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Medical Marijuana Remains Hot Topic

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Medical marijuana issues continue to simmer in the background, as the city conducts its day-to-day business – but this week could bring some clarity to how the city is dealing with collectives operating without a permit.

During the past year, the City Council has passed restrictions on medical marijuana collectives, requiring that they be permitted by the city and that they operate at particular distances from schools, parks and each other. After more than two months of silence, the council both conducted a closed session Tuesday about legal issues regarding cooperatives and attempted to clarify the definition of parks in relation to limitations on cooperative locations with an ordinance change.

Five pending cases were listed in the agenda for the closed session. So far, no injunction has been granted by a judge to stop the city from shutting down collectives that did not qualify for a permit. Attorney Matthew Pappas said he believes he may have a case that could buck that trend.

Pappas said a judge ordered an expedited hearing on a case regarding the 562 Collective, which is located at 3970 Atlantic Ave.

"The court's concern was the city breaking down doors, arresting patients and attacking landlords of medical collectives," he said.

Pappas said that the city is overstepping its boundaries when it comes to enforcing a law his clients believe is illegal in the first place – many collectives have been issued daily citations since the law went into effect earlier this year.

Regarding the 562 Collective, Pappas said Long Beach police officers with city business relations manager Erik Sund and deputy attorney Kendra Carney conducted a raid on the collective on May 10 without a warrant – breaking down the door, arresting several patients and breaking and taking items.

Pappas contends that the judge who has expedited the hearing is concerned about the city pursuing "strong arm tactics" in regards to enforcement of the ordinance.

Beyond that individual case, there still lingers the case Pack et al. v. Superior Court of Los Angeles County. The judge in that case originally wanted parties to address the issue of federal preemption – the sale and possession of marijuana is illegal federally. California law allows the possession of marijuana for medicinal purposes.

The judge now has requested amicus curiae, which will delay the case until at least September – essentially asking for outside parties (such as ACLU of Northern California, The California League of Cities) to submit information on the case's behalf, said Mike Mais, assistant city attorney.

"The court asked some very specific questions about the ordinance and then asked for (amicus curiae) for people to weigh in on the ordinance," he said, noting that the collection of testimony would last until July.

Previously, City Attorney Robert Shannon had said he believed the court was raising the issue of whether Long Beach has the right to regulate a substance that is illegal federally. Pappas contends this is an opening to stop a permitting process for profit (permits cost collectives about $14,000 each and city officials have said the money only goes to processing the permit).

The City Attorney's Office updated the City Council on Tuesday in a closed session on pending litigation regarding medical marijuana. Right now there are five pending cases (involving about 10 collectives) regarding the medical marijuana ordinance against the city. Conversely, the city has filed six cases against collectives.

According to Mais, the city has issued about 530 administrative citations ($100 to $500 fines) for operating without a medical marijuana permit and the Long Beach Police Department has issued about 80 misdemeanor citations (up to 1 year in prison).

"We're citing, in most instances if we know who it is, both the property owner and the operator of the collective," Mais said.

Mais also said he was unaware of misdemeanor citations being given to any patients, at Pappas contends, although he said owners and operators might have classified themselves as patients.

Messages to Carney and deputy attorney Cristyl Meyers, who is handling many of these cases, were not returned.

Pappas said he believes the federal government is keeping an eye on what is happening with the medical marijuana issue in Long Beach, and he said he hopes to make progress with any one of his cases to help collectives looking for legal footing.

"These people are not people who are making a ton of money," he said. "They generate enough to make a living... They are operating for the benefit of patients."

News Hawk- Jacob Ebel 420 MAGAZINE
Source: gazettes.com
Author: Jonathan Van Dyke
Contact: Contact Us
Copyright: gazettes.com
Website: Medical Marijuana Remains Hot Topic
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