October 7th, 2009 Dr. Skunky
FLORENCE, COLORADO — Claiming the city wanted to be prepared, the Florence City Council approved an ordinance to place a 90-day moratorium on the use of property in city limits to dispense medical marijuana and paraphernalia.After Colorado adopted Amendment 20, which made it legal for people to obtain, possess, cultivate, grow, use and distribute marijuana for medical purposes, the city decided to be prepared.
“In terms in trying to regulate the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes, we don’t have any language regulations in place,” said City Attorney Bryan Fredrickson Monday during its regular meeting. “Obviously, these questions arise on whether the city might want the dispensaries close to a school, for example, or a child-care facility.”
The ordinance will not permanently prohibit the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes because the amendment to the constitution allows it.
“Hopefully, we can jump on this relatively quickly and decide what kind of language we might want or other regulatory language in the event someone comes to town” to start a dispensary, Fredrickson said. “As far as I know, it’s not an issue right now.”
Councilman Charles Giebler said he opposed the ordinance as written.
“I believe that ordinance 16-2009 is jumping the gun,” he said. “We’ve had no interest in anyone doing it here. I believe the city council needs to study and implement appropriate land use and regulatory provisions regarding medical marijuana dispensaries, which I believe we’re going to find out will be the same as any pharmacy. I don’t see this happening in Florence anytime soon. We probably should get on it, but to pass an ordinance that just seems unfriendly to the sick and impaired, it doesn’t seem right to me.”
It is reported the No. 1 abuse of drugs are prescription drugs.
Councilman Joe Caruso reported a story of a family, which already is licensed as a dispensary.
“This would make them a criminal in the City of Florence,” he said.
When Caruso asked whether Fox Drug could dispense medical marijuana, Fredrickson said that pharmacies cannot, because they are regulated by federal law.
“That’s why this has become a Colorado problem, because the Colorado amendment passed in contradiction to federal law,” he said. “This ordinance does not prevent them from dispensing it to the patient. This is more of a moratorium to prevent commercial operations” in certain zones.
Councilman Roger McFaul said rather than impose an ordinance, it would be better to take time to come up with an ordinance to regulate it.
Councilman Ron Hinkle said he could see both sides.
“I somewhat agree that it would be a benefit to have something in place before a situation develops,” he said. “We can say that hasn’t happened in Florence yet. But we don’t know about a situation. Things can change in a heartbeat. They can change overnight.”
Pro Tem Mayor Paul Villagrana said the moratorium gives the city a chance to determine the regulations it would like to pursue.
After adding 90 days to the ordinance, the council approved the temporary moratorium.
Following the vote, Florence City Planner Don Moore has written a first draft to determine how to proceed.
“We’re treating these dispensaries as retail sales outlets and recommending the zone be changed in the commercial,” he said. “We would recommend the zoning would be changed in the commercial zone district to allow the dispensary by special use only. We’d like to take downtown out of that because there is very little parking. These things could use a lot of parking.”
The Florence Planning Commission will host a public hearing on the zoning of marijuana dispensaries at its November meeting.
The way it is written now “not only can you dispense, but you can use it on premises, which the planning commission may chose to remove. Some communities have,” Moore said.
October 7th, 2009 Dr. Skunky
I was disturbed to see that a recent health column by Sarah Baldauf about the effects of marijuana (“What Parents Need to Know About Pot,” Oct. 6, 2009) was in fact a verbatim reprint of a syndicated Aug. 2008 article, and wasn’t updated with any new findings published on the topic since the article was first written more than a year ago.
Much research since Aug. 2008 has cast further doubt on claims about the harms of marijuana. For example, the claim that marijuana use leads to “a greater risk of cancer to the head and neck” was refuted by two 2009 studies. One, in the journal of Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers, & Prevention, found the risk of head and neck cancer “was not elevated” among marijuana users. Another, in Cancer Prevention Research, found that people who use marijuana actually have a lower risk of head and neck cancer than people who don’t use marijuana.
That doesn’t mean marijuana is for kids — it’s not. But if parents really want to protect their children from marijuana, they should ask lawmakers to support a system that would tax and regulate marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol or tobacco. If marijuana were regulated and sold only by licensed merchants who check IDs, it would become harder for underage teenagers to purchase it. That’s why teen cigarette smoking has dropped like a rock since the early ’90s, while teen marijuana use has not. Drug dealers do not check IDs.
Mike Meno, Washington
The writer is assistant director of communications of the Marijuana Policy Project.
