Baby Steps

In Los Angeles and at home, medical-marijuana dispensaries score small victories

The medical-marijuana wheels are turning ever so slowly, creeping along at a pitiful snail's pace, leaving a bit of confusion about where exactly we are headed. Events in Cali and Arizona seem on the surface to be good news—but might not be in the end.


The Arizona Department of Health Services posted some forms in recent days that may or may not grease the skids for dispensaries to open.

In a lottery more than a month ago, the state picked about 100 potential dispensary operators. The operator certificates cleared the way for the winners to get state inspections and register employees to work in more than 100 MMJ stores statewide. Although some of the operators were ready to pull the trigger—buildings are ready; inventory is available; plans are in place—the state did not release the forms needed to register employees as dispensary agents.

No forms, no employees. No employees, no dispensaries.

Last week, the state finally posted the forms, so, in theory, the dispensary agents can now be cleared, and dispensaries can apply for approval to open. It remains unclear what the state will do. Attorney General Tom Horne has made it clear that he is opposed to the dispensaries, but the DHS has continued to creep toward an opening day that may or may not materialize.

We'll see.


Woofuckinhoo. I think.

Maybe that's a little too exuberant for the occasion, but it's good news that the city of Los Angeles has decided to back off an earlier plan to shutter more than 700 storefront dispensaries.

In July, the City Council approved a ban that was to take effect last Thursday. But a funny thing happened on the way to the dispensary ban: People got pissed about it. Medical MJ proponents immediately raised the alarm and started collecting signatures for a referendum to block the city's so-called "gentle ban" ordinance, which would have allowed patients and caregivers to exchange meds in small groups, but would not allow the city's 700-plus storefronts. The council also agreed to return later to approve fewer dispensaries—about 100, the same number that was in place when the city attempted a ban a few years ago.

On Aug. 31, more than 50,000 signatures opposing the ban were presented to the city, which will now spend a few weeks reviewing the petitions before deciding how to proceed, according to a statement from City Attorney Carmen A. Trutanich.

"The ordinance may or may not remain suspended after the review," she wrote, adding a shot across the bow of dispensary operators: "The business of medical marijuana continues to be an unpermitted land use in the city."

On the surface, this all sounds like pretty good news, but my feelings about dispensaries are complicated. It's like dating a girl when the sex is awesome, but the conversation lags. I'm still trying to decide exactly how good the sex is, and how bad the conversation is. Dispensaries seem to attract attention—maybe too much attention. If cities and federal agents and counter-narcotics alliances are going to keep busting them apart with jackboots and papering them over with ordinances, maybe we should abandon that route.

No one is busting the caregivers and patients who are quietly exchanging meds in hundreds of homes across the state. If we could all just get along, dispensaries would be awesome. But if people who work there are going to get arrested, and doors kicked in, and "evidence" stolen by SWAT officers, maybe we should all just be satisfied with under-the-radar caregiver exchanges.


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