Saturday, October 10, 2009

LA County DA Prepares To Crack Down on Pot Outlets

Los Angeles, CA — Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley said Thursday he will prosecute medical marijuana dispensaries for over-the-counter sales, targeting a practice that has become commonplace under an initiative approved by California voters more than a decade ago.

“The vast, vast, vast majority, about 100%, of dispensaries in Los Angeles County and the city are operating illegally, they are dealing marijuana illegally, according to our theory,” he said. “The time is right to deal with this problem.”
Cooley and Los Angeles City Atty. Carmen Trutanich recently concluded that state law bars sales of medical marijuana, an opinion that could spark a renewed effort by law enforcement across the state to rein in the use of marijuana. It comes as polls show a majority of state voters back legalization of marijuana, and supporters are working to place the issue on the ballot next year.

Law enforcement officials have been frustrated by the explosion in the number of dispensaries in Southern California, arguing that most are for-profit enterprises that violate the 1996 voter initiative legalizing medical marijuana and the 2003 state law permitting collective cultivation. Cooley’s announcement, coming at a news conference that followed a training session he and Trutanich conducted for narcotics officers, dramatically raises the stakes.

In the city of Los Angeles, some estimates put the number of dispensaries as high as 800. The city allowed 186 to remain open under its 2007 moratorium, but hundreds of others opened in violation of the ban while the city did nothing to shut them down.


Cooley said he believes that under state law, collectives must raise their own marijuana and can only recoup their costs. “That’s absolutely legal,” he said. “We’re going to respect that.”

But he said none of them currently do that.

The district attorney’s warning could make the situation more chaotic in Los Angeles, where the City Council has struggled for two years to devise an ordinance to control the distribution of medical marijuana.

In addition to prosecuting dispensaries, Cooley said he would consider going after doctors who write medical marijuana recommendations for healthy people. Medical marijuana critics argue that some doctors freely recommend the drug to people who are not ill.


When Californians voted for Proposition 215 in 1996, they made it legal for patients with a doctor’s recommendation and their caregivers to possess and raise pot for the patient’s medical use.

In 2003, the Legislature allowed patients and caregivers “collectively or cooperatively to cultivate marijuana for medical purposes” but said they could not do it for profit.

Cooley and Trutanich, after reviewing a state Supreme Court decision from last year, have concluded that the law protects collectives from prosecution only in the cultivation of marijuana, not for sales or distribution.

Medical marijuana advocates, however, note that the state currently requires dispensaries to collect sales taxes on marijuana, and that guidelines drawn up by the attorney general conclude that “a properly organized and operated collective or cooperative that dispenses medical marijuana through a storefront may be lawful.”

The guidelines allow collectives to take costs into account but do not deal directly with over-the-counter sales.


No comments:

Post a Comment