Civil Rights

Medical Marijuana Debated in Venice – and L.A.

By Maureen Cotter

VENICE – On November 5 the public was invited to join the Neighborhood Council (VNC) for a debate on new regulations controlling medical marijuana. It was held in the Westminster Elementary School on Abbot Kinney Blvd. The subject matter attracted a full house. While we waited for the meeting of the Venice minds to begin, I sampled the food provided by J’s Kitchen. What, no pot brownies? The muffins and other delicious food provided by this organic restaurant would have to do.

Mike Newhouse, VNC President chaired the meeting. He explained the public’s input was needed in helping to adopt some guidelines regarding medical marijuana dispensaries. Anyone who wished to speak had up to two minutes to express their thoughts.

De De Audet, past president of VNC, posted a sample of the city of Los Angeles’ fourth attempt at an ordinance on this subject.

Councilmember Rosendahl’s Deputy, Arturo Pina, spoke on his behalf: “It is the view of the Councilman that the chronically ill should not be deprived of their medicine. It should be regulated and taxed.”

Assistant City Attorney Jane Usher reminded us that the rules change almost daily, “This is a murky cesspool.” In 1996, in the state of California, we voted to allow medical marijuana to be provided to the chronically ill. It was to be provided by a collective of at least four people and this did not include sales for profit. She pointed out it is against state and federal law. But within this cesspool, the city is trying to adopt some guidelines. At this point in time the Los Angeles D.A.’s office and the City Attorney want to shut down the dispensaries.

The audience was asked by Newhouse for a show of hands of those favoring legalizing marijuana. Everyone in the room raised their hands. Then he asked who was not in favor and not one hand went up. A collective laugh could be heard. A man shouted, “That’s why we live in Venice.”

At the present time, there are four dispensaries in Humboldt County. San Francisco has 22. Venice has 30, eight are licensed. Los Angeles has an estimated 800 to 1,000. There are about 15,000 liquor stores. When asked how many doctor certificates have been issued, Usher responded she had no idea, as certificates are not recorded. How many dispensaries should be allowed? The general consensus was to let the market decide.

Hours from 10 am to 8 pm were debated. It was pointed out that other retail stores are not held to the same restrictions. Most agreed the stores should be kept at least 1,000 feet away from a school. The current city ordinance would limit the number of plants at a dispensary to 100, or five pounds, and a video camera must be running at all times. Records must be kept. The records and video must be turned over to the police if asked, without a search warrant. Most attendees frowned upon the idea of each dispensary using only pot grown on its premises.

The two hour discussion was conducted without people getting angry and all suggestions were recorded. Hats off to Mike Newhouse for the way he conducted the meeting. I went home to watch it on the Channel 11 news. Get ready Venice, may the best dispensaries win.


And in Los Angeles

The City Council was still debating a medical marijuana ordinance at press time. However, it appears that most of the draconian measures that might have forced the closing of all Venice dispensaries have been dropped. These include requiring dispensaries to grow the pot they sell. “Contributions” may end up as a euphemism for sales.

Also at issue are capping the number of dispensaries, and defining how far they must be from churches and schools.

According to Nate Kaplan in Bill Rosendahl’s office there may not be a final ordinance until next year. Call Rosendahl at 311 if you have input.