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Judge Rules Harborside Can Stay Open While City of Oakland Fights Feds

July 4th

SAN FRANCISCO, CA — A medical marijuana dispensary billed as the world’s largest cannabis store may stay open while the city of Oakland fights a U.S. government effort to shut it down or seize the property, a federal judge ruled on Wednesday in an ongoing tug-of-war in Caifornia between federal authorities and the medical marijuana industry.

In February, Magistrate Maria-Elena James, the same judge who issued the ruling on Wednesday, said the city had no right to intervene in a federal prosecutor’s civil-forfeiture action against the Harborside Health Center, which was previously featured on the Discovery Channel reality TV show “Weed Wars.”

The city appealed the ruling, and James’s latest order allows the dispensary to continue to sell medical marijuana to individuals carrying a doctor’s recommendation while the appeal is under review.

James called the question of Oakland’s legal standing in the case “a matter of significant public interest.”

Attorney Cedric Chao, who is representing . . . . . READ MORE

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City of Berkeley Fights Federal Action to Seize Medical Marijuana Dispensary

July 3rd

BERKELEY, CA – The City of Berkeley filed a claim Wednesday in the action brought by the federal government in May to seize the property used by Berkeley Patients Group at 2366 San Pablo Avenue in Berkeley, California.  Berkeley Patients Group has been providing medical marijuana to patients within the City since 1999.  It is in full compliance with the City of Berkeley’s medical marijuana ordinance, regulations, and zoning laws.

U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag of the Northern District of California has used federal asset forfeiture laws to target and close numerous medical marijuana dispensaries, even when those dispensaries have long track records of working with the cities in which they are located, responsibly providing medical marijuana to patients, and complying with state and local law.

The city’s claim was filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. In its claim, the City asserts that the closure of Berkeley Patients Group will harm the City through the loss of substantial revenue.  Berkeley Patients Group has paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to the City in taxes over the years.  The federal government’s action also undermines the City’s comprehensive plan to regulate and control medical marijuana, which was designed and implemented to positively impact the health and well-being of all Berkeley residents and to which the City has devoted a significant amount of time and resources.

The claim, filed on Ju. . . . . READ MORE

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Seattle Medical Marijuana Dispensary to Provide Grow Space Construction Services

July 2nd

SEATTLE, WA – Safe Access, a medical marijuana dispensary located in West Seattle, has recently announced that they will begin providing grow room construction services for medical cannabis patients in the greater Seattle area who wish to grow their own medicine.

According to their website, “Safe Access is committed to making the lives of medical patients more comfortable, so to this end we have launched a new construction and consulting service to help patients cultivate their own cannabis medicines.”

Safe Access was founded in 2013 and is located on Delridge Avenue across the West Seattle Bridge from downtown Seattle. Their stated mission is to provide “quality-controlled and affordable medication to medical cannabis patients, to ensure that patients receive the best medicine for each individual’s condition.”

A representative of the dispensary wrote, “Under Washington State medical marijuana law, patients with valid recommendations from their physicians are able to grow a certain number of cannabis plants. They may also work together to form growing collectives. At Safe Access, we are able to assist with any type of growing construction project conducted in accordance with state law. From small personal grows to cooperative growing facilities, we have the technical experience and expertise to optimize production and maximize efficiency.”

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CA Medical Marijuana Dispensary Numbers Shrink in Two-Pronged Attack

June 30th

LOS ANGELES, CA — California medical marijuana dispensaries — and their patients — are under a sustained, two-pronged attack, and that is having a dramatic impact on patient access across the state. Under pressure from the federal government on one hand and newly-emboldened local officials on the other, dispensary numbers are shrinking and ever larger swathes of the state that legalized medical marijuana nearly 17 years ago are without anywhere to get medical marijuana.

Anyone who is following the situation in the Golden State at all closely has seen a numbing litany of reports of dispensaries forced out of business, including from some of the most venerable, respected, and law-abiding operations in the state.

What had been the occasional raid or prosecution by the DEA or federal prosecutors during the early years of the Obama administration has turned into a heightened onslaught since the issuance of the notorious Cole memo, written by Assistant Attorney General James Cole, two years ago next week and the announcement by California’s four US Attorneys that fall that they were declaring open season on dispensaries.

And while recalcitrant city and county law enforcement and elected officials had managed to make access to medical marijuana a pat. . . . . READ MORE

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Oregon Senate Committee Tweaks Medical Marijuana Dispensary Bill

June 30th

SALEM, OR — A committee in the Oregon Senate has amended a House-approved bill that would expand the state’s medical marijuana program to license and regulate medical marijuana dispensaries statewide.

Two significant changes were made to the bill Saturday by the Senate Committee on Rules following concerns voiced from the Oregon District Attorneys Association, who changed their position on the bill from “opposed” to “neutral” after the changes were made.

In the original bill, anyone with two or more prior convictions for distribution or manufacturing a controlled substance in the state of Oregon would be prohibited from operating a dispensary. Under the changes made Saturday, the restrictions were expanded to apply to anyone with one prior conviction, regardless of where that conviction took place.

The other significant change was the elimination of a provision included in the original bill that limited the criminal liability of existing medical marijuana dispensaries in the state if they are prosecuted before the new law takes effect.

Medical marijuana dispensaries already exist in Oregon, but are operating in a legal grey area.  The O. . . . . READ MORE

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New Jersey’s Only Medical Marijuana Dispensary Temporarily Closed

June 29th

MONTCLAIR, NJ — The only operating medical marijuana dispensary in New Jersey, Montclair’s Green Leaf Compassion Center, announced Friday that they are closing for about two weeks due to a shortage of medical quality marijuana.

