D.A. Says He'll Target Pot Dispensaries
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D.A. Says He'll Target Pot Dispensaries
Posted by CN Staff on November 18, 2009 at 04:46:55 PT
By John Hoeffel
Source: Los Angeles Times
California --  With the Los Angeles City Council poised to take up a medical marijuana ordinance after two years of contentious debate, L.A. County Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley warned Tuesday that he intends to prosecute dispensaries that sell the drug even if the city's leaders decide to allow those transactions."The L.A. City Council should be collectively ashamed of their failure to grasp this issue," Cooley said, arguing that state laws do not allow medical marijuana to be sold. "Undermining those laws via their ordinance powers is counterproductive, and quite frankly we're ignoring them. They are absolutely so irrelevant it's not funny."
The council may vote today on the ordinance, which would regulate medical marijuana dispensaries and allow the city to shut down hundreds that have opened despite a moratorium approved more than two years ago.Cooley's broadside came a day after two council committees rejected the city's attorney's advice to ban sales.The ordinance they recommended would allow dispensaries to accept cash contributions as long as they comply with state law, a provision Cooley derided as "meaningless" and said reflected "Alice-in-Wonderland thinking." Cooley and City Atty. Carmen Trutanich maintain that recent court decisions clearly indicate collectives cannot sell marijuana over the counter, although members can be reimbursed for the cost of growing it.Councilman Ed Reyes, who has overseen the development of the city's ordinance, called Cooley's remarks "demeaning" and "a real shame." But Reyes said he did not think they would dissuade the council."This is about the quality of life. We all have better things to do than this legal jousting," he said. "It makes no sense to play political football with people's lives."Cooley insisted that most, if not all, dispensaries are breaking the law by accepting money in exchange for marijuana and promised to step up felony prosecutions next month. "It's a target-rich environment," he said. "People think they are getting the green light."The clash between the City Council and district attorney puts Los Angeles at the center of a growing debate about the legality of dispensaries. Although Cooley has recently emerged as the most pugnacious opponent of these stores, his views are increasingly shared by prosecutors, sheriffs and police chiefs."In Southern California, there's much more consistency among the D.A.s' offices than you might think," Joe D'Agostino, senior assistant district attorney in Orange County, said recently. "I think we would probably be in line with Steve Cooley in that almost all of the dispensaries as they are described to us are in violation of the law."Three of the state's largest cities -- Los Angeles, Long Beach and San Diego -- are wrestling with ordinances that would allow dispensaries, but their deliberations have been complicated by prosecutors in those jurisdictions.In Long Beach, City Prosecutor Tom Reeves has said some dispensaries are little more than fronts for illegal drug sales. "What's the difference between that and a drug dealer on the corner?" he said.The debate kicked up this year in the wake of several recent state court rulings.Some prosecutors and law enforcement officials argue the decisions bolstered their long-held view that neither Proposition 215, which voters approved in 1996, nor the state's Medical Marijuana Program Act, which the Legislature passed in 2003, specifically allow for sales.In September, Trutanich sent the council a nine-page review of the case law."This is an area where the intent of the law is very clear. Collectives are allowed to grow this and distribute it amongst themselves," he said Tuesday. "Not one sentence says sales are allowed."Lawyers for medical marijuana advocacy groups have countered with their own analyses.The Union of Medical Marijuana Patients recently delivered a 23-page legal review to council members. "We're really disappointed because we have been thinking that the district attorney would have respect for what the City Council would come up with," said James Shaw, the group's director. "We're taking his threats as real."Joe Elford, chief counsel for Americans for Safe Access, said that properly organized collectives can sell marijuana, citing guidelines issued last year by California Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown. "The idea that a nonprofit collective can't sell things is just a bizarre interpretation of the law," he said.The first indication that law enforcement in Los Angeles County was focusing on the issue came in August, when Cooley and Sheriff Lee Baca warned in a letter to city officials and police chiefs that "over-the-counter sales of marijuana are patently illegal." They suggested that cities ban dispensaries.The letter distressed officials in West Hollywood, which allows four dispensaries, but Baca said recently that he considers the city's ordinance a model that L.A. should follow.On Tuesday, however, Cooley said West Hollywood's dispensaries appear to be engaged in illegal sales as well. "The sheriff is obligated to uphold the law too," he said.Cooley and Trutanich urged the council not to adopt a measure they think conflicts with state law. "We may pass an ordinance that says cannibalism is legal, but the state has a different view," Trutanich said.The two prosecutors, who are close political allies, also said the council would be doing a disservice to its constituents by passing the ordinance. "If we're setting them up to be convicted felons, that's intellectually dishonest," Trutanich said.But Reyes said state law is not clear on the issue. "We'll let the courts decide," he said. "We are trying our very best to work with a system that is very vague at this moment."Cooley's view is shared by others in law enforcement.Three years ago, the Riverside County district attorney's office issued a white paper that concluded storefront dispensaries are illegal. More recently, the California Police Chiefs Assn. published a white paper that concluded: "All marijuana dispensaries should generally be considered illegal and should not be permitted to exist and engage in business within a county's or city's borders."Dennis Tilton, retired counsel to the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department, edited that report. He said he has never seen a dispensary that he believed was operating as required by state law, but he also added, "I can't say that prosecuting dispensaries should be regarded as one of law enforcement's highest priorities."Before Cooley issued his threat to prosecute dispensaries last month, San Diego County Dist. Atty. Bonnie Dumanis spearheaded high-profile raids against 14 dispensaries. At a news conference in September, she denounced them as "dope houses selling marijuana cookies to string on customers" and "drug dealers who see an opening in the market and a way to make a fast buck."Dumanis said the raids were intended to send a message to the scores of dispensaries that opened in the county this year. "We're not done," she said in an interview. "People are on notice."Source: Los Angeles Times (CA)Author: John HoeffelPublished: November 18, 2009Copyright: 2009 Los Angeles TimesContact: letters latimes.comWebsite: Medical Marijuana Archives
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Comment #7 posted by FoM on November 18, 2009 at 12:58:38 PT
It is a culture war. They hate us and are jealous of the liberties that we take and they think we shouldn't have them because they can't have them.It mostly has been what I would call a self righteous war. 
