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Medical Marijuana Laws Are Hazy

Audio

Aired 9/24/09

Who's allowed to sell marijuana for medical use in San Diego County and who's keeping tabs on the pot outlets springing up everywhere? Our guests discuss the confusing state law, city and county ordinances and efforts to clarify what is and what is not allowed.

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Above: City Council appoints a medical marijuana task force. The editors discuss federal and state laws.

A marijuana plant from the home of medical marijuana advocate Dennis Peron.
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Above: A marijuana plant from the home of medical marijuana advocate Dennis Peron.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH (Host): I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. You're listening to These Days on KPBS. In theory, the use of medical marijuana is legal in California. The passage of Prop 215, the Compassionate Use Act, was approved by voters 13 years ago. In practice, however, the legality of the use and acquisition of medical marijuana is a lot more complicated. Until the release of guidelines by the California Attorney General last year, the legal requirements for medical marijuana dispensaries or collectives were often misunderstood and largely unregulated. Using those guidelines this month, San Diego authorities closed down 14 dispensaries and arrested 31 people. So, under what circumstances is the acquisition and use of medical marijuana legal in San Diego? And are any local marijuana distribution outlets operating within the law? And with California's governor speculating on exploring the legalization of marijuana, is this the right time for a crackdown? We’ll be speaking with a number of guests on this topic. First, I’d like to welcome Steve Walter, San Diego County Assistant District Attorney. Steve, welcome to These Days.

STEVE WALTER (Assistant District Attorney, San Diego County): Thank for having me.

CAVANAUGH: And we’d like to invite our listeners to join the conversation. Do you think the laws surrounding the use of medical marijuana are unclear? If you needed to use marijuana to ease the symptoms of an illness, would you know how to get some legally? Give us a call. Our number is 1-888-895-5727. Steve, let’s start off, tell us about the raids, the shutdowns, really, of these medical marijuana dispensaries, the arrests the district attorney’s office made recently. Why were they shut down?

WALTER: Well, I can’t go into any details of the cases themselves…

CAVANAUGH: Right.

WALTER: …because it is an ongoing investigation but based on investigation by local law enforcement agencies, it was their belief that some of them or many of them were operating illegally. They put together their case. We got some search warrants and targeted the dispensaries that were searched and that’s where we are at this point.

CAVANAUGH: Now what constitutes the difference between a drug dealer and a legitimate provider of medical marijuana?

WALTER: It’s a very difficult question. The law itself, when I say the law I’m talking about Prop 215, SB-420, and the AG’s guidelines, as well as the case law. In essence, you have to be either a user or a qualified patient or a caregiver for such a patient. You are allowed, under those circumstances, if you have a recommendation from a doctor, to cultivate or to possess marijuana, and that’s basically it, that’s 215. The law has evolved a bit and it does now provide for groups of either caregivers or patients to get together and collectively or cooperatively cultivate marijuana, and that’s about it.

CAVANAUGH: Right. And so I think that it had come into the common idea that what it was is you got a doctor’s prescription and you could go into a medical marijuana dispensary and actually buy some marijuana. And is that not the case?

WALTER: Well, first of all, you cannot get a prescription. Unfortunately a lot of people call these prescriptions; they’re not. It’s simply a recommendation. Federal law is what determines whether or not a doctor can prescribe something, and that’s not something that’s contemplated by federal law. So assuming you do go to one of these doctors that does write recommendations for medical marijuana, you – I’ve never been to one but I presume you go in and see the doctor and tell him what your problem is and ask him for a recommendation for marijuana. If he determines, based on his examination, that you qualify, he writes you one and you’re good to go at that point.

CAVANAUGH: And, indeed, you’re good to go. Could you actually go into a dispensary and purchase marijuana? Or do you have to be part of a collective that cultivates the marijuana?

WALTER: Well, the problem is it’s difficult to say, when you’re talking about a collective, a dispensary, the line is, at this point, in my opinion, rather blurred. It’s difficult to say, without getting in and figuring out what’s actually going on, what the stream of commerce is, how these places are operating. If the business itself is nothing more than a storefront, a marijuana store, if you will, I don’t think you can do that. Now if it is a situation where you do have a group of patients or caregivers who have gotten together to collectively or cooperatively cultivate and you are a member of that collective or cooperative, you can go in and obtain marijuana. But the retail sales of marijuana is something that’s not contemplated by the law, at least under my reading.

