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All L.A. County medical pot dispensaries face prosecution, district attorney says


Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley said today that all the medical marijuana dispensaries in the county are operating illegally, and that "they are going to be prosecuted."

There are hundreds of dispensaries throughout the county, including as many as 800 in the city of Los Angeles, according to the city attorney's office. They operate under a 1996 voter initiative that allowed marijuana to be used for medicinal purposes, and a subsequent state law that provided for collective cultivation.

Based on a state Supreme Court decision last year, Cooley and City Attorney Carmen Trutanich have concluded that over-the-counter sales are illegal. Most if not all of the dispensaries in the state operate on that basis.

Cooley said his office had already begun preparing to prosecute a Culver City dispensary called Organica.

Widespread criminal prosecutions could deal a sharp blow to the medical marijuana movement in California, where advocates have argued that access to the drug has helped many cancer patients and others manage pain, nausea and other health issues.

Cooley and Trutanich announced their plans after a training session for narcotics officers at the Montebello Country Club. Outside about 100 medical marijuana advocates protested, saying that not allowing over-the-counter sales threatens the distribution of a product that many sick people have come to rely on.

Barry Kramer, operator of the California Patient Alliance, a dispensary on Melrose Avenue, said, "If this is the way it goes, we'll go underground again. There will be a lot more crime."

-- John Hoeffel

Photo: Vanessa Richards helps a customer from La Cresenta at the Roscoe Compassionate Collective in Canoga Park on July 21.

Credit: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times

Click to view Times' interactive map Related: Where's the weed? Use The Times' interactive map to see the locations in the city of Los Angeles ocations where applications for medical marijuana dispensaries have been filed.


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Comments () | Archives (168)

What about those that have gone to the dispensaries, legally, with the license, to obtain the pot? Should we be worried that we have had to give our name, dl# and address on each visit?

This is what you get for following the rules, and trying to do right. Seems safer now to go back to a friendly supplier and take your chances there, instead of living in fear you're going to be prosecuted for trying to be a law abiding citizen seeking help.

What a waste of time and money! The government is going about this all the wrong way, rather than waste tax payers dollars, why don't you just levy taxes on these dispensaries and be done with the draconian strong arm tactics. Get you head out of your arses, criminal justice system, and stop wasting your time with pot enthusiasts/medical users, spend more time bringing down the meth labs and cocaine dealers, they do more damage to the body and environment!

This is persecution of the sick and totally contrary to what the medical marijuana laws in this state were enacted to do.

It represents complete over-reaching by Cooley and Trutanich, who have apparently decided that state law isn't the law of the land in Los Angeles.

One can only hope the state and/or courts will intervene and force these guys to follow state law.

Here goes another huge waste of taxpayer funds. Officials lose battle after battle in court and this will be yet another fight they cannot win. C'mon, prosecute over 800 dispensaries? I guess gang shootings, robberies, rapes and other violent crimes will be put on the back burner? Citizens of LA (and everywhere) get active. An injustice to one is an injustice to all!

As someone who is a patron of Barry Kramer's model of a dispensary (and no others), this news sickens me. I voted for Trutanich as we all believed he was a friend to medical marijuana. What a laugh. This is the worst solution imaginable to an admittedly bad problem. Even though I'm a patient, I support an overhaul of the system, but this is draconian and completely ignores the entire point of making medical marijuana legal: providing for patients who are unable to grow for themselves.

If Trutanich decided to outlaw Vicodin because of all the addicts abusing it, there would be an uproar the likes of which one can only imagine. This is the exact same thing, except that for me, marijuana is far less addictive and with much fewer unpleasant side effects than pharmaceuticals. Shame on Carmen and his buddies for placing seriously ill patients in this position.

