Legal Corner

How you can help save access to cannabis in L.A

By Bruce Margolin

The latest draft ordinance that the L.A. city attorney has presented would prohibit the sale of medical marijuana for cash, prohibit the sale of “medibles” (cannabis-enhanced edibles), prohibit the refinement of extracts and concentrates, and impose many other draconian regulations and rules that would effectively cut off safe access to the medicines that patients need.

The issue of cash for medicine (or medical marijuana) is enormous. City officials seem to think that every medical-marijuana patient is capable of growing his or her own medicine. They could not be more off base. The belief also has no basis in law. In researching California medical-marijuana law, you’ll find no restriction that bans the exchange of money for marijuana. What the law says is that a caregiver is entitled to “reasonable” compensation, and that is where the arguments and disagreements arise.

What constitutes reasonable compensation for a care giver? Who decides what constitutes reasonable compensation? These are issues that are debated at drug policy reform conferences, and presently there is no agreement. The courts will at some time in the future have to intervene and decide what is and isn’t reasonable for a care giver to be compensated for providing medical marijuana to a qualified patient. Until then, confusion and chaos will reign.

The City Attorney wants to close all of the more than 800 medical-marijuana collectives in Los Angeles that have filed paperwork with the city. Estimates suggest another 200 to 400 collectives exist in the city, many having recently opened since the Los Angeles city moratorium on new collectives was ruled illegal by a California judge.

Medical-marijuana patients in California — and especially Los Angeles — have become accustomed to obtaining their meds from reliable collectives. For many, a trip to the collective to pick up meds is part of their routine, just another chore to do, no different than a trip to the grocery store or dry cleaner. Patients have their choice of 20 to 60 varieties of medicine in most Los Angeles collectives (but yet still complain about the parking – it’s just so L.A.). Medical-cannabis patients rely on the availability of their medication, and will rise up and fight if the medications are taken away from them.

The storefront collectives are a necessary part of the distribution system to make sure that patients have their medicine. Medical marijuana is a fungible product and cannot be kept for long periods in most cases. This makes it important that patients have access to “fresh” medicine at all times.

It has been reported that most of the collective operators in Los Angeles have good relationships with their member growers. Responsible collective operators keep tabs on the growers, from visiting them in the clean-room phase all the way to final trimming and processing. Quality control in the collectives is better than in most of corporate America.

Another aspect of the city attorney’s proposed ordinance is the ban on medicinal edibles. Many medical-marijuana patients are unable to smoke their meds and need another form of ingestion. For many, that means medicinal edibles. The range of products that are “enhanced” is amazing — salad dressings, hot sauces, ice cream, frozen dinner entrees, and, of course, the old standby, the marijuana brownie.

Many patients need a stronger, longer lasting medicine. The varieties of concentrates and extracts available in the collectives are there to meet a whole host of different conditions.

Patients who cannot medicate on a regular basis often resort to using concentrates like hashish, Buddha’s ear wax, honey oil, etc., because a little goes a long way and many patients find relief for six to eight hours after ingesting some concentrates, as opposed to 45 minutes to an hour of effective relief from smoking a joint.

Again, like the ban on medicinal edibles, the proposed prohibition on concentrates has no basis in science or fact and will deny sick patients an opportunity to ingest their meds in a way that is both safe and effective for them.

Los Angeles NORML held a letter-writing meeting on the Sunday morning after Halloween. NORML members and activists from the L.A. area came together at 9 a.m. to compose and send handwritten letters to their city council representatives and state officials. The letters were in support of safe and affordable access to medical marijuana for qualified patients. The event was even covered by the local news.

Please join us and write to your local politicians, newspapers, TV and radio stations, urging them to continue safe and affordable access. Or, if you live in an area that does not yet have medical marijuana, write and ask why it doesn’t.

You can make a difference. Politicians stand up and notice handwritten letters. They think that if you are the type of person who takes the time to write a letter and mail it, then you probably are a voter, too. They want to please voters. So put that pen to paper and get writing.

BRUCE MARGOLIN has practiced criminal defense since 1976. He can be contacted at 1-800-420-laws.com.

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