D.A. on Pot: No Way


The City Council gets closer to a new medical marijuana ordinance, rejecting key elements of the suggestions from the City Attorney's office. D.A. Cooley says that he doesn't care if the City Council wants to make over the counter sales legal for medical pot dispensaries--he'll ignore them.

L.A. Weekly reported on the hearings of the joint council committee yesterday, and on the lawsuit threats that arose:

Americans For Safe Access on Monday stated the courts in California have supported the sale of pot to patients with doctors' approvals and that if the council moves forward with is sales ban it will take City Hall to court.

"The City Attorney has consistently argued that medical marijuana sales are illegal," said ASA Chief Counsel Joe Elford. "Neither the Los Angeles City Attorney nor the City Council has the right to ban activity that is protected under state law. Medical marijuana sales have been deemed legal by the state legislature, the courts, and the California Attorney General."

The city attorney's office has argued that state law only allows for nonprofit collectives with members and a limited amount (five pounds) of the drug on-hand.

A joint meeting of two council committees today, however, watered down Trutanich's language with the caveat that any city regulation allow pot sales. The committees also supported regulation that would not force dispensaries to turn over the names of patients to authorities. (The names "shall be made available by the collective to the Police Department upon request," according to the older language).

The meeting was impassioned, with Council members Dennis Zine and Jose Huizar especially clearly ready to get an ordinance passed--but not one as strict as the city attorney's office's proposal. Over a hundred pro-medical pot citizens filled City Hall meeting room 340 and clapped for statements they liked, and booed one's they didn't; in the public statement period people against the severe ordinance outnumbered those for at least 10 to 1.

D.A. Cooley's rather heated and uncollegial reaction to the Council's amended the City Attorney's recommendations to openly permit sales, via the L.A. Times:

"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," Cooley said. Cooley said state law and state court decisions have made it clear that collectives cannot sell marijuana at dispensaries.

He reiterated his view that most, if not all, dispensaries in the county were in violation of the law. "We don't know of one that's not engaging in just over-the-counter sales," he said. The district attorney said his office was already prosecuting some dispensaries, and he promised to step up efforts next month. Cooley said he decided to weigh in today because he was irritated that the council had ignored the advice of the city attorney, Carmen Trutanich.

"What the City Council is doing is beyond meaningless and irrelevant," he said.

Past City of Angles blogging on the medical pot conundrum here and here.

The image associated with this post was taken by Flickr user epape. It was used under user Creative Commons license.