CAVANAUGH: Now as far as the DA’s office is concerned, is there any legal cooperative or collective operating in San Diego right now?

WALTER: I can’t say at this point because I don’t know the business practices of all of them. We don’t have the ability to go in and look at every one of them but based on what you see in the Reader, the City Beat, the ads that you see, I don’t know that based on what you see there that those places are necessarily legal. Again, we’re not investigating or we have not had an opportunity to look at all of them, so based on appearances, that’s a distinct possibility.

CAVANAUGH: I’m speaking with Steve Walter, San Diego County Assistant District Attorney. We’re talking about medical marijuana and how to obtain it legally in San Diego. 1-888-895-5727 is our number if you’d like to join the conversation. John is calling us from Carmel Valley and good morning, John. Welcome to These Days.

JOHN (Caller, Carmel Valley): Thank you for having me. I was just wondering, how in the world a legally entitled patient such as myself is expected to have access to a regular and reliable supply of a legally specified medicine if we cannot go into a retail outlet and purchase it. Would you ask a diabetic to grow their own insulin? Would you ask a – anyone to provide their own medicine in that way? And it does – this – By the way, 215 doesn’t simply say cultivation, it says cultivation, possession, consumption, sale and transportation of medical marijuana is legal under 420 and 215 and California 113625. I’ve been listening to a lot of nonsense coming out of the alleged DA’s office. These people are supposed to be lawyers and…

CAVANAUGH: What’s…

JOHN: …I find it outrageous that they’re impeding the legal and safe access of medical marijuana patients to their legal medicine.

CAVANAUGH: Well, John, let’s get a response and, Steve, I think that John really gets to the heart of this issue. It’s there seems to be a disconnect between the idea of how legal this really is to use.

WALTER: As far as using or cultivating, that’s something that’s permissible under the law. Unfortunately, Prop 215, when it was written, that’s all it dealt with. And the law that’s evolved since then has provided some guidance as to what you can and can’t do but, in essence, it all comes back to either cultivating it, either as the patient individually does, or having a caregiver to do that for them. There are not provisions in there for the commercial sales of marijuana.

CAVANAUGH: And another Catch 22 in this law is the fact that it’s – you can cultivate the marijuana but where do you get the seeds? I mean, can you legally obtain any buds or seeds for cultivation?

WALTER: That’s a very good question.

CAVANAUGH: We don’t know.

WALTER: No. It’s something that’s not contemplated by the law. It’s not – it is not addressed.

CAVANAUGH: Well, what is the process for creating or licensing a legitimate collective here in San Diego?

WALTER: Well, there isn’t one that I’m aware of. If you do want to be a cooperative or a collective, cooperatives are regulated by the state, you have to file with, I believe it’s the Secretary of State and there’s some incorporation. There’s actual legal process for that. A collective, on the other hand, is not something that’s defined. The Attorney General’s guidelines does go to some length at describing what it is but, in essence, my reading of it is that if you want to collectively get a group of patients or their caregivers together, you can then cultivate marijuana for the members of the collective.

CAVANAUGH: Yeah, go ahead. I’m sorry.

WALTER: No, that’s – that’s – basically, those are…

CAVANAUGH: That’s basically it.

WALTER: …the two avenues. If you’re not going to either cultivate it yourself or your caregiver do it, then you can get together to collectively or cooperatively do it if you have a group of patients or caregivers.

CAVANAUGH: Now is there a zoning issue involved in this as well? Is the city, is San Diego looking into where such collectives might actually be able to operate?

WALTER: I know the – a lot of the jurisdictions in the county, that’s an issue that the County itself is looking at with respect to the unincorporated areas and the cities are addressing that as well. I know Chula Vista is, the city of San Diego is, and then there are some of the other municipalities that have outright banned dispensaries. So, yes, it is something that all the jurisdictions are looking at.

