Articles Posted in Orange County Medical Marijuana Dispensaries

There is no question that marijuana has legitimate medical uses and benefits. It has been proven to help people with cancer and cancer-related issues as well as a variety of other serious medical conditions.  It helps people who suffer from anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and other psychiatric conditions.

medical marijuanaHowever, there haven’t been a lot of studies, because Congress still refuses to take medical marijuana off Schedule I of the U.S. Controlled Substances Act of 1970 (USCSA), and this may not change for quite some time, despite the majority of Americans now supporting legalization of medical marijuana. Continue reading

New research from the University of Michigan reveals that high school and college students are far less likely to consume illegal drugs than their parents. In fact, students’ use of prescription opioids (obtained both legally and illegally) is far less than their parents’ generation. However, there is one area where youth drug use surpasses that of the baby boom generation: Marijuana. collegestudent

The Michigan study is an ongoing, four-decades-long research on the use of tobacco, alcohol and drugs. In this most recent analysis of the data, we find that those who are in the 40s and 50s used drugs in their youth far more frequently than the teens and 20-somethings of today. Excluding marijuana, more than 7 in 10 individuals who are in their 50s used illicit drugs at some point in their lives. When you include marijuana, that figure spikes to 85 percent – the vast majority.

When this cohort was in college, approximately half were actively using illegal drugs. Today, about 40 percent of adults who are of college age are using illegal drugs. Continue reading

Two lawsuits against the City of Costa Mesa, filed in Orange County Superior Court, alleges the city blocked a special election on a medical marijuana initiative for purely political reasons, violating state election law. City officials counter they were guided in their actions by the California Constitution, which would supersede election statutes.
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Although access to medical marijuana was approved by California voters in the late 1990s, individual municipalities throughout the state have enacted ordinances that bar shops from opening in their districts. Costa Mesa was one of those.

The dispute centers on two different medical marijuana initiatives that were certified by the city clerk in October. Certification meant the two proposals had garnered enough signatures from registered voters – at least 15 percent. It also required the city to either approve and adopt the measures, or to initiate a special election to give voters the opportunity to decide. A special election, per local ordinance, would have to be held within 103 days of the decision, which would mean it should have been held sometime this month.
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Orange County marijuana lawyers know there are many ways that marijuana collectives have come under fire in recent months. shakinghands.jpg

Namely, of course, there has been the federal crackdown, and countless municipalities have been enacting bans or moratoriums so as not to draw the ire of the feds.

Now, there may be a new enemy of Orange County medical marijuana: banks.

If a recent report in the Seattle Times in Washington is any indication, this is expected to be a growing problem.

The example given in the story is of a cooperative that is well established in the industry, has three store front locations and a loyal base of customers. The problems is that in the last two years since it opened, it hasn’t had regular access to a bank.

In fact, it has ping-ponged from one bank to the next – five in all. Another four outright rejected the company’s business. In one instance, a bank simply closed the company’s account without notice. What was worse, they didn’t even tell the business owners about it – they simply froze the accounts and no one was aware of a problem until checks started bouncing.

For a lot of dispensaries, these types of conundrums may be universal. When collectives and dispensaries can’t find a bank, they end up operating mostly in cash. And when that happens, not only does it make tax preparation and payroll a huge headache, the marijuana dispensaries become a target for robbery and theft.

Not only that, but it becomes a problem for patients, who are forced to pay for their medicine in cash. Often, ATMs are placed in the lobby of these sites.

To try to circumvent some of these problems, some dispensaries have tried the tack of changing their names to something that is a little more euphemistic – like a healing center – when they’re trying to open a bank account.

Part of the problem is that in the same way that the federal government has warned cities and counties against any activity which would appear to sanction any action which would appear to violate federal law, banks have also been instructed that handling receipts from the sale of marijuana could violate laws on money-laundering.

The National Cannabis Industry Association says it’s likely that about half of all dispensaries across the country don’t have a bank account. He calls this a threat to the industry, and says some groups are pushing Congress to alter the IRS code and banking law so that the legitimacy of the industry – estimated at nearly $2 billion – will be recognized.

Our Orange County medical marijuana lawyers understand that this may be one way the movement could gain legal sanctuary, so we very much support these efforts.

