Thursday, November 19, 2009

L.A. District Attorney Says City Councils Have 'No Authority' Over Medical Pot

D.A. Steve Cooley (left) and City Attorney Carmen Trutanich: They'll keep busting dispensaries no matter what the City Council says!

By Steve Elliott in Chronic City

It was a petulant fit of pique, certainly entertaining, and potentially hilarious -- if safe access for so many medical marijuana patients weren't hanging in the balance.

After things didn't go his way at Monday's Los Angeles City Council joint committee meeting, District Attorney Steve Cooley pronounced Tuesday that he'd keep prosecuting medical marijuana dispensaries, even if the council adopts an ordinance that doesn't ban sales. Cooley said his office was already prosecuting some dispensaries, and he promised to step up such efforts in December.

The D.A.'s public meltdown was a result of his frustration that the council ignored the advice of L.A. City Attorney Carmen Trutanich and changed a provision in L.A.'s proposed medical marijuana ordinance, allowing cash transactions as long as they complied with state law.

"The City Council has no authority to amend state law or Prop. 215. Such authority is solely possessed by California voters," Cooley said. "What the City Council is doing is beyond meaningless and irrelevant."

It was a richly ironic little hissy fit, given that drama king Cooley just handed pot advocates one of their best arguments in the unfolding culture war between those who insist on the lawful implementation of Proposition 215, California's medical marijuana law, and those asserting, damn it, all weed sales are illegal, medical or not.

"Undermining these laws via their ordinance powers is counterproductive, and quite frankly, we're ignoring them," sputtered a tantrum-prone Cooley. "They are absolutely so irrelevant it's not funny."

The revelation that city councils are "irrelevant" and can't "undermine" the state's medical marijuana law will certainly come as encouraging news to dispensary operators in Gilroy and at least 130 other cities statewide which have banned dispensaries outright. Eight counties (Amador, Contra Costa [ban leaves one dispensary open], El Dorado, Madera, Merced, Riverside, Stanislaus, and Sutter) have dispensary bans in place. In addition, at least 64 more cities and six counties (Madera, Nevada, Tulare, San Bernardino, Placer, and San Diego) have dispensary moratoriums in place, by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy's count (ONDCP numbers and "facts" are always suspect).

At this point, L.A. City Council Members are probably wondering why they've spent four years and a ton of taxpayer money wrestling with this issue, given Cooley's new position that the city council has "no authority" to amend Prop. 215.

Read the rest at Chronic City in the SF Weekly blog, "The Snitch": Chronic City: L.A. District Attorney Says City Councils Have 'No Authority' Over Medical Pot

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