CAVANAUGH: We’re talking about medical marijuana dispensaries and the number is 1-888-895-5727. Right now, let’s go to Safe – Saife? In San Diego. Good morning, and welcome to These Days.

SAIFE (Caller, San Diego): Good morning.

CAVANAUGH: Yes.

SAIFE: Thank you for taking my call. I’m a practicing physician. And I – And nobody has courage to say that emperor has no clothes. The term medical marijuana is the darkest smokescreen ever thrown at American people. There is no medical use of marijuana. It’s a neurotoxin, plain and simple. And, unfortunately, the doctors of my community have acquiesced because we charge two-, three-hundred dollars to issue a so-called prescription and the patients come to my office and demand and expect that I’ll write the prescription for them to go and take the marijuana. And when I say no, they say, okay, they will go downtown and get a prescription from the doctor.

CAVANAUGH: I see.

SAIFE: And the one thing, people don’t realize how toxic marijuana is, that there is a well defined syndrome. It’s called run amuck; it’s not new. It is centuries old. Chronic habitual users of marijuana go into a state of paranoia and they go on rampage. I used to…

CAVANAUGH: Well, Saife, I have to stop you here because there’s no one here qualified to talk or respond to your medical evaluation of medical marijuana usage, but I do want to talk with Steve Walter about something that you’ve brought up about the acquisition of medical marijuana and that is these dispensaries that were shut down this month by San Diego authorities, Chief Lansdowne says there were a lot of complaints about these places, that there were lots of, you know, of criminal types of people around and lots of loud discussions and maybe fights around these places. Is that one of the reasons that these dispensaries were targeted?

WALTER: As to what the individual complaints were from the community, I really can’t say. None of those were directed at us. The DA’s office is not a first line investigative agency. We deal with the cases that are developed by law enforcement and, typically, we don’t get the types of complaints that the police will. But in speaking with the officers that are involved, yes, I – it’s my understanding from their experience that, yes, people that were neighbors in the surrounding communities were having issues with the dispensaries themselves as well as the people that were there, and loitering or that type of thing. But as far as why these individual dispensaries were picked, I don’t know that it necessarily was just that. There were a number of factors that went into it but suffice it to say that just because we did these 14 does not mean that the others are potentially – have the endorsement of law enforcement as being legit.

CAVANAUGH: One of the most specific issues that District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis had when she was doing the press conference about these closures is that these dispensaries seemed to be for-profit operations and that seems to be a real no-no when it comes to medical marijuana outlets.

WALTER: That’s correct. You cannot operate in a for-profit situation. Again, it’s – it appears from what we’ve learned so far, that, yes, these were, in fact, operating for profit. That said, this is an evolving investigation. We’ve not completed it yet. Once we do, if we determine that any of the dispensaries that were involved were operating illegally, whether it was for profit or violating the law in any other way, we would then evaluate whether or not to file charges. But, again, it – from appearances, and as I said earlier, you look at the ads that these places are putting out there in the public domain, it would suggest to me that they are operating for profit but, again, I’ve not evaluated all the evidence.

CAVANAUGH: And I know that you can’t comment on a specific case but what kinds of charges might be filed in a broad case like this?

WALTER: Typically, you would see violations of the marijuana sections of the Health & Safety Code.

CAVANAUGH: So just basically drug violations.

WALTER: Correct. But, again, if there are other things that we develop during the course of the investigation that would be appropriate to charge, we’d look at doing that as well.

CAVANAUGH: And, Steve, my last question to you, it sounds, you know, just in speaking with you, it seems that there’s a certain frustration on your part that you’d like to see something about this law clarified or changed. Could you tell us if that’s true and what you’d like to see clarified?

WALTER: Absolutely. I mean, it’s a – it began, as I said originally, with a Prop 215, which, when it was enacted, allowed either the possession or cultivation of marijuana and, obviously, that contemplates the use as well. But there were no provisions for how you’re supposed to get it, how you’re supposed to get the seeds or, basically, how you’re supposed to do it. The legislature did attempt to give some direction and give some actual – put some flesh on the bones that were begun with 215 but it’s still very difficult. I mean, where can you do it, who’s entitled to use it? It would be nice to see that if there was some sort of oversight of this but none of that is provided at this point. Or if it is, it’s just very, very sketchy and we just kind of have to wait and see how things evolve at this point. But, yes, the bottom line, having some more direction would be very helpful from, I think, everybody’s perspective.

