L.A. Targets Cannabis Clubs
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L.A. Targets Cannabis Clubs
Posted by CN Staff on July 07, 2009 at 18:59:50 PT
By Sabrina Shankman
Source: Wall Street Journal 
Los Angeles -- Daniel Halbert moved here from Phoenix this year to invest his life savings in what he hoped was a golden opportunity: the medical-marijuana business.But on Tuesday, the Los Angeles City Council told him to shut down his dispensary, part of a broad crackdown against a growing and unregulated marijuana industry. More than 600 dispensaries have taken advantage of a loophole in city regulations to open shop here in the past two years.
The unchecked growth has alarmed some city leaders."They were like a rash," said City Councilman Ed Reyes, who is leading the effort to shut down many of the dispensaries. He said a colleague told him that at one dispensary near a high school, the student crowds outside made the pot store look "like an ice cream shop from the 1950s."The planning committee has begun hearings to close the loophole used by dispensaries to set up shop with scarcely any paperwork or permits.At the committee's first hearings last week, it told 28 dispensaries to close or face a fine. This week, it was Mr. Halbert's turn.California legalized marijuana consumption for medicinal use in 1996.In 2003, the state established legal protections for medical-marijuana users who were issued a doctor's prescription. The law also created more solid legal footing for the cooperatives that distribute marijuana for medical purposes.Dispensaries, which had numbered just a handful until 2003, began to grow statewide. By 2007, Los Angeles had 183 dispensaries.That same year, the city attorney's office issued a moratorium intended to block new establishments until the City Council created regulations, such as a ban on operating near schools.But the City Council never got around to setting any rules on the dispensaries. Meantime, word begin to spread that dispensary owners could open new outlets, despite the moratorium, by filing paperwork claiming a so-called hardship exemption.Some applications cited the raids by federal authorities targeting marijuana dispensaries as hardships. In other hardship applications, owners simply claimed they weren't aware they needed permits.The hardship applications went unchallenged by the City Council, and the number of dispensaries soared to its current level of about 800. San Francisco, by comparison, has about 30 dispensaries.Mr. Halbert joined the rush in March. He was running a dating service in Phoenix when a friend pointed out an ad on Craigslist from Marc Kent, a former attorney, offering to help people apply for the hardship exemption for a $3,500 fee. He said he has helped people open up more than 100 dispensaries."It was pretty much a turn-key operation," said Mr. Kent.Mr. Halbert made three trips to Los Angeles and toured several facilities that had opened under the hardship clause. "I did my due diligence," he said.He settled on a storefront on Venice Boulevard in West Los Angeles.He registered the business as Best Buds, but later changed the outlet's name to Rainforest Collective. He placed a clapboard sign out front and advertised his services with a flashing neon sign in the window.He decorated his shop with rainforest-themed murals. Clients could select from an assortment of marijuana strains for smoking, as well as "edibles" -- pretzels and cookies with the marijuana baked inside. Total investment: close to $100,000, he said.Mr. Halbert encourages customers to consume their marijuana on the premises and lures them with such offers as movie nights. "We don't want them to just come here and get their medicine," he said. "We want them to come here and maybe make some friends, have some fellowship."He said he now has about 1,000 customers, but declined to discuss how much the shop makes. Mr. Halbert said he might try to fight the city order to close and planned to stay open as long as possible. In his hearing before the planning committee Tuesday, Mr. Halbert produced letters of support from residents and local businesses.Other neighborhood activists, however, have campaigned to shut down the dispensaries.Cindy Cleghorn, a member of a neighborhood council in a another part of the city, complained her area is overrun."It's out of control," she said. Ms. Cleghorn said the new dispensaries violate neighborhood-improvement guidelines and operate in storefronts that are zoned for other uses. "It's not about the marijuana, it's about the land-use issues," says Ms. Cleghorn, who brought her complaints to the City Council.But because so many dispensaries had opened up without resistance from the city, Mr. Halbert said, "Any business person would assume that the city's fine" with them.Source: Wall Street Journal (US)Author: Sabrina ShankmanPublished: July 8, 2009Copyright: 2009 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.Contact: wsj.ltrs wsj.comWebsite: Medical Marijuana Archives
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Comment #8 posted by afterburner on July 08, 2009 at 21:08:13 PT
runruff #6
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Comment #7 posted by Hope on July 08, 2009 at 08:29:24 PT
I'm right beside you.