August 21st, 2009 Dr. Skunky
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August 21st, 2009 Dr. Skunky
The Washington Legislature should enact Senate Bill 5615, which would reclassify adult possession of marijuana from a crime to a civil infraction, write guest columnists Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Wells, D-Seattle, and former state Rep. Toby Nixon, R-Kirkland.
ONCE again, the Seattle Hempfest drew tens of thousands to parks along the waterfront this weekend. In its mission statement, the all-volunteer organization that produces the event says, “The public is better served when citizens and public officials work cooperatively in order to successfully accomplish common goals.”
We agree. That is why we, as a Democratic state senator and former Republican state representative, support state Senate Bill 5615. This bill would reclassify adult possession of marijuana from a crime carrying a mandatory day in jail to a civil infraction imposing a $100 penalty payable by mail. The bill was voted out of committee with a bipartisan “do pass” recommendation and will be considered by legislators in 2010.
The bill makes a lot of sense, especially in this time of severely strapped budgets. Our state Office of Financial Management reported annual savings of $16 million and $1 million in new revenue if SB 5615 passes. Of that $1 million, $590,000 would be earmarked for the Washington State Criminal Justice Treatment Account to increase support of our underfunded drug-treatment and drug-prevention services.
The idea of decriminalizing marijuana is far from new. In 1970, Congress created the National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse. A bipartisan body with 13 members — nine appointed by President Nixon and four by Congress — the commission was tasked with conducting a yearlong, authoritative study of marijuana. When the commission issued its report, “Marijuana: A Signal of Misunderstanding,” in1972, it surprised many by recommending decriminalization:
Possession of marijuana in private for personal use would no longer be an offense; and distribution of small amounts of marijuana for no remuneration or insignificant remuneration not involving profit would no longer be an offense.
Twelve states took action and decriminalized marijuana in the 1970s. Nevada decriminalized in 2001, and Massachusetts did so in 2008. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, states where marijuana possession is decriminalized represent more than 35 percent of our nation’s population.
These states have not seen a corresponding increase in use. Nor have the 14 states that have adopted legal protections for patients whose doctors recommend the medical use of marijuana. Nor the several cities and counties that have adopted “lowest law enforcement priority” ordinances like Seattle’s Initiative 75, which made adult marijuana use the city’s lowest law enforcement priority in 2003.
On the flip side of the coin, escalating law enforcement against marijuana users has not achieved its intended goals. From 1991 to 2007, marijuana arrests nationwide tripled from 287,900 to a record 872,720, comprising 47 percent of all drug arrests combined. Of those, 89 percent were for possession only. Nevertheless, according to a study released earlier this year by two University of Washington faculty members:
• The price of marijuana has dropped;
• Its average potency has increased;
• It has become more readily available; and
• Use rates have often increased during times of escalating enforcement.
We now have decades of proof that treating marijuana use as a crime is a failed strategy. It continues to damage the credibility of our public health officials and compromise our public safety. At a fundamental level, it has eroded our respect for the law and what it means to be charged with a criminal offense: 40 percent of Americans have tried marijuana at some point in their lives. It cannot be that 40 percent of Americans truly are criminals.
We hope that the citizens of this state will work with us to help pass SB 5615, the right step for Washington to take toward a more effective, less costly and fairer approach to marijuana use.
State Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, Seattle, left, chairs the Senate Labor, Commerce & Consumer Protection Committee. Toby Nixon was state representative for the 45th legislative district, 2002-2006, and served as vice-chair of the House Republican Caucus and ranking member of the House Committee on State Government Operations and Accountability.
Copyright © The Seattle Times Company
August 14th, 2009 Dr. Skunky
As part of the fact-finding process of the cannabis dispensary moratorium, the Sacramento city government is taking a look at how, exactly, medical pot stores operate. Without many precedents to refer to, dispensaries don’t have solidly established business practices. All dispensaries are somewhat similar, but none are alike.
Dispensaries all have the same basic foundation. By state law, pot shops must be collectives or cooperatives of medicinal cannabis patients.
After ill Californians get cannabis recommendations, they have the ability to medicate and cultivate as they see fit. Last year, California Attorney General Jerry Brown published some guidelines on how many plants (six) and how much prepared cannabis (8 oz) independent patients should grow or possess at one point in time, but such guidelines aren’t law. Instead, these guidelines are sort of a threshold of acceptability to avoid state legal action. Brown’s recommendations are more binding of cooperatives, which he requires to operate within the law.
“California law isn’t really specific on any of this stuff,” a spokesman from Capitol Wellness Collective said, who requested SacPress to not use his name. “It’s still evolving.”
