A Top Shelf City Councilman in LA, But Where Do The Rest Stand? the420times October 31, 2012 420 Times Exclusives, Featured, Magazine Stories, Politics With a vote of 11 to 2 in favor of overturning its September 6 ban on dispensaries, City Council members, Jose Huizar and Joe Buscaino, proved they are the biggest opponents to medical marijuana, and that they are unwilling to work out a solution with their peers as to how to legislate dispensaries. Despite close to 50 thousand signed petitions from their constituents opposing the ban, Huizar and Buscaino have demonstrated their total indifference to patients. Recently, the City Council has had a change of heart — and have rescinded their ban on dispensaries in Los Angeles until they can come up with a new ordinance and regulation for medical marijuana storefronts in the city. Huizar claimed that most patients do not use cannabis for medical purposes, with absolutely no documentation to back up his claim. Press representatives for councilmen said they would be happy to set up interviews for this story. Conversely, the press representative for Councilman Jose Huizar, who spearheaded the September 6 ban, responded to The 420 Times with an email, stating, “He will not be available for an interview.” Huizar should be fair-minded enough to exchange dialogue with those that disagree with his policy. In an interview conducted immediately after the October 2 vote overturning the ban, still at City Hall as the session moved on to another issue, City Council President Herb Wesson told The 420 Times, “The vote count surprised me.” He reflected, “Going in, I believed that we had the sufficient number of votes, but I think maybe Mr. Rosendahl’s presence gave us additional votes.” Councilman Rosendahl’s presence was, indeed, meaningful in many ways. In recent months, he has been taking time off to battle cancer. Additionally, he is a medical marijuana patient. Rosendahl kept the room enrapt as he spoke of his using cannabis, as he urged his fellow councilmen to vote against the dispensary ban. When The 420 Times pointed out to Wesson that Rosendahl is representative of a large segment of cannabis patients, he responded, “I get that. This Council believes that there should be a number of these things (dispensaries) we can protect to the best of our ability. The reason why we voted on the ban was because at that point in time, that appeared to be the only thing that could be enforced. So that was a vote we didn’t want to take.” Wesson said, “But when you’ve got, I don’t even know how many of these things we have, maybe 800, a thousand, what have you. That’s just simply too many.” Does he see marijuana as medicine? He acknowledges, “I had three relatives that it helped relieve their pain from serious illnesses.” Wesson declined to reveal what was discussed in the Council’s closed session just before the vote. More legal wrangling will ensue subsequent to the Council’s vote to overturn their ban. “This has to be sorted out through the courts,” noted Wesson. “What we did today also was where we discuss that the federal attorney draft legislation that will be carried in Sacramento that will give us the ability to regulate these facilities, and at a number that is manageable.” One of the clauses included in the October 2 resolution he drafted was that that 420 patients’ letters should “be renewed on a quarterly basis.” Wesson says he wants to see physicians that recommend cannabis to be more supervised. “We want to try. There should be a standard, where it relates to the doctors giving individuals slips (recommendations). We don’t believe someone should say, ‘I have a hangnail. Give me a prescription.” “We also have concerns where it relates to some of the ingredients that are in the fertilizers that are used,” he said of testing standards. “I think patients should know when they go places that they are getting the type of product that is not harmful in some other way. When you have pesticides and things of this nature, I believe that’s a problem.” Unfamiliar with most of the workings of the 420 community, some Council members seem unfamiliar with the existence of labs like California Testing Authority labs that test for mold and chemicals. “You shouldn’t be able to go into a doctors office that has no knowledge at all about your history, and then he or she prescribes you a prescription,” Wesson argued. He predicts, “I anticipate that in Sacramento, they will be tweaking, well, no legislation is ever approved, looking like it did when it first went in. So they’ll have the conversation, and they’ll fix this in an appropriate fashion.” “So what I would like to do,” he says, “is have a big conversation in Sacramento where it relates to doing this.” All of the written stipulations will be drafted soon, he says. “As soon as the resolution is drafted, then the next job will be to find a credible legislative representative to carry it, one who has clout, and sway. Then it begins, probably as early as January.” Written by Wesson, part of the October 2 resolution includes limiting which medical conditions would qualify for medical marijuana use. It reads, “Licensed medical doctors providing recommendations would then be required to use the Board’s approved uses