Posted by Don Duncan
UPDATE May 19: Reacting to fears of litigation costs, the Assembly Committee on Appropriations placed AB 2650 in suspense today – a status for bills which may have a significant fiscal impact. The committee could hear the bill again, along with other suspense bills, next week. The staff report published by committee staff referred to litigation by ASA in Los Angeles as an example of fiscal impact of the bill.
I testified that AB 2650 was unnecessary and did nothing to protect public safety. I urged the committee to leave local land use decision with cities and counties where they belong. Aaron smith from Marijuana Policy Project and a patient from a Sacramento collective also spoke in opposition to the bill. The bill’s author, law enforcement lobbyists, and Republicans on the committee argued that collectives “targeted” children with flyers promoting medical cannabis and were opening near schools.
On Tuesday, the California Assembly Committee on Public Health will discuss AB 2650, bill that would require that medical cannabis collectives, cooperatives, and growers be located at least 1,000 feet away from a laundry list of “sensitive uses” everywhere in the state. The bill was introduced unexpectedly this week by Assembly Member Joan Buchanan (D-Alamo). AB 2650 is sponsored by the Peace Officers Research Association of California (PORCA), a law enforcement lobby organization that opposes medical cannabis, and mirrors a controversial ordinance recently adopted in the City of Los Angeles.
ASA opposes AB 2650, and we are calling on our members in California to tell their Assembly representatives on the committee to vote no. Find out if your Assembly representative is on the Public Health Committee, and tell him or her to oppose AB 2650!
AB 2650 requires legal collectives and cooperatives to be located more than 1,000 feet from schools, parks, libraries, places of worship, child care facilities, youth centers, drug treatment centers, and other collectives or cooperatives. This is unnecessary to protect public welfare, and will make finding a location for a legal collective or cooperative unduly burdensome in most jurisdictions. It also serves to usurp the authority of city and county government to make ordinary land use decisions based on the local circumstances.
ASA is the nation’s largest organization of patients, medical professionals, scientists and concerned citizens promoting safe and legal access to cannabis for therapeutic use and research. We work in partnership with state, local and national legislators to overcome barriers and create policies that improve access to cannabis for patients and researchers. Crime statistics and the accounts of local officials surveyed by ASA indicate that crime is actually reduced by the presence of a collective; and complaints from citizens and surrounding businesses are either negligible or are significantly reduced with the implementation of local regulations.
In Oakland, where collectives have been licensed since 2004, City Administrator Barbara Killey, notes that “The areas around the dispensaries may be some of the safest areas of Oakland now because of the level of security, surveillance, etc…since the ordinance passed.” In the City of Los Angeles, Police Chief Charlie Beck told reporters and the City Council that the claim that patients’ associations attract crime “doesn’t really bear out.” In fact, the overall crime rate in Los Angeles dropped during the proliferation of collectives and cooperatives in that city. Given that effective local regulations address public safety concerns, there is no public safety rationale for a statewide policy keeping collectives and cooperatives away from sensitive uses.
This is not just an issue of public safety. Most of California’s legal medical cannabis patients rely on dispensing collectives or cooperatives to obtain the doctor-recommended medicine they need to treat the symptoms of HIV/AIDS, cancer, Multiple Sclerosis, chronic pain, and other serious illnesses. These patients’ associations are legal under California law, and California Attorney General Jerry Brown published guidelines in August 2008 that state “a properly organized and operated collective of cooperative that dispenses medical marijuana through a storefront may be lawful under California law,” provided the facility substantially complies with the guidelines. It is already hard enough to find a location for a legally organized and operated medical cannabis association. AB 2650 will make this task even more difficult – thus diminishing safe and legal access to medicine in communities statewide.
A restriction like that imposed by AB 2650 may be motivated by a misunderstanding about the state law concerning patients’ associations or by ambivalence about medical cannabis use in general. ASA calls on members of the Public Safety Committee to look past the stigma that sometimes underlies the debate about medical cannabis regulations, and to vote no on AB 2650 – a bill that is unnecessary for public welfare, interferes in local regulation, and is harmful to legal medical cannabis patients.
Find out if your Assembly representative is on the Public Safety Committee and what you can do to help.