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'Pot vs Anaheim' Case May Set Precedent

And Oakland appears poised to pass America's first large-scale municipal pot farm ordinance.



California's balkanized approach to medical marijuana can mean profits or jail depending on where a patient lives. The most restrictive cities like Anaheim, Calif., have re-criminalized the drug, thereby setting up an appeals court showdown that's scheduled to end this week.

The Fourth Appellate District Division Three will issue its opinion of Qualified Patients v. Anaheim, capping a years-long appeal watched by thousands of patients, politicians, lawyers, and press. Qualified Patients' lawyer Anthony Curiale says cities cannot make growing and distributing medical marijuana illegal, because Prop. 215 and SB 420 took away the criminal penalties for doing so.

If the three-judge appellate court sides with Qualified Patients, and their reasoning is sound, it could set precedent used by lawyers across the state in battleground cities like Los Angeles, Costa Mesa, and San Jose. Anaheim City Attorney Moses W. Johnson said the city's ban has already stood up once in trial court, and if it loses on appeal, Anaheim could take it to the state Supreme Court.

The court also could rule in favor of Qualified Patients, but issue an unpublished opinion inapplicable to other cities, says Oakland lawyer Joseph Elford, counsel for Americans for Safe Access. "We're hoping it'll be a bellwether case, but there's no guarantee."

If Qualified Patients' appeal fails, California would simply become even more balkanized, says Curiale, with hard-line cities like San Leandro sending even more consumer dollars to cities like Oakland that tax and regulate the $14 billion a year agricultural product.

Oakland Pot Farms

The City of Oakland's pot farm regulations inched forward last week, setting the stage for a hearing at the full Oakland City Council. The city's first-ever municipal large-scale-cannabis-cultivation ordinance would push growers into two camps — non-permitted sites under 96 square feet and four, permitted large-scale enterprises with no limit in size. Opponents say the rules would eradicate mid-sized growers, but the council is expected to address that issue later this year. Proponents also note the city stands to make $38 million annually taxing the farms, and increase safety by cutting into on incidences of fires and crime from residential grows.

Prop. 19 News

The 200,000 strong United Food and Commercial Workers, Western States Council came out in support of Proposition 19 last week, further blurring party lines on the issue after US Senator Dianne Feinstein voiced her opposition. Feinstein suggests that if Prop. 19 passes, employers will have to permit workers peddling pot candy bars at the office, and Prop. 19 will prevent bus and trucking companies from requiring their drivers to be drug-free. Prop. 19 proponents say she's lying and case-law has already established an employers' right to a drug-free workplace. In other news, Prop. 19 is up 50 percent "yes" to 40 percent "no" in latest Survey USA poll, after a recent Field Poll had it trailing by four percent. The difference: Survey USA used automated calls and some pollsters suspect voters are lying to human callers.

Big Biz in Berkeley

The Berkeley City Council agreed to ask voters to approve a 2.5 percent tax on the city's marijuana outlets, three of which grossed a total of $19 million last year. "This is huge," Mayor Tom Bates told Business Week. Pot taxes will help close a $16.2 million budget gap using local business, Bates said. "We don't want to have Philip Morris coming in here, sucking up all the money," he added.

Say What?

The journal Pharmacology, Biochemistry and Behavior concludes chronic cannabis users show no cognitive impairment. Scientists found that near-daily smokers' overall performance accuracy on episodic memory and working memory tasks was not significantly altered by marijuana. However, occasional smokers show temporary deficits and other studies indicate cannabis may exacerbate schizophrenia onset in the roughly 10 percent of youths with a predisposition to the disease.

Seeds & Stems

Lab-made "synthetic marijuana" is now banned in eight states. Often called "K2", the designer drug's active ingredients are research-grade chemicals that can mimic the narcotic effects of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the active ingredient in marijuana. In a statement to The New York Times, the chemicals' inventor said the chemicals were not intended for human use, and could be toxic. One K2 user reportedly smoked it, said he was going to hell, found his parents' gun, and committed suicide. ... And mandatory drug testing of high schoolers, a huge privacy violation, does not reduce drug use, the US Department of Education found. Drug testing slightly reduced self-reported use among students engaged in extracurricular activities, but the study found no impact on students not involved in extracurricular activities. In both testing and non-testing schools, 36 percent of those students reported using a drug within the past month. Nor did the presence of drug testing programs have any impact on teens' plans to use drugs in the future. According to the study, 34 percent of tested students reported they "probably" or "definitely" will use drugs in the next year, compared to 33 percent of students in schools without testing.