Medicinal pot advocates speak up
July 8, 2009
Dozens of medical marijuana advocates showed up at the South Lake Tahoe City Council meeting on Tuesday, but the council did not discuss what action to take against the city’s three medical marijuana collectives.
In a memorandum to the City Council dated July 7, city attorneys Jacqueline Mittelstadt and Patrick Enright asked for direction on how the city should proceed regarding police action against the three medical marijuana providers that have opened in the city in the past year.
Giving notice of when police would begin actions against the collectives wasn’t necessary, but would ensure fairness, according to the memo.
An item on how the city should move forward with enforcement measures against the three collectives was put on the agenda following the memorandum.
On Tuesday, the item was pulled from the agenda by council members, who did not discuss or take action on the item.
It’s unclear how the council’s action will effect potential police action against the collectives, which received an outpouring of support from attendees at Tuesdays’ meeting.
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“We’re not criminals. We’re patients and we want to work with the cities,” said Ken Estes, founder of Patient to Patient Collective in South Lake Tahoe.
Estes has started numerous medical marijuana dispensaries throughout California, and said he doesn’t understand the resistance from the city at a time when the Obama administration has signaled it would no longer bust dispensaries that are in compliance with state laws.
“It’s not a fluke, it’s real,” Estes told the council. “Please help us obtain our medicine.”
Outside the meeting, South Shore resident Brian Spencer said marijuana has been the only treatment that’s eased the anxiety attacks and persistent facial pain he has suffered following a vicious assault in 2004.
Getting robbed is one of several threats medical marijuana users encounter when their chosen treatment isn’t available legally, Spencer said.
“We have to have this,” Spencer said. “They can’t take this away.”
The memo from the city attorneys does not include specific allegations against the South Lake Tahoe collectives, but cited numerous legal precedents for potential police action against the medical marijuana providers, and noted most storefront dispensaries fail to meet the requirements of California law, according to the Police Officer’s Association White Paper.
Tahoe Wellness Collective spokesman Cody Bass blasted the memo on Tuesday, contending the legal claims from the attorneys are “completely misleading.”
The White Paper was written by a “cynical anti-medical marijuana lobbyist,” Bass added.
Action against the collectives would result in an “unwinnable lawsuit,” Bass said, setting off a loud round of applause from much of the packed house on Tuesday.
The audience was scolded by Mayor Jerry Birdwell for the ovation.
“No further outbreaks or we will call this to an end,” Birdwell said.
Representatives of each of the city’s three collectives said they are within the bounds of state law and will stick together if enforcement actions come down against them.
But to many at the meeting, the medical marijuana issue in South Lake Tahoe is more than a battle over interpreting legal statutes.
Marijuana has been healthier and more effective than the combination of 17 daily pills doctors prescribed to treat South Shore resident Eric Gordon’s epilepsy, said Ellen Gordon, Eric’s wife and caretaker. Marijuana works faster and more effectively than the pills and could prevent the seizure that might one day take Eric’s life, Gordon said outside Tuesday’s meeting.
“There is a human side to this,” Ellen Gordon said.