When reporters pressed the banks for comment, only one responded, saying that the industry is considered a risk and an uncertainty, and that it was not considered in the best interest of the bank to enter into a business contract with medical marijuana businesses.

Federal law doesn’t expressly prohibit banks from working with Orange County marijuana dispensaries and collectives, and the attorney general told Congress late last year that his office wouldn’t make it a top priority to prosecute banks who did so.

But then again, we’ve heard that promise before.

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An appeals court has handed down a victory for Orange County medical marijuana dispensaries, in a decision holding that a Dana Point marijuana clinic doesn’t owe the city millions of dollars claimed in a prior summary judgment.
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Our Orange County medical marijuana attorneys are encouraged by the decision, granted by the state’s 4th District Court of Appeals. Essentially, it was decided that the lower court, which had issued a summary judgment, acted improperly because the facts of the case were disputed.

This is Law School 101, and the judge in this case really should have known better. Certainly, there are complex legal questions surrounding the issue of medical marijuana in California, but this was not one of them.

Marijuana dispensaries in Dana Point – much like in the rest of the California – have been pushed into extinction by the local city council, eager to avoid the ire of federal prosecutors, who have initiated a massive crackdown on collectives and dispensaries throughout the state. Where there were six Dana Point dispensaries offering medical marijuana to ill patients, there are now none. This illustrates the sad trend in which federal and local government agencies are flagrantly disregarding the will and voice of the people of California.

In this case, the City of Dana Point clamped down on Beach Cities Collective at the outset of 2011, forcing it to shutter its doors. The city lobbed allegations of building code and state law violations. The city argued that the dispensary never produced any evidence that it was operating according to the laws of the state, which allow non-profit marijuana collectives to distribute the drug to individuals who have a doctor’s prescription.

Two months later, Judge William Monroe issued a summary judgment that ordered the dispensary to pay nearly $2.5 million to the city. A summary judgment is essentially a decision that a judge hands down without a trial.

The major problem with that in this case is that summary judgments are only applicable when there is no dispute of the facts. But the facts were disputed by the defendant, who vehemently argued that his operation was following legal guidelines, which required him to operate as a nonprofit, verify patient prescriptions and doll out marijuana solely for medical reasons.

Again – Law School 101.

Beach Cities appealed that summary judgment – and with this decision, won that appeal.

The case will now either head back down the pipeline to the lower trial court, or the city could appeal for a decision from the state’s supreme court. It’s not yet clear which tack they plan to take. However, it may be unlikely for the supreme court to accept the case, as it is not predicated on any new law.

If the case does go back down to the trial court, attorneys for Beach Cities say they will file a request for a new – i.e., non-biased – judge.

At the end of the day, these cases appear not to be about the legality of these dispensaries, but how much money can the city squeeze out of them. In fact, the City of Dana Point has amassed a total of $7 million in judgments stemming from court cases against three other dispensaries.

Still, they have already funneled an extra $400,000 in legal expenses, and the council has voted to increase the budget for these cases. At the end of the day, if these cases go the same route as this one, the city may have done nothing more than waste taxpayer dollars and time.
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Retail dispensaries in Michigan took a hard hit late last month after a state appeals court concluded that their operations were illegal and they were to shut down immediately, according to the Detroit Free Press. Retail dispensaries make up a large part of the state’s thriving medical marijuana economy. This shut down is going to affect more than these dispensaries. It’s going to greatly affect growers who distribute to these companies.
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Medical marijuana in Riverside and elsewhere throughout the state of California has been through these same problems time and time again. Government officials enact regulations and bans on specific sectors and the affect is widespread throughout the medical marijuana industry. Each ban and regulation inadvertently affects you, the consumer. Although government officials contend regulations are for the betterment of the community, nothing can benefit a community better that a legitimate industry that can offer it’s funds, products, services and tax dollars.

Our medical marijuana attorneys in Los Angeles understand that patients in Michigan are facing some of the same problems as patients here in California. Since medical marijuana dispensaries in Michigan will be required to shut down, Michigan’s 100,000 registered marijuana patients will have to turn to their own gardening skills to produce their own medicine.

