Patient Advocates Protest LA County Marijuana Dispensary Ban

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Photo: Natl NORML
Don Duncan, ASA: “It’s not acceptable to marginalize the patient community in Los Angeles and deprive them of access to this important medication”

​In a move called unnecessary and hurtful by patient advocates, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors is expected to take a final vote Tuesday on an ordinance that would ban medical marijuana dispensaries in unincorporated areas of the county, rescinding dispensary regulations adopted by the board in 2006.

Members of the medical marijuana community, frustrated by the imminent passage of a ban on access to their medication, are planning to protest the board’s vote on Tuesday. They hope to draw attention not only to the need for access in unincorporated areas of L.A. County, but also a failure by the board to provide sufficient cause to rescind its existing regulatory ordinance.

“It’s not acceptable to marginalize the patient community in Los Angeles and deprive them of access to this important medication,” said Don Duncan, California director with Americans for Safe Access (ASA), a medical marijuana advocacy group.

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Graphic: ASA

​”Frankly, patients are fed up with this overly restrictive approach and are loudly voicing their opposition,” Duncan said. “Instead of banning access, the Board of Supervisors should be trying to work with patients and others in the community to better implement local regulations.”
Better implementation of the county’s ordinance could also ease the negative impacts felt by the City of Los Angeles’s regulatory ordinance, which threatens to close hundreds of law-abiding, currently operating facilities.
The board’s vote comes after Orange County Supervisors voted late last month to similarly ban medical marijuana distribution in unincorporated areas of Orange County.
Advocates maintain that such bans are illegal under California’s medical marijuana laws. The California Court of Appeals recently ruled in the case Qualified Patients Association v. City of Anaheim that localities could not use federal law as a reason to impose such bans, but left other related issues unaddressed for now.
The ordinance adopted in 2006, more than four years ago, by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors is a sensible approach to licensing local marijuana distribution facilities, according to advocates, although no shops currently operate in the unincorporated areas.
Advocates further argue that such regulations deter crime and keep neighborhoods safe. A report on dispensary regulations published by ASA earlier this year quotes numerous local officials, including former Oakland City Administrator Barbara Killey who said the neighborhoods around licensed dispensaries are “some of the safest areas of Oakland now… since the ordinance passed.”
The report also cites a recent study conducted by Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck in which he concluded that the city’s banks are more susceptible to crime than the city’s greater number of medical marijuana dispensaries.
Supervisor Don Knabe favors local regulations that reduce harm — just not for medical marijuana patients, according to the Los Angeles Times. After helping to lift a ban against large dance parties, known as “raves,” earlier this year, Knabe was quoted saying “There’s a way to do it right where we protect the public and allow [raves]to take place,” rather than see them “driven to the back alleys.”
Ironically — and, according to advocates, tragically — Knabe and his fellow Supervisors are using a double standard by banning dispensaries and driving vulnerable and seriously ill patients “to the back alleys.”
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