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Comment #6 posted by runruff on July 08, 2009 at 08:17:18 PT
I understand your point but..............
......while two farmers argued over the price of milk someone stole the cow!Some people just cannot get it through their heads that they, as so called "Free Americans", can be told what they can and cannot do with their own bodies or that a small group of greedy capitalist can ban a beneficial plant and that it is OK!It is not about a misused medical marijuana plan but a misuse of government to impose prohibition!I have been in the grow culture for about 35 years now and I've seen young kids earlier than teens smoke cannabis and eat cannabis based foods. Every one of these kids are grown up now doing every thing from working for the US Forestry to attaining high degrees in prominent colleges. The ratio of kids that grew up in this environment who became cops is nil. I can think of a very few of them, out of scores, that went on to hard drugs and an otherwise unproductive lifestyle. I have seen far more DARE kids go on to experiment with hard drugs. I know some young people who grew up to become successful herb farmers like their fathers and mothers. Thank god for those of us who are willing to keep the supply going even in the face of tyranny!No California is not a bad example, it is an example of what free people look like! We don't need to change Cali law we need to change Federal law!
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Comment #5 posted by anunlikelyally on July 08, 2009 at 07:50:38 PT:
I Hesitantly Support This Action
I think it's about darn time they started cinching up the loopholes in California's medical cannabis law. Had California implemented it responsibly, it would have made it easier for us in other states to get similar laws passed. The opposition always says, "Medical marijuana? Look what it's doing in California. Look at the obvious abuses. We don't want to be California..." and you know what, they have a point, because Cali teens are openly anticipating their 18th birthdays so they can sign up for a medical marijuana card, which, as I have heard from many friends living there, is easier than going to the DMV to get a driver's license. It incenses me to no end that these people are taking advantage of the genuine compassion that went into that law, and that they are able to do so with such ease. This is why every other state that has medical cannabis on the books has done so in a way to prevent similar abuses, and for them, the sanctity of their compassion is protected.I am interested to see L.A. leading this effort, and I hope they toss out all the profiteers who shouldn't be there in the first place. This is about compassion, not money. Shape up and fly right, Cali, cause you're making it a helluva lot harder on the rest of us reformers.
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Comment #4 posted by runruff on July 08, 2009 at 07:39:27 PT
Bush's brain?
Only the left side works!
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Comment #3 posted by FoM on July 08, 2009 at 06:44:16 PT
John Tyler 
I have seen her on tv before. She has an amazing story. If I remember correctly her values totally turned around.
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Comment #2 posted by John Tyler on July 07, 2009 at 21:43:45 PT
Off topic, but cool
I saw an article about this woman, Jill Bolte Taylor, PhD., in Hinduism magazine. She was a brain researcher who had a stroke in the left side of her brain. It then released the power of her right brain and gave her a profound mystical experience, to the point of cosmic consciousness, peace, love and understanding. She recovered from the stroke and now does lectures about her experience.  If you listen to if you will most likely say wow, been there, done that. So cool. Share the love. She discovered where itís at, the hard way.
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Comment #1 posted by John Tyler on July 07, 2009 at 21:11:56 PT
What a bunch of baloney. How many bar, and liquor stores, and other assorted stores that sell alcoholic beverages in L.A.?  Probably tens of thousands or more. L.A. should be glad these new stores are opening. This is business, jobs, and money. Wake up. California is flat broke. They need every moneymaking idea they can get. Cannabis is the new industry. Get on board or be left behind.
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