H&S Code Section 11359) and maintaining a place where
sales occur (H&S Code Section 11366). In August 2008, the State
Attorney General issued guidelines recognizing the legality of medical
marijuana dispensaries, detailing how collectives should operate in
order to be in compliance with state law.

Advocates were also troubled by other provisions in the City Attorney's
proposal. Instead of removing an objectionable passage from previous
proposed ordinances dealing with privacy of patient records, the City
Attorney simply moved a provision which states that patient records
"shall be made available by the collective to the Police Department
upon request." Advocates argue while it may be necessary for the city
to access limited information in order to determine compliance with
state law, those records should not be made available to LAPD without a
subpoena. Self-incrimination due to marijuana's status under federal
law is still a concern for dispensary operators in Los Angeles and
other California cities.

Another provision that advocates are objecting to is the onerous
restriction on where dispensaries can lawfully operate in the
city. "Collectives are prohibited from locating within 1,000 feet of a
laundry list of so-called sensitive uses, such as schools, parks and
libraries," said ASA California Director Don Duncan. "Proximity
restrictions like this make it virtually impossible to locate a medical
marijuana collective anywhere in the city." On November 5th, Los
Angeles City Planning staff reported that if a previously proposed
ordinance went into effect it would eliminate more than 75% of the 186
facilities registered with the city as the Interim Control Ordinance
(ICO) went into effect. The current proposed ordinance goes further by
prohibiting collectives from locating "across the street or alley from
or have a common corner with" a residential building.

ASA remains willing and eager to work with the Los Angeles City Council
on adopting a sensible regulatory ordinance that recognizes
well-established medical marijuana law and also takes into account the
concerns of people living and working in the City of Los Angeles.

Further information:

Latest proposed ordinance for medical marijuana collectives in the City
of Los Angeles:
Recent Planning staff report on impact of proximity restriction to
medical marijuana collectives:

August 2008 California Attorney General guidelines on medical

Americans for Safe Access is the nation's largest organization of patients, medical professionals, scientists and concerned citizens promoting safe and legal access to cannabis for therapeutic use and research.