as a barometer for treatment, as they do with other legitimate medicines.” Wesson noted, “We do have some members that have concerns there. So what you do, is you incorporate all of this into the legislation, to ensure that it goes to a variety of committees and the state, and that each and every one of these aspects are discussed.” While being interviewed by The 420 Times, and offered the names of several illnesses that are clinically appropriate for treatment with medical marijuana, but that are not named on the list, Council President Wesson acknowledged, “I don’t think we have the where with all to write what this list should be. We should let the legislature do that.” The single dissenting vote against the Council’s September 6 meeting came from Councilman Dennis Zine, who argued for a less restrictive ordinance. “I support that we have a legitimate number of locations that are regulated, instead of the black market,” he said. Last year, Zine praised ASA last year for its efforts to protect safe access, and for supporting regulation. He cannot run for election again, due to term limits. Meanwhile, Eric Garcetti has been all over the road, at one point, telling patients to go take a bus ride to get their meds. In 2009, he told the L.A. Weekly, “It’s not like there’s a hospital every 1,000 feet. I believe in access. I believe people, our friends, our neighborhoods, our family members, who suffer from these diseases, should be able to have access. But I want to make sure it’s legitimate, that doctors are giving real prescriptions. I mean, that’s where the state/medical side of things needs to be much more aggressive. But, secondly, I don’t see that most of the people who need medical marijuana can’t get on a bus or get can’t in a car. So, for me, I’d like to see much bigger spaces.” This matters, because Garcetti will be running for mayor. Where does that “bus” leave patients suffering from cancer, MS, Parkinsons, neurological diseases, glaucoma, severe pain, severe injuries, epilepsy, and other illnesses that impact on mobility? For those that have to travel even a short distance, especially patients that get carsick while dosed with chemotherapy, the extra distance can have a huge impact. In session, Koretz said, “I do think we need to respect the will of the voters in passing Prop 215.” He then exemplified Mr. Rosenthal as “a legitimate patient.” Koretz revealed, “We know that since July, the City Attorney has worked on such an ordinance, and I have it here. We know we have an analysis draft, and we know there aren’t any more good excuses. We can have this heard on the agenda on October 25, and we can have this before the Council in the beginning of November.” Koretz asked that the ban be overturned, in favor of a “more appropriate and balanced approach.” Last year, Krekorian said he supported Prop M, taxation of medical marijuana. “It would turn the collectives into nonprofits and drop the price dramatically,” Koretz agreed, saying, “And dispensaries themselves are for it because it gives them some stability.” Councilman Tony Cardenas proposed a taxpayer funded, city-run, single dispensary. Noting that Los Angeles is home to millions of people, and that many extremely ill patients that are not well enough to wait in long, time-consuming, DMV-like lines for meds, it is clearly an unpractical idea. Cardenas will be term limited out. In 2009, Richard Alarcon told the Council, “I don’t have a fear of marijuana causing harm to society physically, and even mentally. I think that time will tell, we’ll eventually get there.” Alarcon will also be term limited out. On August 22, 2012, Councilman Bernard Parks, a former L.A. police chief, asked the District Attorney to enlist the D.E.A. to shut down the city’s dispensaries. He cannot run again, either. Jan Perry also has been vocal in her opposition to medical marijuana. In a motion last year, she and Parks asked the City Council to find legal ways to shut off access to medical marijuana. Perry is running for mayor in 2013. Mitchell Englander, like Parks, Huizar and Perry, says that patients should have to grow their own. This would be extremely difficult for many patients, especially those that are the most ill, and that cannot afford the pricey items needed for cultivating. It would be particularly difficult for those that depend on several strains, for various symptoms, ranging from nausea to pain. In Devonshire Division, Englander issued a newsletter addressing the September 6 ban, of which he stated, “The City Council on Tuesday, July 24 voted unanimously on the motion that I co-authored to ban all storefront marijuana shops in the City of Los Angeles. The ordinance would allow small groups of patients and their primary caregivers to grow medical marijuana on their own.” This “solution” is clearly unworkable for most patients. Meanwhile, Councilman Rosendahl has first-hand knowledge about the issue as a medical marijuana patient. He has been using cannabis for a decade for neuropathy, and more recently for his battle with bladder cancer. He told The 420 Times, “We did the 13 hits of radiation. It shrunk the tumors, started to dramatically impact the pain, and then for me, the joy of it all, was we went from a full day, seven at