If multiple patients pool their resources, they can quickly come into possession of far more cannabis than the guidelines suggest or that they’re even capable of using. Remember, this plant grows like a weed. A single indoor plant can grow up to six feet tall, producing up to 10 ounces – so even within guidelines, stockpiles can overflow.
If they feel like making a practice out of it, state law allows them to open a dispensary. Dispensaries often start with several growing patients and occasionally another entrepreneur who may not grow or have a doctor’s recommendation for THC medicine.
Aspiring club owners must then make the difficult decision of where to set up shop. Dispensaries have to take on a number of concerns when shopping for property, said American Association for Medical Cannabis State Director Ryan Landers. “They need to be a good distance from other dispensaries to avoid being redundant, and they have to be away from parks or kid-friendly businesses.”
AAMC is a nationwide activist group that works with lawmakers and law enforcement to make medical cannabis safer and more available.
Friendly landlords are also a must, as opening a pot shop can be a touchy matter.
“Nobody wants to lose their property for renting to a dispensary, so they usually think twice,” Landers said. “It’s never happened in Sacramento, though.”
Accessibility is another major component of a shop’s location. Many cannabis patients have limited mobility, and private transport may be a luxury they physically or financially can’t afford. Local dispensaries choose to open near bus or light rail lines. Clubs usually avoid busy metro areas: None are presently open in the heart of the downtown grid. Capitol Alternatives, a club on 16th Street, was raided by DEA agents and local police in April 2006, though no charges were made, according to news reports. The club reopened the next day at another location.
Then there’s the question of how the medicine gets to the dispensary in the first place. As mentioned before, most dispensaries are run by cultivating patients, but once demand goes up, for the sake of stable prices, so must supply. Patients outside the dispensary are invited to donate their excess medicine if they have an abundance, which is common. Contributions are given free of charge and serve to keep prices down and to increase the variety of strains available. According to local club owners, there is a wide network of patients making regular donations.
Dispensaries are always nonprofit businesses, as required by state law. This means that all of their profits need to be redistributed back to the community. Employee salaries are included in that interpretation of ‘community.’ According to a spokesman for Hugs Alternative care, about 25 percent of profits go back to salaries. With the remainder, clubs also give back in other ways.
Every club gives a charitable amount back to patients who donate their excess medicine, usually in the range of $100 an ounce, according to local club owners. Doing some quick math, at $50-60 per eighth-ounce, this adds up to a $300 or more profit margin on each ounce sold.
Some clubs also use their excess earnings for other health services, like massage therapy or group counseling, and a few even offer hobby classes and other services.
“At Capitol Wellness Collective, we have a lot of basic outreach programs,” CWC’s spokesperson said. “We have a full-time spiritual counselor, condition-specific support groups, a masseuse, cooking classes and peer counseling, all of which are provided free of charge.”
Some local clubs also make donations to charities to redistribute their income. Capitol Wellness donates to Loaves and Fishes, the local Shriner chapter and “other people that are just doing great work,” according to its spokesperson.
Lastly, dispensaries point out that they usually offer ‘compassion plans,’ that reduce or eliminate the cost of medicine for disadvantaged patients. Veterans can often get a discount, as can the disabled and patients with MediCal and Medicare.
“Clubs should never present an undue hardship to the people that need medicine most,” Landers said. “Medical cannabis saves lives.”
Dispensaries are almost always incorporated. They charge sales tax for their wares and pay federal and state taxes, although they aren’t federally listed to avoid DEA entanglements. They usually employ between five to 10 full-time employees and pay a “comfortable” salary, according to club owners and employees.
“As profits go up, so do salaries. If we’re in a good time, we’ll meet up and discuss pay,” Clyde Baker from Hugs Alternative Care said.
Patients can volunteer their time to help out at some local dispensaries, and some receive free medicine in return for their time. Alexander Skibo volunteers at Northstar Healing Collective and positively loves doing it.
“This is the most convenient arrangement I’ve ever had with any medicine,” he said. “I haven’t been able to drive a car since my injury, so walking in to volunteer is just great. I’m definitely a proponent.”
Specifics on the actual cannabis commerce that takes place at dispensaries are tough to get. Questions on profits, salaries and even day-to-day business are usually met with “that’s a private matter.” Some general facts can be learned, but accounting figures will be checked out by the city government, if even then. Clubs still have two more weeks to register with the city and prove they were open before the moratorium’s June 16 requirement. After that point, if clubs fail to register, they’ll get hit with a misdemeanor every day they stay open.
“That’ll add up really quickly,” Landers said. “Most clubs have already registered, but we’re still expecting more.”