Many of us in the medical marijuana proponent community voted for Trutanich because he promised to be looser in his interpretation of how dispensaries can operate, we campaigned for him, put out a big push in our magazines and advocacy groups. He met with many of us, had his photo ops with us, and we were instrumental in helping defeat Jack Weiss because he led us to believe that he'd be different from Weiss who we knew from PLUM was more on the side of law enforcement and took a critical view of most dispensaries. More in the vein of Delgadillo who was no friend to marijuana advocates.

But at least PLUM had been taking an individual look at each case and hadn't taken the position they were all illegal, which we were shocked to find is their new position on orders of Trutanich who seems to be taking his own marching orders from Cooley.

We were dismayed to find that his interpretation to the Council last week was in marked contrast to why we'd supported him, and to what he'd led us to believe by encouraging us to work for him to get out the vote.

Ed Reyes and Huizar on PLUM and new member Koretz, who'd authored a law sympathetic to medical patients in the Assembly, seem to have a more reasonable point of view than Zine who speaks for Trutanich, and it's important for the Council to assert jurisdiction over this issue.

It's one thing to be concerned about community objections over some dispensaries near schools and which cast all of them in a bad light, but this drastic interpretation comes as the Obama Administration has indicated it would no longer aggressively go against state laws like California's, and as a statewide movement to normalize dispensaries which operate within the law as widely understood, is taking root. We feel this is a betrayal of our trust in the democratic process.

This is sickening and heartbreaking. Political grandstanding at its worst.

Hopefully, some good will come out of it when the public sees the Gestapo tactics of law enforcement hauling people in wheelchairs away.

Barry Kramer is exactly right. Take the dispensaries right to sell over the counter, and the state will simply lose out on the taxes they're collecting for medical green right now. Even patients who's need for medical marijuana are "questionable" are putting money into the state and federal governments and not into the hands of criminal organizations when buying from a dispensary. California can't seem to get anything right.

the US has become the dumbest country in the world

My wife is very sick and now cannot obtain her medication legally or safely. I am furious with the City and District Attorneys. They are directly and seriously hurting my family. Elected officials should serve the needs of their constituency and not their own. I will have to relocate to a more compassionate city now. I hope they see the pain and suffering they are causing by their own interpretation of the will of the people.

Agreed with What about. Sounds like a scheme to close a city budget problem.

800 of these in the last few months? Seems like a lot of "sick" people out there.. I would like to see just one of these "dispensaries" actually tell you where and how the "medicine" was grown and with what standards. Regulation is really needed here..

This is completely insane. Not only for the customers and owners of these dispensaries, many of whom have health issues that only marijuana can help them with, but also for California's economy. The state is already struggling with 12.2% unemployment rates and I know MANY of us can't find work.

The simple fact of the matter is that once these provisions go through, pot will go back underground, just as the article states. And what will happen then? The money used for the purchase of the drug will go to smugglers who don't care about their customers safety. Furthermore, the money will leave the local economy and head for other countries, such as Mexico. Let's not fool ourselves here, CRIME WILL GO UP. Let's shoot ourselves in the foot once again, California!

This is outrageous. You would think with California being in the dire fiscal situation it is in the bureaucrats in charge would want to listen to the voters.

This will just send people back to funding the drug cartels and keeping sick people from getting the medicine they need.

This clown Cooley has got to go. Vote this sham out of office. What a waste of taxpayer dollars and human resources. I hate this man and wish him ill.

The real criminals are not the marijuana clients or sellers, but those paid to keep marijuana illegal. They are causing the horrible crimes and heavy tax payer funded enforcement for the harmless weed. It is obvious they are being bribed by those who profit off marijuana being illegal. Keeping marijuana illegal causes most of the crimes and makes users go underground and get exposed to seriously dangerous drugs, which marijuana is not. Marijuana is less dangerous and less addictive than alcohol. But someone is being bribed to keep it illegal. Someone with bravery needs to stand up to the crooked legislators who keep marijuana illegal.

