Anne Alvarez

Cannabis is in the Weeds

By Anne Alvarez

A ban on medical marijuana dispensaries introduced by Councilmember Jose Huizar was approved by the Los Angeles City Council committee on May 29 and final voting was to take place on June 22. However, due to key Council members’ absences, voting was postponed until July 24. Huizar had originally proposed a closure of all dispensaries within city limits. After being pressured by other council members, he amended his proposal to conform with California law, citing “it is within state laws, that permit municipalities to have an ordinance which will allow for collectives to exist.”

The main reason for the large numbers of disparities within the medical marijuana community is that the regulations governing them are unclear and the city has been unable to come up with a plan to monitor them.

Councilmember Bill Rosendahl introduced a counter proposal, which would allow for up to 100  dispensaries to remain open until the state Supreme Court decides whether cities can regulate them. These would be the dispensaries that have been grandfathered in. Rosendahl also suggests that they be taxed. “Dispensaries are proliferating like there’s no tomorrow. The situation has gotten out of control,” said Rosendahl.

Shutting down medical marijuana dispensaries will not stop anyone from using marijuana. It will, however, punish the sick people that are in  need of the relief voters approved over 15 years ago. Forcing law-abiding, medical-card-carrying patients into purchasing their medicine through illicit means, unable to determine whether the marijuana they are about to consume is organic or full of pesticides, whether it’s an Indica or Sativa, could have devastating results. To a medical marijuana patient these distinctions are of great importance.

Cannabis was used as early as 4000 B.C. in Central Asia , with written evidence going back to 2700 B.C. in the pharmacopoeia of  the Chinese emperor Chen-Nong. It  gradually spread across the globe. The public health burden of cannabis use is arguably modest compared with that of alcohol, tobacco, illicit or prescribed highly addictive narcotic drugs (Vicodin, Oxycontin and Soma) to name a few that cause as many as 10,000 overdoses  yearly. According to the Poison Control Center, there has never been a reported death from Marijuana overdose.

During his 2008 campaign, then Senator Obama raised hopes and votes from supporters of medical marijuana by pledging to respect individual state laws. Four years later, his administration has reversed course and massively escalated the federal government’s attacks on medical marijuana and its patients. Recently Obama’s Justice Department has authorized letters from U.S. attorneys across the country threatening to “vigorously” prosecute individuals acting in compliance with state medical marijuana laws. Obama clarified his position on medical marijuana by saying, “I never made a commitment that somehow we were going to give carte blanche to large-scale producers and operators of marijuana and the reason is, because it’s against federal law. I can’t nullify congressional law.”

Indeed Obama can’t change Federal laws on his own. However, he can tell the DEA how to do their job. Obama and members of Congress can reclassify marijuana to make it equivalent to morphine, codeine or Valium, (currently it is a schedule 1 drug on par with heroin, crack and LSD), or they can remove it from federal scheduling altogether. Since taking office Federal authorities have shut down more than 200 dispensaries in California. Meanwhile officials have been busy sending warning letters to cannabis dispensaries throughout the state, calling them “illegal marijuana stores.” Various members of congress are fed up with the hijinks, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi being one of them. Stating: “I have strong concerns about the recent actions by the federal government that threaten the safe access of medicinal marijuana to alleviate the suffering of patients in California.” Pelosi has called the matter a “states’ rights issue” and has asked the federal government to respect the wishes of the people in the 17 states that voted to legalize medicinal marijuana. This issue has become as redundant as prohibition, except alcohol destroys your health, marijuana may just improve it.

If you would like to voice your opinion regarding this issue contact the following Council Members:

Jose Huizar @ 213-473-7014 or email

Bill Rosendahl @ 310-575-8461 or 213-473-7011 via e-mail

Mitch Englander @ 213-473-7012 or email

Congresswoman Nanci Pelosi: 414-556-4862  or via mail,  90 7th Street, Suite 2-800 San Francisco, CA 94103