Since patients will be forced to grow their own, suppliers of medical marijuana plant supplies see this newly effective ban as a blessing in disguise. weGrow, a franchise based out of California, recently said that it will open a store in Michigan by the end of the year. This store is expected to be about 10,000 sq. ft. It will help patients produce their own medicine since they’ll no longer be able to purchase their products at local dispensaries.

Dhar Mann, the founder of weGrow, says that the company currently has stores in Phoenix and Sacramento. He is currently looking to open a spot in the Detroit metro area as well. The negotiations with the franchise aren’t finalized, but he is confident that the Detroit location will be open by 2012.

weGrow exclusively caters to growers of medical marijuana. weGrow not only offers growing supplies, but also offers training seminars and growing advice. Medical marijuana patients can even become certified through the company. The Michigan store is expected to provide customers with an in-house physician as well.

Medical marijuana was legalized by state voters back in 2008. Since then, there has been a growing demand for indoor supplies. This demand has boosted demand for supplies from companies that have been in the area, and created a demand for newer stores.

Currently, a majority of the state’s medical marijuana is grown indoors. This is because law states that it has to be grown in a secure location where the crop can only be accessed by either a certified caregiver or a medical marijuana patient.

Regulations on the medical marijuana industry continue to burden suffering patients and continue to hinder a struggling economy. Without treating this industry as a legitimate business, everyone will continue to suffer.
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Garden Grove marijuana dispensaries won a huge victory with the decision by city council to drop its ban on marijuana dispensaries. Our Los Angeles medical marijuana attorneys applaud the decision and point to the victory as proof of what can happen when owners and patients stand up and fight for their rights.

As the Orange County Register reported Garden Grove becomes the second city to pass regulations as opposed to bans. The city cited costly litigation as the factor in the change of policy.

Earlier this week, Garden Grove’s City Council finalized a decision to require medical marijuana dispensaries to register with the city before opening their business’ doors. The City Council is using this new ordinance to help regulate the number of Orange County medical marijuana dispensaries and to regulate where they’re able to open up shop. They will not be allowed to operate within residential or school zones, according to The Orange County Register.
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“This way we know who is in our city and where they are located,” says City Manager Matthew Fertal. “Once we know that, we will be performing background checks into the individuals who are running these operations.”

This is still less than ideal — Our Garden Grove medical marijuana defense lawyers believe state law permits the legal operation of these businesses. But restrictions are better than bans, which will no doubt continue to be challenged. The new ordinance is already in effect and only allows dispensaries that have registered with the city to be eligible for a future permit. There are approximately 30 dispensaries currently operating in the city despite a ban that was passed back in 2008. Those who closed or gave up the fight could be out of luck.

“This is needed for our city to have some control over the facilities and to make sure our children and families are protected from illegal activities,” said Councilwoman Dina Nguyen. “Unless we define what is legal or illegal, it will not be possible for police to enforce the law.”

The Garden Grove City Council already has the blueprint laid out regarding enforcement efforts of the new ordinance. Dispensaries will be limited along Harbor Boulevard as that area is targeted towards tourists and entertainment.

“With more business licenses, the city will get more revenue,” she said. “But you will also need to hire more people to enforce these codes. We’ve worked hard to keep this environment drug-free. If it has to be done, we better do it right.”

Police Chief Kevin Raney says that his crew continues to support the Title 9 recommendation regarding medical marijuana dispensaries in the C-2 zones and to keep them 1,000 feet from residential neighborhoods and school zones. He believes that this new ordinance is an effective way for the city council and local law enforcement to regulate the industry and to continue to support Proposition 215 of the State of California, according to Garden Grove Planning Commission Minutes.

The City Council says that C-2 locations are the most suitable because they’re the furthest commercial zones from single-family neighborhoods and they these areas are the most flexible with the greatest number of uses.

“This should be an example for other cities to follow,” says Kris Hermes, spokesman for Americans for Safe Access. “The common sense approach is to regulate dispensaries instead of banning them outright, which is a violation of state law.”