Now, I think I have this right:

AG Guidelines clearly state coops/collectives are legal; "Under California law, medical marijuana patients and primary caregivers may associate within the State of California in order collectively or cooperatively to cultivate marijuana for medical purposes.” (§ 11362.775.)" [AG Guidelines]
“Qualified patients, persons with valid identification cards, and the designated primary caregivers of qualified patients and persons with identification cards, who associate within the State of California in order collectively or cooperatively to cultivate marijuana for medical purposes, shall not solely on the basis of that fact be subject to state criminal sanctions under Section 11357, 11358, 11359, 11360, 11366, 11366.5, or 11570.” (Health and Saf. Code, § 11362.775.)
The Third District Appellate Court in 2005 citing SB-420’s authorization of “collective, cooperative cultivation projects,” the court found that FloraCare had developed into a legal entity under state law.
On April 3 a Mendocino County jury came back 7-5 for acquittal of Luke Strauss and Joe Maligno, who had grown 400 pounds of bud slated for more than a thousand patients at their storefront collective, West Hollywood Center for Compassionate Healing, the largest in the state. The Strauss-Maligno case says juries will no longer regard a large amount of marijuana as automatic evidence of guilt, they will take into account the number of people it has been grown for.
“Given the limited resources that we have, our focus will be on people, organizations that are growing, cultivating substantial amounts of marijuana and doing so in a way that’s inconsistent with federal and state law,” the attorney general said. [AG William Holder]

4th circuit says collective dispensaries are legal.

3rd circuit says cash only commitment to collectives is legal, "sweat equity" is no longer necessary.
[County of Butte v Superior Court]

Based on the County of Butte decision, I don't see how they can say this:

"Based on a state Supreme Court decision last year, Cooley and City Attorney Carmen Trutanich have concluded that over-the-counter sales are illegal. Most if not all of the dispensaries in the state operate on that basis."

I am grateful we have people like clinder and others that actually know the answer to that. I however am very confused.

There's two city workers who won't get re-elected.

Yes "42o?" there are THOUSANDS of sick people living in Los Angeles who need medical marijuana. How ignorant can you be? California voters approved it! What harm are the dispensaries and their patients doing!!??

Steve Cooley needs to worry about prosecuting Terrorists not pot dispensaries. Listen to the people Steve Cooley we chose to make it legal in 1996... It's what we like to call, Democracy at work.

Ridiculous. The system for medicinal marijuana had finally come to a recognizable authority in LA. In my opinion, if the DA decides to follow through with this they are only going to dig a deep hole for themselves - getting the rightful public frustrated and agitated with these unessesary policies and regulations. DA should try to focus on more serious and dangerous drugs coming through the border and such, instead of waste time and money on the marijuana case. Seems to me like they've found themselves to be a bit on the bored side.

To "420?": Beyond a doubt, there are things wrong with the system. Nuking it from orbit is not the answer. For every pothead who went to a shady doctor who wrote a recommendation for no real medical problem, there is a cancer patient using marijuana to make it through chemo, or an MS patient using it to get through his days.

A solution is needed. This is not a solution, this is Prohibition. I've been proud to be a legal patient in the state of California due to my disabling chronic illnesses. Now I'm going to have to be a criminal again.

all u pot heads are funny and you sound like a bunch of hard core addicts getting high under the guise of my illness. the only pain and suffering will be withdrawl symptoms.and as for money saved it will offset the waste perpetrated by this sham sick people. my wat a soft society we have produced...

All you folks should support Assemblyman Tom Ammiano bill in the Assembly that will treat marijuana the same as tobacco and alcohol.

D.A. Cooley is doing a disservice to the community and needs to be removed. The dispensaries take customers away from drug dealers, slashing their profits and forcing them to go elsewhere to sell their drugs. The dispensaries in effect shield our communities from drug dealers and improve the safety of our streets.

When D.A. Cooley succeeds in closing down the dispensaries the drug dealers and cartels will rule the streets again and all of us will be worse off.

Fire D.A. Cooley! Get him out of power!! His policies are short-sighted and harmful to our community. Get rid of him before he endangers the safety of your family!

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