CAVANAUGH: Steve, thank you so much for talking with us this morning.

WALTER: My pleasure.

CAVANAUGH: I’ve been speaking with Steve Walter, San Diego County Assistant District Attorney. We’re going to continue our discussion about medical marijuana in San Diego with two new guests, and we’ll continue to take your calls as These Days continues in just a few moments.

# # #

CAVANAUGH: Welcome back. I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. You're listening to These Days on KPBS. We’re continuing our discussion on the laws governing medical marijuana in California and here in San Diego. I’d like to welcome two new guests. Robert Grimes is criminal law specialist with Grimes and Warwick. Good morning, Robert.

ROBERT GRIMES (Attorney, Grimes and Warwick): Hi, Maureen.

CAVANAUGH: And Alex Kreit is professor of law at Thomas Jefferson School of Law here in San Diego. Good morning, Alex.

ALEX KREIT (Professor of Law, Thomas Jefferson School of Law): Good morning, Maureen.

CAVANAUGH: And, again, I want to remind our listeners, if you’d like to join the conversation, our number is 1-888-895-5727. So, Robert, you’re defending one of the providers of medical marijuana that was shut down by the DA’s office this month, and I’m wondering what is your legal position here? I know that charges haven’t really been filed but what’s the defense?

GRIMES: Well, Maureen, it is early in the investigation as Deputy DA Steve Walter mentioned, and we don’t really even have all the facts in. I believe that my client and some of these other people were making pretty good efforts to be compliant with Prop 215 and the later laws but, as he pointed out, it’s hard. It’s hard and you can go astray real easy. And a person that – in any of these dispensaries can end up getting charged with marijuana sales if they aren’t extremely careful.

CAVANAUGH: Is there any – Do you have any clear idea of what makes a medical marijuana dispensary here in San Diego legal or not legal?

GRIMES: Well, in my view, every one of them is at great risk of being charged, and I don’t think people should even be in the business. I think they provide a public service actually, providing marijuana to the qualified patients instead of having the patients go to the black market but I think the dispensaries are at great risk because the rules are so strict. They’re supposed to be a cooperative, they’ve not supposed to make any money, and that can be an issue itself. I mean, what is profit and what is just recovery of expenses? But it sets – There’s some gray area but the case law on it from the Supreme Court is actually pretty bad so they’re all – I think they’re all at risk.

CAVANAUGH: Let’s take a phone call. We are taking your calls at 1-888-895-5727. Adam is calling from North Park. And good morning, Adam, welcome to These Days.

ADAM (Caller, North Park): Good morning. Thank you for taking my call. I do appreciate it. I just wanted to make a quick comment and that’s a good segue actually from the last comment that your guest made about the profit because I think there’s a huge double standard that’s been set here for marijuana which has been recognized as a legitimate treatment for ailments versus these standards that are set for, say, pharmaceuticals that are readily available at your local pharmacy. I don’t see municipalities rejecting permits for CVS in their community, and I also don’t see anybody raising major objections to the tremendous profits that those companies make. Why should those standards now be set to those who are dealing in this legitimate business? Why should they be subject to this double standard? And I will take my comments off the air.

CAVANAUGH: Adam, thank you very much. I’m wondering, Robert, there seems to be a real gray area within the current state law on the compassionate use of medical marijuana and how people are supposed to acquire it. Adam’s point being, of course, that other medical prescriptions and so forth are available by stores who make a profit, and yet the medical marijuana outlets are not allowed to do so.

GRIMES: Well, that’s the problem. The – As has been pointed out, you – it really isn’t a prescription that the people get for medical marijuana, it’s only a recommendation. It can’t be filled at a pharmacy. All of this, the laws that have been enacted since 1996 when Prop 215 passed, have really not dealt with how people should get it and so now people that are trying to fill that need in the dispensaries are at great risk and are, in fact, being arrested because they’re – there’re just no functional vehicle to sell it without running afoul of the laws against sales of marijuana.

