Published : Monday, November 30, 2015 | 11:53 AM
I attended a Pasadena City Council meeting on November 23rd where a staff recommendation was passed to “Direct the City Attorney to prepare and return with an ordinance within 30 days adding new sections to Chapter 8 of the Pasadena Municipal Code that prohibit the cultivation and delivery of medical marijuana in the City.” The Council also agreed that the Public Safety Committee will look at the issue of the dangers of unregulated marijuana delivery services in Pasadena within the next year.
So the question on many people’s minds was why would staff members recommended to prohibit rather than enact regulations to provide safe access to medical marijuana? It is just as easy, maybe easier, to provide safe access through a properly drafted ordinance, as it is prohibit unsafe deliveries in the city. A prohibitory ordinance will not stop illegal delivery; but it does close the door to giving the citizens of Pasadena any option of local safe access. Search high and low, no patient will find safe access to their medical marijuana in the city. Though there are patients in Pasadena, the council does not care what kind of products these patients are receiving at their doorsteps. The prolific illegal business activity in the city related to medical marijuana is simply a result of “supply and demand”. There are medical marijuana patients in the city and patients order delivery service of their medical marijuana, because the city has not permitted venues in its borders. The late Dr. Barnes, who used to see medical marijuana patients in his office on Green Street, told me that a sizable number of his patients were senior citizens or at least over fifty years old. And I wonder: where can these seniors and their families gain safe access to medical marijuana locally? What if they are too sick to drive?
So, let us focus on this term: “safe access”. In this context, safe access means we know the source of the medical marijuana Californian’s are using. We know the business owners – they have gone through a rigorous application process. We know how and where the marijuana was cultivated and under what conditions it was grown. We know the marijuana has been tested for pesticides, molds or other undesirable, even dangerous, substances. We know where edible products were produced and under what conditions. We know what species or strains are being used. Pasadena even has a professional marijuana testing laboratory in it, making access to testing marijuana easier than in other cities. So why did the Pasadena City Council, including the Public Safety Committee, vote against safe access to its residents? The decision to deny safe access does not promote public safety.
A little background on the state of the law in California: On October 9, 2015, California’s Governor Brown signed into law the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act (“MMRSA”). This Act anticipates a robust scheme of commercial cannabis business activity in the state. MMRSA creates seventeen types of business licenses for which medical marijuana patient business owners can apply. The Act appears to be prepared in anticipation of a vote for recreational marijuana in California during the November 2016 elections. In August 2008, Governor Brown (then Attorney General), enacted GUIDELINES FOR THE SECURITY AND NON-DIVERSION OF MARIJUANA GROWN FOR MEDICAL USE. Citing from the guidelines “In 1996, California voters approved an initiative that exempted certain patients and their primary caregivers from criminal liability under state law for the possession and cultivation of marijuana. In 2003, the Legislature enacted additional legislation relating to medical marijuana.”
One of those statutes required the Attorney General to adopt “guidelines to ensure the security and non-diversion of marijuana grown for medical use.” (Health & Safety Code,§ 11362.81(d) .1) To fulfill this mandate the Attorney General’s Office issued guidelines “to (1) ensure that marijuana grown for medical purposes remains secure and does not find its way to non-patients or illicit markets, (2) help law enforcement agencies performance their duties effectively and in accordance with California law, and (3) help patients and primary caregivers understand how they may cultivate, transport, possess, and use medical marijuana under California law.”
These actions by Governor Brown represent progressive leadership, and a leader that both respects California voters and understands Californians. On the issue of medical marijuana, California became the first state to vote in its favor. After the voters had spoken, further laws and guidelines were necessary in order to facilitate Californian’s acceptance of medical marijuana, which is meant to improve the quality of life of persons who suffer various types of ailments.
California’s Health and Safety Code § 11362.5., The Compassionate Use Act of 1996 states, “The people of the State of California hereby find and declare that the purposes of the Compassionate Use Act of 1996 are as follows:
(A) To ensure that seriously ill Californians have the right to obtain and use marijuana for medical purposes where that medical use is deemed appropriate and has been recommended by a physician who has determined that the person’s health would benefit from the use of marijuana in the treatment of cancer, anorexia, AIDS, chronic pain, spasticity, glaucoma, arthritis, migraine, or any other illness for which marijuana provides relief.”
Many doctors believe in alternative medicines instead of, or in conjunction with, prescription medications. Similarly, many patients prefer holistic, or “alternative medicine” because prescription medications are costly, there are concerns related to addiction, and many find the potential side-effects undesirable. Finally, many baby – boomers taking care of elderly parents, prefer the effectiveness of marijuana for their aging parents, as opposed to prescription medicines, because it adds to their quality of life and the quality of life of the family. The next obvious issue is then, where can patients and their families obtain safe medical marijuana.
Pasadena is reprehensive of a city that needs to seriously re-visit the issue of “public safety” and “public health”. Just because a city can prohibit, does not mean they should. And for the council member who stated in the December 23rd meeting that marijuana is “federally prohibited so we should follow the law”, it is doubtful that Governor Brown and California’s legislative leaders are losing sleep over the laws that passed in October. They are not worrying about federal prosecution – because the federal government has actually encouraged these laws be written. Though imperfect, they are responsible laws that protect California citizens, because they regulate, and provide a map for safe access.
Los Angeles County has provided safe access to its city – Pasadena has access therefore to the knowledge of how to regulate marijuana. Counties are created to be state agents. A major function of a county is to assist the state in administrating state programs. Counties were created to advance state policies in areas which include social well-fair. Wilkinson v Lund (1929) 102 CA 767, 772. “All the people of the state are equally interested in the enforcement of law and order by every county, the administration of justice therein, the conduct of official business, the preservation of public health,… the support of the old and helpless…”Wilkinson v Lund . Cities are created as instruments of local selfgovernment for the residents of cities under uniform procedures established by the legislature. Cal. Const. art XI, §2; Govt Code §56000 et seq.
These obligations beg the question why so many public servants, counties, and cities, choose not to support California’s Legislature, when laws have been implemented for public safety and for public health purposes. The California legislature has enacted new laws precisely because these leaders understand what is in the best interest of Californians as a whole. The official business of regulation of medical marijuana is an act in favor of public health and public safety.
Michele Brooke, founder of Brooke Law Group, has a wide range of legal experience based on over ten years of law firm experience. In addition to a wide variety of legal practice areas, Brooke Law Group practices in the specialty area of what is now being called “Cannabusiness” law; providing California cannabusiness entrepreneurs with a wide range of business and consulting services and litigation services, when necessary. See ca-cannabusiness-lawgroup.com. Michele Brooke is a conscientious professional, dedicated to providing excellent legal services at a competitive price.
Attorney Brooke is a member of the Pasadena Bar Association, the Los Angeles County Bar Association, NORML.org, Americans for Safe Access, The Esquire Network, the Pasadena Chamber of Commerce, the Pasadena Rotary Club and the American Herbal Products Association Cannabis and Sports Nutrition committees. Additionally, she is an adjunct professor at Pasadena City College and a member of the advisory board for the Pasadena City College ABA certified Paralegal Program.