New Jersey’s medical marijuana program has been heavily criticized for being overly restrictive, and has gotten off to a painfully slow start.  Three years after approving dispensaries in the state, Greenleaf Compassion Center remains the only open dispensary, and is only serving limited patients in the northern part of the state.

Now, because of New Jersey’s restrictive medical marijuana regulations, among which require dispensaries to grown their own cannabis and can carry only three strains at a time, the state’s only open dispensary must close for about two weeks to replenish their supply.

The closure comes as a result of a recent crop being deemed “inferior” by dispensary operators, who say they lost about ten percent of their limited supply of marijuana this month.

“We need another two weeks, perhaps,” says Greenleaf Chief Operating Officer Julio Valentin. “We are trying to build our supply up so we never have to close again. We are living harvest to harvest.”

“We continue to be focused on doing everything we can to service as many patients as possible while working in a highly regulated industry,” added Joe Steve. . . . . READ MORE

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CA: Bakersfield Bans Medical Marijuana Dispensaries

June 28th

BAKERSFIELD, CA – The Bakersfield city council voted 4-0 this week to ban all medical marijuana dispensaries in the city, giving local law enforcement the power to close the existing dispensaries beginning in about a month.

City Attorney Ginny Gennaro says that under the ban, approved Wednesday, medical marijuana dispensaries will not be required to close overnight. Instead, the ordinance prohibits their operation in all zones of the city, from residential to industrial.

Actual enforcement of the ban, Gennaro says, will vary depending upon the situation, but investigations into dispensaries will initiated by complaints.

The city’s Code Enforcement Department will investigate the zoning violations with the aid of the Police Departmetn.

The ordinance makes closing dispensaries a civil matter, not a criminal one, unless crimes are found to have occurred at a dispensary.

Gennaro said it is not his intention to criminally prosecute, or even issue a fine, to medical marijuana dispensaries operating in the city after the ban goes into affect.  Enforcement efforts will concentrate on simply closing the business.

City officials estimate that there are about a dozen medical marijuana dispensaries currently operating in the city.

Marijuana advocates say they won’t petition against the ban because there’s not enough time and it’s too expensive, estimating it would cost between $50,o00 and $60,000 to attempt to place the mea. . . . . READ MORE

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Hawaii Governor Signs Medical Marijuana Program Improvement Bills

June 27th

HONOLULU, HI —  Democratic Hawaii Governor Neil Abercrombie signed two separate measures into law Tuesday to amend and improve the state’s 13-year-old medical marijuana program.

House Bill 668 transfers the administration of the state’s medicinal cannabis program from the Department of Public Safety to the Department of Public Health. It also establishes a special fund for the program within the state treasury.

House Bill 642 increases the quantity of medical cannabis that may be possessed by qualified patients from three ounces to four ounces. The measure also increases the total number of mature plants that may be legally grown by qualified patients at any one time from three to seven.

A separate provision added to SB 642 in conference committee places potential limits on which physicians may be eligible to recommend cannabis, though this provision is expected to be further debated in the 2014 legislative session.

Stated Vanessa Chong, Executive Director of the ACLU of Hawaii, which was a primary advocate for the bills: “In 2000, Hawaii led the nation as the . . . . . READ MORE

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Oregon Medical Marijuana Dispensary Bill Heads to Senate

June 26th

SALEM, OR – A bill that would create a registry of medical marijuana outlets and help legitimate the state’s thriving medical marijuana industry passed a major hurdle Monday, winning approval in the House. The bill, House Bill 3460, now goes to the state Senate.

The bill passed the House 31 to 27 on a near party-line vote Monday. All Republicans opposed it, and all Democrats but two supported it.

The Oregon Medical Marijuana Act (OMMA) allows patients to grow their own medicine or have someone else to it for them. But many patients have complained that they can grow marijuana themselves, can’t find a reliable grower, and have to either do without or resort to the black market.

In the past few years, dispensaries have opened up to serve patient needs, but they have operated in a grey area since the OMMA did not specifically provide for them. That has led to differences in access to medical marijuana based on the attitudes of local officials.

In Multnomah County (Portland), for example, medical marijuana outlets have been largely tolerated, but providers have been raided in less tolerant areas of th. . . . . READ MORE

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Vermont’s First Two Medical Marijuana Dispensaries Now Open

June 25th

BURLINGTON, VT — Two years after the Vermont legislature approved the expansion of the state’s medical marijuana program to allow four dispensaries statewide, the first two have opened in Burlington and Montpelier.  A third is expected to open soon in Brandon.

The two dispensaries, Champlain Valley Dispensary in Burlington, which opened Monday, and Vermont Patients Alliance, which opened last week in Montpelier, were both awarded licences by the by the state Department of Public Safety nine months ago.

Because of “unexpected hurdles” in the strictly regulated program, the dispensaries are just now opening.

The Vermont Legislature passed Senate Bill 17 in May 2011, paving the way for the dispensaries to open in the state. Strict guidelines regulating the medical marijuana dispensaries were written by the Vermont Department of Public Safety, who also oversee the Vermont State Police, and were carefully written to help prevent federal interference in the state’s medical marijuana program.

The rules mandate background FBI checks for dispensary operators, significant video security and one-at-a-time appointment-only service at the d. . . . . READ MORE

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