CAVANAUGH: I want to bring Alex Kreit, professor of law at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, into our conversation. What can – what is your assessment on the current state law on medical marijuana?

KREIT: Umm-hmm. Yeah, I do think that there is a lack of clarity in the state law but at the same time, if you look around at what other cities and counties have done across the state, most of them, I think, have been able to resolve the issue without resorting to criminal prosecutions of people who seem to be attempting to comply with the law. So if you look at, you know, LA County, San Francisco, a lot of other areas across the state, what they’ve done is taken the approach of trying to regulate locally, enact clear guidelines to ensure that those that want to try and comply with the law have clarity and are able to do so, and that those who, you know, don’t want to comply with the law, that those are the people that are targeted and not people who are, you know, making a good faith effort. And I think that here what you have is, you know, sort of the lack of clarity it seems that the first, you know, resort was to go forward with these criminal prosecutions which, I think, is sort of almost maybe – or, criminal investigations which, I think, has maybe added to the lack of clarity and not helped to resolve it.

CAVANAUGH: Is a lot of this, you know, the fact that it’s not a prescription and a lot of this gray area, this confusion, does this stem from the fact that the state law is totally – in total opposition to federal law and that that whole area has not been clarified?

KREIT: Umm-hmm, yeah. I think that that’s a huge part of it. I mean, in particular, for example with the prescriptions. Federal law is sort of the exclusive mechanism through which people can technically prescribe drugs. So because of that, state law can’t, you know, call something a prescription or have something follow the normal route of prescription because that is really exclusively the province of federal law. Similarly, I think it’s very difficult for the state and local governments to enact, you know, clear guidelines that they know will always be followed because there’s always that threat of federal prosecution, that the federal government will come in and disrupt state and local efforts and, you know, that’s happened a lot throughout the decade where, you know, a city would try to, you know, control the issue and try to make clear guidelines about which dispensaries they wanted to operate and then the federal government would come in and disrupt that process.

CAVANAUGH: Now there’s sort of, as a sort of moratorium on doing that. I think that the Obama administration has said that they’re basically going to keep a hands off kind of a deal about that. But I’m interested in what you said before about how other cities are dealing with their medical marijuana dispensaries. What kinds of guidelines do they have that we don’t have?

KREIT: Umm-hmm. Well, I think that, you know, in these other, you know, cities across the state, they have, you know, enacted guidelines about how many dispensaries can operate, you know, where they might be able to operate, things of that nature to really make it clear which dispensaries are going to be in compliance with the law and which ones are not. And I think that that’s really allowed those cities to get a handle on the issue and to address some of the concerns that people have. And as you know, in terms of the federal law, Attorney General Holder has stated that the Obama administration’s position is to not go after dispensaries that are in compliance with state law although that still begs the question of what is compliance with state law?

CAVANAUGH: I’m speaking with Alex Kreit and Robert Grimes and we’re talking about the laws governing medical marijuana in light of recent shutdowns of some medical marijuana outlets in San Diego. And we are taking your calls at 1-888-895-5727. Let’s go to Scott in San Diego. Good morning, Scott. Welcome to These Days.

SCOTT (Caller, San Diego): Good morning. I think there’s no doubt that these are for-profit businesses. A prime example of that is in Los Angeles back in June, there were 500 of these businesses and now there are over 1100 in just four months. In Pacific Beach, where I live, we had none in May and by August we had nine. And a local businessman who had four of these within a hundred yards of his business was speaking to several of the business owners who were selling marijuana and he was kind of frustrated and he said, you know, maybe I should just close down my business and open up a pot shop and then I could make $20,000 a month. And they looked at him and said, are you crazy? You can make more than $20,000 a week. And we’ve had local realtors, landlords, approached with $24,000 cash in hand offers for 500 to 700 square foot office spaces for one-year lease with a stipulation that if we’re closed down then the lease is void. So it’s obvious they know they’re doing an illegal operation. None of – Only eight out of over 60 of them have any – even have tax business permits from the city and it basically is just scofflaw.