morning to seven at night, a huge amount of double chemos. At the same time, they had the nausea drugs, and they put them right in the bags. Then the following week, I went back again. But the for an afternoon, again they did the combo chemo, and they added another element, which is called a white blood cell reaction drug. So I came back the next day and had that injected in me. Then I went home.” Enthusiastically, he says, “I truly believe I have beat it, I will be the comeback kid, and an inspiration for everyone frankly, that knows me. Never give up hope.” “I believe, not only am I going to serve another term, but I’m going to live a lot longer. I believe there are other things the good Lord wants me to do, and I’m more than happy to do it,” he stated eagerly. “Now is (my) third term. I was able to walk in there, and do my work. I strongly believe after my next chemo, I will be finished with this game change. I am so happy to see the dynamic take place in my body. I am truly going to be the comeback kid,” he promises. Rosendahl told The 420 Times that as far as where he obtains his medical marijuana, “That’s an interesting question. I’ll tell you what happened. I walked into my doctor’s office, this was ten years ago. I was in the private sector. I wasn’t in government at the time. He did his analysis on me, and said, ‘Bill, I want to write to write a prescription for medical marijuana.” “I said, ‘You’re kidding.’ He said, ‘No. The neuropathy in your feet is treatable with marijuana. It will take the pain away, and it will be a dramatic game changer for the fact you have neuropathy,’ so he wrote a prescription for marijuana.” “This was before they had pot shops,” he remembers. “I wouldn’t take it all the time. I took it when I felt pain. Then all of a sudden, the pain would go away. The neuropathy would go away.” Rosendahl has long supported decriminalization, even before he had ever used medical marijuana. At first, he was concerned that his medical use of cannabis would be a problem for his support of it politically. “I’m now an elected official. I didn’t really think I could fight the battle for cannabis, as people would be confused and just say, ‘He’s just a pot head.’ And I’m not. I mean, anyone that has neuropathy that has diabetes should be able to get that support system, which is cannabis, and lessen their pain. If helps, it’s working,” he points out. Ironically, Councilman’s Rosendahl’s use of cannabis should give him more credibility, not less. He knows from first hand experience that it has medical value, and that it is not a gateway drug to hard drugs. He knows why his constituents that are cannabis patients need it. Rosendahl says that when the ban came, “I was outraged. I thought it was stupid, dumb.” He points out, “And by the way, I signed the petition that’s going to be on the ballot, and so did Paul Koretz We got enough signatures that they put this (dispensary ban) on hold.” “I’m going to tell you what’s going to happen,” he says with deep conviction. “The day will come when those people in Washington, who have been playing this tough on crime crap, will agree with me.” Why can’t all of his fellow Councilmen understand, or learn from Councilman Rosendahl’s experience? “It’s a federal law. The feds need to change the law,” says Rosendahl. “They need to agree with me, which my line is real clear.” He expresses his disgust about President Obama’s stating he would not use the DEA to shut down dispensaries, but then turning around and doing so. While Councilman Rosendahl has not spoken to Obama about this issue yet, he vows that he will. “When he gets re-elected, one of my goals will be to go to Washington, and explain to the members of House of Representatives that they’re destroying peoples’ lives.” “I don’t like all this energy by my cops closing things down, when I would rather they deal with crime, not something that’s a bad law,” he says. “What’s the problem with legalizing it? I mean, that’s where I come from,” he says without pause. “They should have courage back there, and say, ‘Well, this is no longer a no longer a tough on crime people. It’s costing us 70 billion a year,” he declares. “Show some guts. It’s a Washington issue.” “But I’ve been real clear, and I have been in every one of our sessions, I’m up for legalizing it, because it should be. It’s not a problem like alcohol or prescription drugs. But I will accept, at this point, the whole notion of grandfathering in those who have been playing by the rules, that hundred of them, or how many of them there are, and let that be. And take our energy with the police away from this issue,” he contends. “But for God’s sake, I signed that petition immediately. I’m convinced the voters will vote yes on that. And I just hate us spending so much money in our City Attorney’s office, and other places right now to do,” he says. Rosendahl blames the anti-dispensary climate that has permeated local politics on the federal government. “Talk about a fascist state, this is outrageous,” he says of the Obama administration. He is ecstatic about the referendum. “I was delighted to see that the people understood this out there, and I hope this passes. And then we can at least have this grandfathered group, and we can a deep breath.” It doesn’t end there for him. He adds, “Then the second thing I want to see is the feds get out of their tough schtick, and stop the whole damn thing. Because I don’t want to use my local cops that can deal with real crime, but then assisting with the Washington crowd that is crazy. So I’m hoping that when this goes up, that people like Henry Waxman, you know, people in the House finally get up, and say, ‘Look, who are we kidding here? What are we doing?’ And show some leadership. Because they have to change the law federally,” he emphasizes. Meanwhile, Councilman Ed Reyes is extremely guarded with his words. “I am very careful how I respond. I have been five years into working on this issue, almost six years. We started out with the premise, at least I did, that access to medication should be made available, especially for those people that are ill. That to me is a given.” Reyes blames some of the legal problems on the feds. “So what you have is a disconnect between the state and the federal government, which has put us in this circle where we are chasing our own tail. Because legally, we’re getting all these disconnected rulings at the court level, so it’s made it almost impossible for us to create an environment where people (that are) are ill can actually obtain their medication because they need it,” he says. “We do not have the controls to systematically hold decision makers in office accountable. We don’t have the controls to hold the doctors accountable, we don’t have controls to hold the people that are growing it accountable, we don’t have the controls to hold the people at the dispensaries accountable,” he states. Reyes says, “I need to emphasize this with you. I have so many storefronts opening and closing that I can’t even track them. By the time we track them down and try to address the negative impact that they are imposing in my communities, they move.” Reyes says teenagers getting access and crime in his district are the problems for him when it comes to dispensaries. “The way that kids are taking advantage of this due to the lack of enforcement, to me is the most immediate issue, because my neighborhoods I’ve been trying to work with, and trying to secure, are now deteriorating. I could take you to some of these places,” he offers. Despite that, he says, “My sense of urgency is trying to put the pieces back together for the people that really need it, and find that mechanism.” He adds, “But I also know if the federal government is not cooperating, if you will, with our state laws, or vice versa, we’re going to be half cocked in terms with what we can and can’t do, and people will continue to be vulnerable, and be exposed to penalties and laws that essentially are very hurtful.” “But also at the same time, we also pulled the trigger on identifying the pre-ICO establishments, so we could put together a process so that there is access for those that truly need it.” With the backdrop of the ban, The 420 Times also asked Councilman Reyes, “What would you say to Councilman Rosendahl, who is using cannabis in his fight for cancer?” Being that there had been suggestion made that patients should grow their own, or take a “bus” trip to get meds, in reference to Councilman Rosendahl, “Would you really want to say that to him?” “Well, the truth is, I think someone’s going to help him one way or another,” he responds. I begin to explain the difficulties involved. “I agree. I know what you’re saying,” he says. “No, no, I don’t want to sound so callous.” He adds, “You don’t know how hard I’ve worked to make sure people have access. I do care about them. That’s why I’ve tried real hard with land use laws to put this into place. And I was undermined by the federal courts and the state courts.” “I am not giving up. We need to find a way to create access so that these very shoe-in cases, real people that are really hurting. We have to find that opening. We have to find that access point. I’m not going to give up on that.” Reyes contends, “But unfortunately, we have a City Attorney that says, ‘We have to do it this way in order to keep moving forward.” As far as the petition drive, “It tells me what I already know. The people want this,” says Reyes. “Absolutely. Yes. They’ve been wanting this for the past 50 years.” As far as the growers, Reyes says, “In my mind it’s the gang members that supply it anyway.” When I mention legitimate, non-gang affiliated growers, Reyes says, “In my neighborhoods, they don’t exist. They don’t want to live here in my neighborhoods.” “I’ll tell you this, I don’t take this lightly.” He points out, “Until we get a city attorney who is in a place where we can facilitate an environment that speaks to security for patients, as opposed to just reading things black and white, it’s going to be hard.” “So I’m going to keep pushing. I’m not going to give up. I’ve got nine months left. I’m term limited out. But I also have faith that putting in a parallel track for all the Pre-ICOs,” he says. Do your elected officials they support your right as a medical patient to having safe and legal access to your meds? If not, vote them out. Not bothering to vote is equivalent to letting those that want to ban the dispensaries make your medical decisions for you.