Medical Marijuana Patients Propose L.A. Regulation Solution



​​James Shaw, director of the Los Angeles-based Union of Medical Marijuana patients, on Tuesday announced an alternative to a ban on nearly 400 local medicinal cannabis dispensaries which was proposed by City Councilman Jose Huizar last month.

“Councilman Huizar seems unaware that there is a reasonable way to regulate medical cannabis patient associations now using technology which we have developed in conjunction with AgSite Secure,” Shaw said.
If that sounds like Shaw is selling something, yes he is; however, keep an open mind, because third-party verification may be a way out of the conundrum in which California dispensaries find themselves.
According to Shaw, the recent Second Court of Appeals decision cited by the Councilman, known as Pack v. Long Beach, which rejected the ability of cities to issue paid permits to authorize dispensaries, did not mean a ban was the only alternative to a complete lack of regulation.

UMMP on Facebook
James Shaw, director of Union of Medical Marijuana Patients, speaking at a downtown Los Angeles medicinal cannabis rally in October 2009

​”The Pack ruling is very soundly argued and we believe it will be upheld by the California Supreme Court,” Shaw said. “But it would be easy for the City Council to rewrite its ordinance so that it won’t be challenged, whatever the outcome of Pack.”
The solution, according to Shaw, is to avoid the issue of federal preemption. Because the federal government regards marijuana as illegal, the state’s Medical Marijuana Program only decriminalized possession of medicinal cannabis with a valid physician’s recommendation. Long Beach went too far in authorizing the conditions by which dispensaries could operate with permits, Pack argued.
“The solution is for Los Angeles to license third-party verifiers, like AgSite, which can provide information on whether patient associations are in compliance with state law, including operating as not-for-profits, making sure all members have a current doctor recommendation, and ensuring that there is no diversion of cannabis to the black market,” Shaw said. “A verifier can do this without crossing the line of federal preemption and it can provide the City with information on compliance with zoning and health and safety ordinances.”
Properly implemented, this system can help cities control the growth of dispensaries and provide them with licensing income to replace the permitting fees that were rejected by Pack, Shaw said.
Los Angeles’s current ordinance was passed in January 2010 and amended frequently in response to 200 lawsuits by local patient associations, according to Shaw. It required the nearly 400 patient associations to qualify for only 100 authorized locations to be decided by lottery, which would mean most of the estimated 250,000 patients in L.A. would be forced to travel long distances to get their cannabis.
However, Shaw said, the situation was actually much worse than that, because the ordinance required dispensaries to be 1,000 feet away from a long list of places like libraries, parks, and religious institutions. The City’s planning office prepared a map showing that there were many places where dispensaries could operate outside these buffer zones, but an analysis by the Union showed this was very misleading, and that most shops would have to relocate to rural or industrial areas, making them inaccessible to the patients most in need.
“This ordinance, had it been implemented, would have been a de facto ban for most of L.A.,” Shaw said. “This excessive restriction is being driven by propaganda about how dispensaries cause crime, when the L.A. Police Department’s own statistics show there are a quarter as many robberies per location than banks and no one is arguing that banks should only be in industrial parks.”
According to Shaw, there’s a simple way that Los Angeles can have adequate regulation and still make medical marijuana accessible to legitimate patients. That would be to take advantage of new technology (available, natch, from Shaw’s 
That would end expensive litigation, while a ban would of course provoke even more lawsuits, Shaw said.
Shaw will discuss the Union’s proposal at a press conference on Wednesday, December 7, at 9:30 a.m., in the hallway outside the John Ferrero Council Chamber, Room 340, in Los Angeles City Hall at 200 North Spring Street, downtown L.A.