Barring a miracle, all medical marijuana dispensaries will be banned from Long Beach, California on August 12.
Law enforcement officers gave an update on the city’s current medical marijuana law — which includes an exception allowing 18 dispensaries — during Tuesday’s City Council meeting, reports Jonathan Van Dyke at Gazettes.com.
The Council voted in February to ban collectives, with a six-month exemption for the dispensaries that had gone through a long and torturous approval process — even including a lottery, for Christ’s sake — for the past several years.
On Tuesday, the question was whether the city ever wanted to offer another extension to the existing dispensaries, or whether the initial six-month exemption was intended as a grace period for the shops to “wind down” operations.
Long Beach city officials claimed the dispensary ban was put in place to allow police to go after emerging unlicensed collectives that started popping up after the city’s original medical marijuana ordinance was struck down in the courts. The city has been wrangling with about 25 to 30 unlicensed collectives, mostly through fines and by going after landlords.
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|Long Beach Councilmember Rae Gabelich: “I don’t think throwing out the baby with the bathwater is what we’re really looking to do”
City Attorney Robert Shannon told the Council he intentionally wrote the language of the new medical marijuana law to allow the 18 exempted collectives time to recoup their expenditures from the long, complicated and expensive approval process.
“The basis was a simple and equitable one,” he said. “To give them the opportunity to recover costs that they assumed in good faith for when we had the lottery in question.”
The council voted unanimously Tuesday night to “receive and file a report reviewing the status of [the ban], the operations and activities of the medical marijuana collectives that were provided a six-month exemption, and enforcement against non-exempted marijuana collectives and cultivations [sic]sites within the City of Long Beach.”
But, reports Greggory Moore of the Long Beach Post, they did some amid much contention.
Part of the controversy came from Councilmember Rae Gabelich, who stuck up for safe access, saying the purpose of the report was supposed to have been a review of the Pack v. Long Beach decision as it moves toward the California Supreme Court.
Gabelich further averred that the purpose of the exemptions was not to give the 18 exempted collectives a chance to wind down their operations, but rather to allow collectives that had gotten through the lottery process and complied with Long Beach’s now-repealed medical marijuana ordinance to continue operation until the Pack appeal is heard.
Considering the three years of work the council has done to facilitate medical marijuana patients getting their medicine, she said, “I don’t think that throwing the baby out with the bathwater at this point is what we’re really looking to do.”
|Mayor Bob Foster is no friend to safe access in Long Beach; he supports the August ban
But unfortunately, that’s exactly what Mayor Bob Foster, Police Chief Jim McDonnell, and City Attorney Bob Shannon want to do — a course of action also favored by several city council members, most of whom stayed mum during the hour-long discussion.
“The basis for exempting the 18 [collectives]was not that they were good guys and everyone else was rogue, or that they operated properly and nobody else did,” City Attorney Shannon — no friend to patients — claimed. “The basis was a very simple and equitable one: to give them the opportunity to recover the costs they assumed in good faith when we had the lottery in question. If you continue the exemption, you no longer have that basis.”
Another point of controversy was City Manager Pat West’s claim in a May 18 memo that “the District Attorney has indicated that they will not file felony drug charges against any dispensary operator in the City as long as the partial exemption from the ban exists.
Gabelich pointed out that this was “proven false” when the D.A.’s office said City Manager West’s claim was “not true.” A representative of the D.A.’s office present at the meeting confirmed that West’s claim was inaccurate.
|Michael Robinson Chavez/Los Angeles Times
|Police Chief Jim McDonnell supports the dispensary ban so he can personally invite federal U.S. Attorneys and the DEA into town
“We will still file cases whether you have an ordinance or not, whether you have a ban or not,” Richard Doyle, head deputy of the Long Beach branch of the L.A. County District Attorney’s Office, haughtily told the Council. “But [exemptions to the ban]will make it more difficult,” he said, practically licking his chops at the prospect of a Bust Bonanza coming up in August.
The difficulty, Doyle said, is due to the possibility of a non-exempt collective offering a defense based on receiving different treatment by the City than an exempted collective. “It makes it easier if there’s a ban,” he said, his eyes glittering with bust-lust.
Police Chief McDonnell even admitted that he would “have more tools at his disposal” under a complete ban, because he’d be “working with” the federal U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Congratulations, Long Beach — your police chief is actively inviting federal agents into town to thwart the will of the voters and deprive patients of safe access to medicine.
“Several times during the meeting [Police Chief] McDonnell pointed out the illegality of for-profit medpot enterprises, though it is unclear why he raised the issue, since the illegality of such actions has always been a given during City discussions of medpot dispensaries, the Long Beach Post reported.
|The Long Beach Collective Association was represented at the meeting by Carl Kemp
Mayor Foster at one point asked Carl Kemp — a representative for the Long Beach Collective Association — how much Kemp is paid by the LBCA. “That’s none of your business,” Kemp replied. Foster then speculated as to “whether it would be strange” for Kemp to receive “a high level of compensation” from collectives that are supposed to be nonprofit enterprises.
Kemp pointed out it is very common for nonprofit organizations to pay their staffs, but the Mayor dismissively retorted, “I get the point, Mr. Kemp. If you in fact were completely on the level I think you’d be much more transparent and forthcoming.”
Police Chief McDonnell claimed, with no proof, that his department has gotten more than 1,200 “service calls related to dispensaries.” However, when Gabelich attempted, several times, to find out whether any of those calls have been due to misbehavior on the part of any of the exempted collectives, McDonnell never answered directly, and Mayor Foster cut off Gabelich’s line of inquiry.
In the absence of a new amendment creating another extension for the exempted collectives, come August 12, all marijuana cultivation by groups of four or more people will be illegal under Long Beach city ordinance.
Gabelich said she finds that troubling.
“We back this up to what the intention of the Compassionate Use Act is all about,” she said. “Do we as a City have a solution for these folks, or are we just, ‘The idea here is to ben it and let them deal with their problems individually?’ Which means probably taking it back out on the street […] Which I think is absolutely crazy.”
The craziness is scheduled to begin August 12.