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L.A. Confidential: City Funds Go Up In Smoke

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Los Angeles City Council Wastes Major Tax Dollars In Their Efforts To Interfere With L.A. Medical Patients' Access To Their Medications

By Phyllis Pollack

The Los Angeles City Council's decision to ignore the fact that the majority of their constituents support the use of medical marijuana, and its availability through legitimately run medical marijuana dispensaries, is already costing the financially depleted city thousands of dollars.

The City Council's financial throwaway has already begun to take effect, even before their ban has shut down any dispensaries.

The Council's anti-patient political move irrefutably demonstrates gross fiscal negligence, and a vast waste of money and resources on their part.

While the City Council's members are happy to shut off the millions of dollars in tax revenues that have been coming into the city's financially strapped coffers from medical marijuana dispensaries, there are other fiscal ramifications, directly emanating from their senseless decision.

Spearheaded by Councilman Jose Huizar, their September 6 ban is nothing less than yet another financial drain on a depressed economy in a city that in May, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported with 10.2% unemployment. With California's 10.8% jobless rate, only two states have a higher unemployment rate than CA.

The City Council is hoping to increase the number of Los Angeles residents that are on unemployment by the thousands, as a direct result of shutting down these establishments.

Ironically, the city's tab will also increase, due to the exponential cost of the City Council enlisting the LAPD's involvement in helping to force medical patients to purchase their meds from gang members.

When the Los Angeles City Council voted for a ban on medical marijuana collectives and dispensaries on June 24, they certainly knew there would be a major legal battle ensuing immediately. They were keenly aware of the pricy legal expenses that the City of Los Angeles and its taxpayers would be paying as a result of their witless decision to coerce medical patients into buying marijuana from shady drug dealers on the streets, instead of purchasing them from reputable dispensaries.

While waging their war against medical patients, the City Council has also been conscious of the obvious fact that their ill conceived decision to ban medical marijuana dispensaries will end up in a referendum on the ballot.

In response to the City Council's ban, approximately 50 thousand signatures were turned in by advocates. The petition drive opposing the City Council's decision only lasted nine days. It was started on August 11.

Of the 50 thousand signatures generated, only 27,480 of the signatures need to be valid. Kimberly Briggs, who serves as the media specialist for the Los Angeles City Clerk's office, told The 420 Times that the L.A. City Council's ban on dispensaries will be suspended once the petitions are submitted to the City Clerk's office.

As a result of this, "The ban will not be enforced," she emphasized. It will disempower the September 6 ban.

Briggs commented, "Once we receive the petition with the signatures on it, we have to do an official count first."

As far as how long it will take to verify the signatures, Briggs says, "It depends on the workload at the office, what time the petition is submitted, and when we start. So there is no guarantee specifically, as to when we start counting."

"But we do have fifteen calendar days to start verifying the signatures," she confirms. She explains that it is fifteen days when the City Clerk verifies a random sampling. However, if their office decides to verify all the signatures, it will be on a thirty-day timeline.

According to the City Clerk's initial estimate, it will take twenty city employees to help count and verify a random sampling of signatures.

However, if the department decides to do a full review and verification of all the signatures, it will take thirty days, and it will require even more people that will have to be recruited for the process.

Briggs says of the expense of the verification process, "Be aware that these are preliminary cost estimates. The costs of reviewing the petition can vary, based on the quality of the petition, as well as factors."

"If enough signatures are submitted, we will use a random sample methodology that usually takes that 15 days," she states.

Briggs says in that case, using a random sample, "The estimated cost of review is approximately $60,000.00."

According to Briggs, "If on the other hand, we have to review every signature submitted to verify that there are enough valid signatures, the cost would be approximately $250,000.00."

All of these expenses come from L.A. resident's tax dollars.

Conversely, the referendum against the City Council's ban was paid for by The Greater Los Angeles Alliance Collective Alliance (GLACA), the UFCW Local 770, and the Los Angeles Chapter of Americans For Safe Access (ASA). "The Committee To Protect Patients and Neighborhoods is the alliance of those three organizations," says longtime activist and head of GLACA, Yami Bolanos of PureLife Alternative Wellness Center. "It was just the three of us that raised the money, that collected the signatures, and that will submit them" to the City Clerk.

Bolanos points to more money that the City Council is squandering money in yet another way with this issue.

"The city (Council) should deal with us now," emphasizes Bolanos, "Instead of putting this off until March, when they're going to have to spend a couple millions dollars on an election."

She is emphatic as she declares, "The city should deal with this now."

Bolanos maintains, "They need to keep the pre-ICO dispensaries open until they figure out a better way to bring access to (the city's patients)."

Don Duncan, California director of Americans For Safe Access, notes, "The next time that the City Council meets, they have two choices. They can either just repeal the ordinance when they know that we qualify, or they could say, 'We see that,' and do something else, or they could put it to a vote." He contends that such action would not likely take place until a minimum of 110 days after the signatures have been determined to be valid. That means the next likely time would be March. Duncan notes, "The City Council could call for an election earlier than March, but it doesn't make good economic sense to call for a special election when there's a vote coming up in March anyway. So we just expect to put it on the March ballot. '

Because of the signatures, Duncan says, "Everyone should be able to stay open until March."
"That is my understanding," he confirmed.

"Everyone should be able to stay open until the referendum," he said.

He then added that he is speaking of the City Council's ban, and it of course, would not include any unrelated, random raids by federal agents.

Regarding the chaotic mess the City Council has created, Bolanos, who runs a Pre-ICO dispensary, stresses her desire to see the City Council make a decision before March. "The city should allow the pre-ICO collectives, the ones that were open prior to September 14, 2007 to stay open, to serve the community, and to serve the patients, until the city (Council) can figure out what the hell they're doing."
Irrefutably, Los Angeles voters need to elect a new City Council that will stop interfering with medical patients, and that will stop trying to force them into dealing with dangerous drug dealers.

The City Council must be replaced with one that will also stop negligently wasting city funds and the taxpayers' money, draining city resources on inadvisable and inappropriate decisions.