CAVANAUGH: Well, thank you for that, Scott. That gives us a nice background. Thank you for your call. And I’m wondering, Robert, I know that this does not apply to the people that you’re representing but there does seem to be instances at least where people are not trying to comply with whatever guidelines there are. They are selling marijuana illegally. And I’m just wondering, what – how can a legal dispensary, people who are trying to comply with the law distinguish themselves from people who are just trying to make a fast buck?

GRIMES: Well, I think that the best thing that a person could do to – if they wanted to try to have a dispensary would be to keep very good records, patient records, financial records, tax records that every – when they – They sell it by the gram, they sell a gram for $20.00 and of that they take out state income – or, state sales tax and they pay it. So I think if they keep all their records in order, that’s a big help. But the other problem becomes the for-profit and the reality is any business is – to keep functioning has to have money coming in to pay expenses and so – and sometimes there is a profit. Under some interpretations of the Attorney General guidelines, the cooperatives can pay salaries to cooperative members but it gets pretty dangerous. And that’s why I say, you know, in other counties, as Alex has pointed out, they’ve made policy decisions to deal with this in more administrative fashions. In San Diego County, where they’re applying the marijuana sales laws to the people who don’t fall within the really strict guidelines of Prop 215, many of the people that are trying to keep all their records, they’re paying taxes, they have their business license, they’re still going to be seen as in the business for profit and they’re going to get prosecuted.

CAVANAUGH: Is it your understanding of the Attorney General’s guidelines that collectives, marijuana collectives, have to incorporate?

GRIMES: I don’t know that they have to incorporate. I know that a lot of them do. And I know there are a lot of the people that have been charged previously in this county, they have corporations and they try to put everything in what they register with the Secretary of State and they try to set it up as a collective or a cooperative but I know that this profit issue is the big one that they generally trip over because usually they’re not 200 people all working in the storefront. Usually there’s two or three guys that are running the storefront and everyone else is kind of a member of this loose cooperative, and when there’s two or three guys start taking some salary then that the DA considers that to be a sale.

CAVANAUGH: I see.

GRIMES: And then the case law doesn’t provide a lot of very strong defense for that in some cases.

CAVANAUGH: Alex, can a city or a county in California just ban collectives outright? I think Oceanside, for instance, did that at least in a sort of an urgent, specialized kind of a way. Can they do that?

KREIT: Well, that’s a issue that’s actually still unsettled in the law. There’s a case that’s going on right now with the City of Anaheim, I believe, that’s coming up right now in the intermediate appellate courts in California that’s going to address exactly that issue, the question of whether a city or a municipality could enact an outright ban of dispensaries consistent – or collectives and cooperatives consistent with the state law. And, you know, I think that that really is an unsettled – an interesting legal question. But I think the case to watch is this Anaheim case which will probably provide – be the first to provide some real guidance.

CAVANAUGH: And what are either one of your takes on actually someone who is – has been recommended to use medical marijuana growing their own marijuana? Is there any restriction on that? Or what is the legal status of that? Alex?

KREIT: Uh-huh.

CAVANAUGH: Robert?

GRIMES: Well, the Attorney General guidelines provide for that. They can have a certain number of plants. I think it might be up to five plants or something. But I think growing their own marijuana, it’s not a good solution for many people. It still is a violation of federal law for one thing. Cultivating a crop is – can be hard. You have crop failures. People that grow it say that plants die. And then it’s just – and then if you’re plant – if you’re successful and your plants get real big, all of a sudden it looks like you’re – now you have a quantity that looks like it’s possession for sale. So in addition to the cultivation statute – So I don’t – I think cultivation has its own risks.

CAVANAUGH: And Alex, as I mentioned in the opening of this segment, it’s curious that this – we should be talking about this, this crackdown should occur while there seems to be some exploration of the idea of legalizing or decriminalizing marijuana for everyone in California, at least Governor Schwarzenegger says we should start to study this.