Cities with bans:

-Anaheim
-Buena Park
-Costa Mesa
-Cypress
-Fullerton
-Huntington Beach
-Laguna Hills
-Laguna Niguel
-Lake Forest
-Mission Viejo
-Placentia
-San Juan Capistrano
-Santa Ana
-Seal Beach
-Tustin

There are also bans in effect in unincorporated areas of Orange County.
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The event organizers of the Anaheim Convention Center’s marijuana expo were so thrilled with the turnout of their first annual Kush Expo that they’ve already jumped the gun and celebrated their second annual event just eight months later. Organizers were so overwhelmed with the turnout of advocates for medical marijuana in Orange County from the first event, they decided to keep the momentum going with the second annual event that was held last weekend.

The Kush Expo was held, again, at the Convention Center. Organized are already planning a third expo and have it booked it for November 18th through the 20th of this year.
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Our Los Angeles medical marijuana lawyers understand that these events truly illustrate the number of supporters and active members we have in the medical marijuana industry. This is an industry that provides so many residents with healing medications that allow them to function properly on a daily basis and to reduce the side effects of terrible diseases and conditions. The first annual expo that was held last November attracted thousands of people during the three-day event.

“There’s such an upward swing,” said on participant, who has a doctor’s recommendation to use marijuana for panic attacks and sleep problems. “More and more states are legalizing it for personal use, for medical use. I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t be legalized.”

Some people were a little disturbed by the event. The expo included a smoking patio where card-carrying medical-marijuana patients were able to smoke pot during the event, just outside the Convention Center doors.

“I think that it’s a pretty cool sign for those of us who support legalization of marijuana that this kind of event goes on in the heart of Orange County – and it’s accepted,” said one medical-marijuana user and attendee of last year’s Kush Expo. “I think society is beginning to get the picture that cannabis isn’t as dangerous as previous generations have made it out to be.”

Only those who were 18-years-old and older were allowed into the expo. The Kush Expo was coined the biggest marijuana convention in Orange County. There were dozens of vendor booths with representatives from collectives and dispensaries throughout the state. There was also growing and smoking equipment available as well as doctors who there to offer exams to issue medical-marijuana cards.

“This is not just a party card,” said Dr. Lucia Ferraro, from Sherman Oaks. “My typical patient is not a 20-year-old stoner. It’s somebody 40-plus who needs help from prescription medicine or from pain.”

Anaheim has an ordinance that bans all medical-marijuana dispensaries within its city limits. The city has been battling that decision in court to defend its stance.

City officials understand that the expo provided visitors with a smoking section. It was after all approved by city council. Security officers were on scene to ensure that it was only open to qualified patients. There were no pot sales during the expo.
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While medical marijuana dispensaries in Los Angeles aren’t completely banned from applying for bank credit, they’re probably not going to get approved for it when they do. This is because anti-money laundering statutes are set up to stop illegal drug dealers. It is these statutes that are making banks hesitant to do business with legal dealers. Ironically, businesses that create and distribute products that have been proven to kill Americans are able to gain credit.
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Late last month, Democratic congressmen, Jared Polis of Colorado and Pete Stark of California, introduced bills to remedy the federal government’s bias against the owners of medical marijuana dispensaries, according to Bloomberg Businessweek.

Representative Polis’s bill would permit medical marijuana sellers to borrow from banks. Congressman Stark’s bill would allow them to deduct business expenses from their taxes.

Our Orange County medical marijuana attorneys believe that no small business owner should be denied access to financing. They shouldn’t be held to unfair tax rules either just because they run a kind business that some in government may not like. We must join together to fight for equal rights for our medical marijuana industry.

“It is simply wrong for the federal government to intrude and threaten banks that are involved in legal transactions,” said Polis.

The government needs to create a level playing field for business owners of all kinds. This is why Polis has decided to introduce his bill.

It’s not fair to the operators of medical marijuana dispensaries. They are up against a law that is designed to root out illegal drug dealers, terrorists, fraudsters, and money launderers. The government only uses this as a back-door way to make life difficult for company owners in the pot industry.

It’s simple. If Congress disagrees with state medical marijuana laws, it needs to challenge the legality of these laws directly rather than throw rules and impossible obstacles at them.