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Comment #6 posted by EAH on November 18, 2009 at 12:44:40 PT:
Behind the ongoing Prosecutions
"Three years ago, the Riverside County district attorney's office issued a white paper that concluded storefront dispensaries are illegal. More recently, the California Police Chiefs Assn. published a white paper that concluded: "All marijuana dispensaries should generally be considered illegal and should not be permitted to exist and engage in business within a county's or city's borders."See. Here it is. I've mentioned this in previous comments and finally here is the proof. This isn't about good or bad policy or whether cannabis is good or bad for you. It is a culture war. These people aren't civil servants, they are crusaders. They see themselves as saintly upholders of good vs the evil of "marijuana". Law enforcement is from Mars and Cannabis activists are from Venus.The dispensaries drove them crazy and offended their sense of what the compassionate medical exception intended. So they worked hard to put together an interpretation that spun things their way. It's been their bible ever since.
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Comment #5 posted by FoM on November 18, 2009 at 10:32:54 PT
Dr Ganj 
We did change it. This last year has been one victory after another and from the bottom up the way it should be.
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Comment #4 posted by Dr Ganj on November 18, 2009 at 10:30:26 PT
1000 Cannabis Clubs...And GROWING! 
Bonnie Dumanis is an ignorant, vindictive hag.
What is this termagant going to say next year when
marijuana is voted legal in California?
Sales, cultivation, and bong hits in the streets will
be completely legal, and all these porkers and prosecutors will finally have to fight real crime for a change.
But, maybe that's the problem here. Cannabis clubs have always been easy targets for the fuzz. No gun battles, no risk, and easy cash to steal while they "take inventory".All these years the cops have told us if we don't like the law, then change it. Change it we did, and they just can't handle the fact that marijuana is *EVERYWHERE*!!!
So, close 14 clubs in San Diego county, and 20 delivery services open. Real effective law enforcement tactic, indeed.Have you seen this list!!!?: And: best solution of course, is for each city to tax the sales of marijuana, generate revenue, and accept the fact that marijuana is really big business, and is only going to expand.
Trying to close cannabis clubs is simply futile at this point. for Bonnie Dumanis: 
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Comment #3 posted by museman on November 18, 2009 at 09:10:26 PT
the engineer community talks OT
A friend sent me this link. It is a site that engineers and scientists post on. Somebody brought up cannabis, and it went ballistic. Dont have to be a member to post. It definitely needs the Cnews touch. PROHIBITION
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Comment #2 posted by ras chadrach on November 18, 2009 at 08:42:17 PT:
real cool, cooley----not
power to the people .the fine people of l.a. should ride cooley out of town on a rail !! like the days of old . this is our country and our fathers did not die to have some rich a-- power drunk snob on chemical meds to tell us what to do . they are the sick ones that need us to set them back on a more peaceful path - lets look at it for a moment , whos hurting the people ? power to the people ! give us what we want or else ----brimestone and fire - just a little voice from the bottom of a huge pile of poop . 
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Comment #1 posted by runruff on November 18, 2009 at 05:36:14 PT
Doodle loodle louuuu, wha wha whaaaa!
[Theme from the Good Bad and the Ugly]Mr. Cooley sees himself walking across the cobblestone graveyard, sweat beaded up on his wrinkled brow, his eyes squinted against the burning desert sun!These folks want a showdown? I'll give then a showdown!I was born to litigate!Not to think!
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