KREIT: Umm-hmm. Yeah, I would think it is interesting, the timing of it. I mean, I think that you see that this issue is one that’s in flux. And, you know, with respect to potentially legalizing or decriminalizing marijuana recreationally, there was a potential two – 2010 ballot initiative that just moved forward to the stage where it can gather signatures. That news came out just yesterday. So we very well might even see a ballot initiative to tax and regulate marijuana just like alcohol and cigarettes in the 2010 election. With respect to medical marijuana, though, I do think that it’s important that, you know, unless and until there’s some sort of change, you know, for recreation laws, that, you know, there is sort of that clear distinction between people who are trying to operate legally and those who aren’t. And in some ways, I think it’s unfortunate that the few bad apples who are, you know, trying to take advantage of the current law and, you know, sell recreationally are, I think, causing trouble for the vast majority of folks who, I think, are really trying to provide a service in providing this medicine. And I think that that’s sort of been an unfortunate aspect of maybe some of conflating the medical aspects of this with the recreational use.

CAVANAUGH: Just taking this conversation down the road just a little bit, if, let’s say, California were to legalize the recreational use of marijuana, where would that leave us in terms of federal law?

KREIT: Umm-hmm. Well, it would be – You know, federal law would not change. I mean, federal law would still make, you know, marijuana would still be illegal under federal law. But, you know, so it would kind of create – I think you’d sort of see a situation maybe similar to what we had in the late ‘90s, you know, immediately after the passage of 215 where if anyone tried to open a, you know, dispensary or storefront that was to sell for recreational purposes, you know, assuming that were to be made legal, I think that you’d probably see the federal government coming after those people and you’d see a lot of conflicts in that area. You know, the other thing, though, is, you know, I think the vast majority of, you know, arrests and prosecutions for street level type of sales and use are a state – you know, at the state level. So there would be, I think, as a practical matter, a pretty dramatic impact and, certainly, within California, there’d be, I think, you know, some, to my mind, beneficial impacts potentially in terms of the budget because you wouldn’t be using these state resources to investigate and prosecute people for, say, you know, simple possession or, you know, possession for sale of small amounts.

CAVANAUGH: We’re going to have to leave it there, gentlemen. Thank you so much. I appreciate it. I have been speaking with Robert Grimes and Alex Kreit. By the way, Alex Kreit is going to be moderating a discussion tonight, part of the San Diego Now series, the San Diego Historical Society presents “Debating Miracle (sic) Marijuana in San Diego.” It’s tonight at 5:30 at the Museum of San Diego History in Balboa Park. Thank you both for coming in.

GRIMES: Thank you.

KREIT: Thank you so much.

CAVANAUGH: And I want every one to know, if we didn’t get your phone call, you can post your comments online at KPBS.org/TheseDays. Stay with us for the second hour of These Days coming up in just a few minutes.

Comments

Avatar for user 'jlco'

jlco | September 24, 2009 at 12:36 p.m. ― 5 years ago

Mr Walter materially misrepresents both the law and the practice of medical cannabis . Though it is true that nothing in the law says that vendors and dispensers of legal medical cannabis may make a profit, nothing says they cannot. How else can any business survive? What is a fair price for an ounce of
prime cannabis? That is something for the market to determine, not the SD County DA's office. 99% of the some 70,000 MM patients in the county have no realistic way to provide themselves with legal medications other than buying it retail. They cannot grow it: it takes 3-4 months of expert care and quite a bit of expensive lighting and ventilating equipment. Mr Walter suggests that because Prop 215 et seq. are silent about the exact mechanisms of distribution that any system will be de facto illegal, an absurd contradiction of the purpose of the law that any lawyer should recognize. The vendors and dispensers are instrumentalities following
upon the decriminalization of medical marijuana, just as other retail outlets for other sorts of legal drugs. Ms. Dumanis has said she has no quarrel with real medical marijuana patients. In that case, the DA's office should concentrate on
strengthening the verification process instead of producing counterfeit MM IDs for undercover cops to sting unwary dispensary operators trying only to comply with law. If the SD DA wants to comply with the spirit and letter of Prop 215 et seq., instead of raiding dispensaries and arresting wheelchair patients, the police could be far better deployed explaining the city's tax policies to dispensaries, and insuring that their own stings, with perfect replicas of MM ID cards and phony verification call in numbers manned by taxpayer-paid shills, and bring in much-needed money to the county and city coffers. Stop impeding legal access to legal medicines by legal patients.

