Heartless Decision Stops Old Folks From Growing Needed Medical Pot

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Photo: Todd Bigelow/Aurora for NPR
Laguna Woods resident Margo Bauer, 73, tokes up on the porch with her plant.

​A heartless corporate board has voted unanimously in a closed meeting to ban elderly residents of Laguna Woods Village, a California retirement community also known as “Leisure World,” from growing much-needed medical marijuana in community garden centers.

The despicable action was taken despite the assurance of the Orange County Sheriff’s Department that it would do nothing if the retirement community residents were growing marijuana with a doctor’s recommendation.
“I don’t have an opinion on it,” said Wendy Bucknum, governmental and public affairs manager at Laguna Woods Village, when Toke of the Town asked what she had to say about the ban. “The decision is the elected Board’s decision.”

The Golden Rain Foundation Board, by way of a press release from Professional Community Management, said that its legal counsel advised against allowing medical marijuana to be grown in open garden centers, because it could “put the community at risk for potential criminal activity,” reports Claire Webb at The Orange County Register.
The GRF Garden Center Advisory Group recommended the ban on marijuana in community garden plots at a January 28 meeting. That recommendation would normally have gone to the Community Activities Committee (CAC) and then to the GRF Board for a vote in open session.
Instead, GRF voted in a secret, closed session after its board meeting on February 2 to impose the ban. It cited advice from legal counsel Hart, King & Coldren, according to director and CAC chair Bob Hatch.
After being informed that the sheriff’s department had pledged not to raid legal, elderly medical marijuana patients for growing at Laguna Woods, Hart, King & Coldren then adopted the position that growing marijuana in the community gardens should be banned for “safety” reasons.

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Photo: Todd Bigelow Photography
Margo has another bowl ready.

​”[GRF] is convincing those people that it’s a matter of security, and it’s not,” said Lonnie Painter, director of the Laguna Woods for Medical Cannabis group, who grew marijuana in the garden center.
“It appears they had already made up their minds,” Painter said.
GRF did not address whether residents will still be allowed to grow medical marijuana at home or on their own patios. Such activity is currently tolerated, “unless the homeowner’s associations in the community take action,” the Register reports.
“You can grow it on your own property,” Hatch said. “But this is community property.”
Hatch claimed the advisory group and the board, “acting on the advice of counsel,” were “concerned about safety” on community property if marijuana continued to be grown.
Hatch said the garden centers are an exposed area of the community, since the gates are open each day and locked in the evening.
“We didn’t feel it was a proper thing to put the community at risk by doing that,” Hatch said.
In September 2008, the City of Laguna Woods, which is heavily populated by older residents and retirees, was the first in Orange County to allow medical marijuana dispensaries within its boundaries — but to date, no dispensaries have opened in the city, reportedly because of the reluctance of landlords to rent space to such operations.
That was why residents finally took matters into their own hands, forming their own patient-run medical marijuana collective.
Orange County, like many other counties in California, allows medical marijuana patients to grow six mature plants or 12 immature plants, and possess eight ounces of dried cannabis, according to Americans for Safe Access.
Hatch, who distinctly seemed to be scrambling around for flimsy reasons to justify the soulless corporate decision, also claimed it wasn’t within the GRF Board’s power to oversee how the plants were used, therefore it “needed to impose a ban.”
“We don’t have the ability to determine growing for medical use or recreational use,” Hatch said.
Here’s a clue, corporate boy: When almost all your residents are well over 60 and most are partially or completely disabled, you can be pretty gol-danged sure it’s for medical use, ‘k?
The closed, secret meeting at which the pot-growing ban was instituted may have been in violation of California’s open meetings law. All board and committee meetings are supposed to be open to residents except those under “designated closed sessions,” which are supposed to be for specific purposes defined by the Davis-Stirling Act, which governs cooperate and condominium communities.
“To consider litigation, matters relating to the formation of contracts with third parties, member discipline, personnel matters, or to meet with a member, upon the member’s request, regarding the member’s payment of assessment” are the only reasons meetings may be held in secret, according to the Act,
Cris Robinson, legal affairs manager and professional apologist for PCM, claimed the vote on medical marijuana in the Laguna Woods garden centers was taken in closed session “since there was a potential for litigation and the legal opinion from HK&C was discussed.”
Hatch said residents and medical marijuana users can appeal the decision to the GRF Board, but the corporate shill said he was confident in the board’s decision.
“As of right now, they’re not going to get anywhere,” Hatch said.
Members of the medical marijuana community who wish to express their displeasure with the Board’s cruel decision may contact:
Wendy Bucknum, governmental and public affairs manager, Laguna Woods Village
(949) 597-4483
Ask Wendy to pass your views along to the GRF Board.
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