July 29th, 2009 Dr. Skunky
BOULDER, Colo. — Boulder County Caregivers offers 16 glass jars of marijuana with names like Skinny Pineapple and Early Pearl Maui, priced at $375 to $420 an ounce. There are marijuana capsules and snacks made with cannabis butter, such as rice crispy treats.
Co-owner Jill Leigh urges customers to try a syrupy tincture she calls “the Advil of medical marijuana.” A drop under the tongue gives less of a high but the same pain relief as smoking, she says.
Leigh’s sales are legal — and taxed — under Colorado’s voter-approved medical marijuana law. Her marijuana dispensary and nearly 60 others serve a rapidly growing number of users with little oversight. Critics of the system say it’s prone to abuse and point to a growing number of younger patients. But a recent state effort to impose more controls failed.
More than 9,000 people are registered in Colorado to use medical marijuana with a doctor’s recommendation — up 2,000 in the past month.
The total is expected to rise to 15,000 by year’s end, according to the state health department, which blames the rapid increase on patient confidentiality guarantees and federal plans to stop raiding medical marijuana operations, which the U.S. government considers illegal.
Last week, the state health board rejected a proposal to limit suppliers to five patients. Dispensary owners said the plan would force many to close. Others, including Leigh, say Colorado should better regulate its dispensaries to deter abuses. But Chief Medical Officer Ned Calonge said he simply doesn’t have that authority under the 2000 law.
Some towns are stepping in. On Tuesday, Breckenridge will consider rules to keep dispensaries away from schools and restrict their hours to prevent thefts. Police Chief Rick Holman said the ideas came from Cannabis Therapeutics, a Colorado Springs dispensary believed to be the state’s largest with 1,400 patients.
The Denver suburb of Commerce City also is drafting its own rules. In Boulder, police have reached out to dispensaries after thieves stole two 20-gallon barrels of marijuana from one business in June.
Leigh’s waiting room could be found in a dentist’s office, save for coffee-table reading material that includes a copy of High Times and a Timothy Leary book. Spice jars feature samples of marijuana available for sale. All sales are by appointment only, and Leigh’s business collects about $10,000 in sales tax a month.
Leigh’s patients are mainly middle-aged women with multiple sclerosis and men coping with hepatitis C. One employee said he takes tincture drops to help prevent seizures. A customer, a jiujitsu coach, said he uses it to treat pain from four surgeries and regular fights.
Leigh said she and her husband, who uses marijuana to cope with degenerative disc disease, started selling marijuana he was growing to avoid running up against the law.
Patients can only possess up to 2 ounces of usable marijuana under Colorado law. But a patient or his designated caregiver can grow six marijuana plants — but only three can flower at any time.
Today Leigh, a self-described soccer and karate mom, has seven employees, offers health insurance and plans to add 401(k) benefits. She worries federal agents might raid her business, even though the Obama administration says the government will stop targeting medical marijuana operations that are in line with state law.
For luck, Leigh hangs Tibetan prayer flags in her offices and has a statue of the elephant-headed Hindu god of Ganesh. She says a California dispensary that had both items was spared in a recent federal raid.
July 22nd, 2009 Dr. Skunky
More than 100 people lined up outside a marijuana dispensary in the San Fernando Valley this morning, lured by the offer of free cannabis for the first 100 patients.
The nonprofit dispensary in Canoga Park, Roscoe’s Compassionate Collective, advertised the offer last week in Kush L.A., a monthly cannabis magazine, with a pull-out coupon for patients with marijuana medical cards and updated prescriptions. Since then, the collective has fielded hundreds of calls from people essentially asking the same question: Is this for real?
JT Wiegman, 37, the owner’s son, said it is indeed for real and as of 11 a.m., they began giving 3.5 grams of marijuana, worth $55, to each recipient. The shop has been open only three months, and though Wiegman admitted the giveaway was in part a promotion, he said that wasn’t the main point.
Through the pot promotion, the dispensary hopes to draw attention to collectives that overcharge and lack compassion, Wiegman said. He said there are too many people in the industry looking to make a fast buck.”I’m showing what true compassion is for this industry, for all the patients that really need the medicine,” he said. “I think collectives in general have not done a good job of taking this professional, we are a pharmacy and we have medicines that are legal.”
At 11 a.m., patients began filing into the lobby, filled with incense and Bob Marley music. Outside, those still waiting were entertained by volunteers conducting raffles.
“We love it, reggae all day,” Wiegman said of the music.
Less than a mile away, another giveaway was going on this morning — pastries at Starbucks. Wiegman said there was no connection between the two, though he didn’t mind the idea: “Starbucks and RCC,” he said.