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Avatar for user 'aarynb'

aarynb | September 24, 2009 at 12:50 p.m. ― 5 years ago

One of your callers, a doctor, was exasperated at the term "medical marijana" and claimed there is no such thing because marijana is "toxic." He conveniently ignored the fact that pharmaceuticals are *all* toxic but expressed his outrage as if Vicodin and Prozac and the like are health foods or something. In addition, he mentioned that physicians who recommend a patient use medical marijuana receive "$300" for doing so. Again, he failed to mention the kickbacks doctors like him receive from companies like Pfizer for prescribing their medicines over a competitors generic offering.

It's one thing to discuss the regulation of medical marijuana and the challenges to doing so, but it's quite another for an MD to spout hypocritical, ridiculous arguments for why it shouldn't be made available available to those who need it, while very much on the dole of Big Pharma.

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Avatar for user 'rasmarcus'

rasmarcus | September 25, 2009 at 5:32 p.m. ― 5 years ago

So it appears by comments from the Asst. District Attorney that District Attorney Dumanis intends to set all legal precedent regarding any remaining California Prop. 215 & S.B.420 issues right here in our own San Diego County courtrooms.

Who asked the DA to do this?
Isn’t this called “abuse of discretion“?
How much is that going to cost the county?
How many more good-hearted, well-intentioned, innocent sick patients have to become prisoners of war over simple semantics?

So many questions, yet so little answers or effort from the District Attorney in providing "safe access". The same "Safe Access" that is guaranteed by the same law the position of District Attorney is bound to uphold.

It appears the DA is in direct violation of both HS 11362.78 and Ca. Civil Code Title 52.(1)(3) as well as the California Constitution Article 3, Section 3.5 (c).

But I guess the legal powers of California (aka. Attorney General) don’t mind the DA’s violations. In that case we’ll just sit back and watch the truly evil Bonnie Dumais Show, “Live” from the Courtrooms of San Diego County & City! Get your ticket now by joining, donating and supporting the following groups. . .

ASA - www.safeaccessnow.org/ />So Cal NORML - www.normlsc.org />California NORML - www.canorml.org />Marijuana Policy Project - www.mpp.org />Drug Policy Alliance - www.drugpolicy.org />SanDiegoMarijuana.com www.sandiegomarijuana.com />ACLU - www.aclusandiego.org

Don’t forget to sign up for the mailing lists too…

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Avatar for user 'scottportraits'

scottportraits | September 26, 2009 at 1:46 p.m. ― 5 years ago

What ever happened to capitalism and the 'free marketplace' ??
I'm sure the justification was that of 'public safety'. Dispensaries have been robbed elsewhere in California. There might be loitering, and people smoking dope in the streets.
Surely every convenience store, liquor store, and jewelery store poses a threat of robbery, and in fact DO get robbed.

So dispensaries should be required to have several safety features, where ever they propose to set up shop.

1) A metal detector at the front door.
2) An armed guard at that door.
3) Security cameras inside and out.
4) A second, back room where all the money and merchandise is stored in vault-like boxes. The front room is a waiting room where they go back one by one and make their purchases.
5) Signs and rules prohibiting loitering in front or anywhere 100 yards of the shop.
6. Signs prohibiting smoking, even tobacco, anywhere near the store.
7. Location at least 1/4th mile from any school, park, or church.

The real reason the officials just said 'NO' is quite obvious. They are from the puritanical, hypocritical 'reefer madness' generation and don't want no hippies and pot-heads encouraged to exist in their jurisdiction.

Supporters should get a lawyer and challenge this in court. Why wasn't there a rally?? To all you locals who wanted the dispensary: make a list of every name on the council and mayor's office, and be sure to VOTE THEM OUT next election. Hit 'em hard with letters, e-mails, and phone calls now; then follow up in a few weeks with another round. Let them know you will actively campaign against their re-election starting NOW !!
Perhaps a patient who isn't too sickly can even run to take their spot in the seat. Anything can happen in a 'free market' system.
Anything but, God-forbid, a cannabis co-op!!

What's wrong with these people ? Don't they want to raise state sales tax revenues ? Don't they want to help soothe the suffering of sick people ? They sound really cold and heartless - are you sure you want to vote for them in the next election ??

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