Consumers are not the concern of the government. For example, we have two business owners. One sells a product that researchers have concluded to be a major cause of health problems, from cancer to heart disease. The other business provides a medical treatment that doctors prescribe for glaucoma, pain, the side effects of chemotherapy and a number of other conditions. Surprisingly it is the first company, or the seller of cigarettes, that can apply to borrow from a bank and deduct expenses on income tax returns. The medical marijuana operator is shunned.

Ironically, the federal government continues to support the sale of cigarettes, a product that kills Americans. These are the same products that cause cancer, yet they continue to discourage the sale of medical marijuana, a product used to manage the side effects of a number of conditions.

Medical marijuana laws, from the state and the federal government, have created a fuzzy area for the public and law enforcement as the two rulings have left some citizens free to use the drug as they wish and others are left facing prosecution.

“It used to be black and white: Pot’s illegal. Period,” said Kelso Police Chief Andy Hamilto. Now, he says, it’s “maybe” OK to grow and smoke pot.

The medical marijuana industry is currently estimated as a $2 billion industry. It is expected to reach nearly $9 billion in the next five years. That’s just about the same size as the dry cleaning industry and laundry service industry. Ed Orcutt, an 18th District State Representative, says that pot is slowly becoming more accepted by the public.

By opposing the medical marijuana industry, the federal government is passing up a chance raise taxes in one of the few areas where such actions would face little opposition by business owners.

A 2005 study by Jeffrey Miron, then a visiting economics professor at Harvard, concluded that government spending could be cut by nearly $8 billion and tax revenue increased by more than $6 billion if marijuana sales were legalized and taxed at the same rate as tobacco and alcohol. This would equal a $14 billion improvement in the government budget.

This surely seems like objectives that government officials should be striving for when introducing bills into Congress.

A number of marijuana advocates say that the public is starting to see eye to eye with the industry, saying that pot can provide more benefits to patients with fewer side effects than some of the highly addictive opiate pain killers that are currently available and legal. Now all that’s left is to get the government to join our perspective.

“You’re starting to see a generation or two of folks who may have at one point in their lives experimented with marijuana and so they have direct experience with it,” said 19th District Rep. Brian Blake, D-Raymond, who voted for the Legislature’s medical marijuana dispensary bill. “It’s almost become mainstream.”
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Operators and supporters of medical marijuana dispensaries in Los Angeles and elsewhere are having a difficult time doing business with their local banks. A number of banks have turned away these companies because they risk falling afoul of anti-money-laundering and drug-trafficking laws, according to International Business Times.
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The co-owner of Denver-based dispensary Alpine Herbal Wellness, Sue Harank, says that a number of her accounts have been closed at two separate banks and at credit union. Her shop has been open for business since March of 2010.

Our Los Angeles medical marijuana attorneys understand that owners and operators of these medical marijuana dispensaries have faced a number of obstacles and regulations from both the state and federal government. Now, with banks turning away their business, they’re forced to jump through even more hoops to provide their services to patients that rely on them for treatments.

“Both banks and the credit union pursued our business initially and said they had talked to the corporate office and run it through legal, but a month or two later they all reversed themselves,” said Harank.

The largest bank in the United States, Bank of America Corp, said that they started to withdraw their services from dispensaries after they received a warning from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration in late 2007 or early 2008.

Marijuana dispensaries in states that have legalized medical pot are all having a tough time getting assistance from banks and credit card companies. This issue will continue as federal authorities declare the medical marijuana business illegal.

It’s not just banks that are closing their doors on dispensaries. Credit card companies are also refusing service to the industry, even in states where medical marijuana is legal. These financial institutions report to just be operating in compliance with federal authority orders.

This pot business is estimated at $1.7 billion annually. In our state alone, the medical pot market size is estimated to be more than $1 billion.

“People have gotten their credit card accounts shut down without them even knowing it,” Harank says.

It’s not just operators in California that are experiencing this discrimination. A number of dispensary owners in various states, where marijuana has been legalized, have been hit by account shutdowns from a number of banks.

“They just summarily close accounts. Banks are very unsure if it’s OK to do business with medical cannabis organizations. It ripples out to credit card and merchant services accounts,” says Don Duncan, California director of the advocacy group Americans for Safe Access and a member of the board of the medical marijuana collective Los Angeles Patients and Caregivers Group in West Hollywood.
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