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Pot Shots

The Ethan and Gavin Show

by FRED GARDNER

Ethan Nadelmann, mastermind of the Drug Policy Alliance, has a fantasy starring Gavin Newsom, the mayor of San Francisco. Newsom had already spoken and was seated at a table onstage, blushing and shaking his head, as Nadelmann shared his fantasy at a public forum sponsored by the S.F. Medical Society July 26. In the fantasy, after "very interesting conversations in the White House," Newsom must bar the entrance to San Francisco’s city-run grow op as federal forces approach. "You’ll have to take me first," he declares. (In reality, of course, the dashing young mayor would be surrounded by public health officers, supervisors, deputy sheriffs and citizens en masse.)

More than 250 concerned citizens attended the forum, which was held at the Jewish Community Center (where cars get searched before entering the garage and security guards inspect suspicious guitar cases). San Francisco is weighing the regulation of cannabis dispensaries just as the DEA is closing some of them down – "a daunting task," to put it mildly. Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi has drafted an ordinance that would require dispensaries to pay $7,4000 to apply for several city permits, invite neighbors’ input, and locate at least 500 feet from schools (or 1,000 feet if smoking allowed). An ordinance by Sup. Gerardo Sandoval, would require dispensaries to get a conditional use permit from the Planning Department (a higher bar than Mirkarimi’s). Both bills involve the keeping of records that could facilitate prosecution by the feds.

Here’s the post-forum commentary of Michael Aldrich, a former club proprietor who has been monitoring the situation closely:

"I’m very concerned that honest patient collectives (not retail stores) get left out of the permit process, which means if passed as written, there will be no way for patient collectives allowed in SB420 to exist in San Francisco! It may be irrelevant anyway, if the Federal injunction allowing WAMM to operate their collective garden, expires this month and is not renewed because of Raich.

But I do think that patient collectives that do not have a retail store, that actually reimburse a grower to grow for them, have the right to exist under SB420. The problem with the WAMM model in the City is twofold: first, it’s hard for them to raise money to recompense the grower, unless the grower also sells to retail stores and just gives it away to some patients… Second, the difficulty with inspecting and zoning hidden gardens without going through the public notification process our collective can’t even apply for a permit because we’d have to find $7400 just for the permit application fee. Then going through the process, pay lawyers (or professional Zoning helpers, as one dispensary did), post big signs outside saying HEY THE POT FARM’S OVER HERE, so all the neighbors can object and the DEA doesn’t even have to subpoena records or anything, just go wherever the permit process is happening and pound on the door. Then there’s the "open books" public inspection process for "clubs," which again gives the Feds free reign without even subpoena’ing records because they’re public record… Mirkarimi’s bill seems to say, in fact, that the only gardens permitted are inside the clubs and not outside gardens. Since only dispensaries with permits are legal, how is a patient collective supposed to get a permit for a garden?

Which is more defensible in court– a collective with no retail sales, or a retail store very much involved in commerce? Perhaps neither. Both will be portrayed in Federal court as Money Laundering conspiracies (i.e. if you plow your proceeds back into the operation with services for patients, all the money you spend for cost of goods or services or fixing the place up or giving away to people in hospitals– that’s what the Feds are calling money laundering). And remember the Federal courts do not allow mention of "medical" in the trial. What a stacked deck! This is justice?

Ironically, CHAMP met all the requirements for an MCD in the Mirkarimi bill, we were a patient collective, registered as a nonprofit corporation in California (no 501-C-3), and offering social services for patients every day, staff trained in CPR and harm reduction, friendly neighbor policy, hospital and hospice delivery, ventilation, we put $100,000 into rebuilding the interior to reduce mold, noise, smells, et cetera. We had permits (except I couldn’t get a business tax certificate) and were members of the Chamber of Commerce, the lowest prices of any club open at the time, and our own private garden to make prices even cheaper. I never measured whether we were within 1000 feet of a school or any cultural or community center. We were a community center for patients and they loved us for that. The proudest day I spent at CHAMP was September 11, 2001, when more than a hundred worried patients jammed into CHAMP all day, watching the buildings collapse. These were mostly people who literally had no where else to go, we fed them, played nice music (TV sound off), and so forth. And many days CHAMP functioned as a day care center for homeless and indigent patients. And we paid our taxes accurately and honestly. I probably would have opened the books to City inspectors, because we felt fairly secure when the District Attorney himself visited and even brought other DA’s to CHAMP to show them what a good facility looks like. But there is no protection whatever in present City government– including Mirkarimi– to defend the clubs who do the very things they want clubs to do, all the operating procedures et cetera.


U.S. Moves Against Canadian Cannabis Advocates

Marc Emery, 46, and two pro-cannabis activists in his employ were arrested July 29 by Canadian police. Emery’s highly successful mail-order seed business has enabled him in recent years to underwrite the B.C. Marijuana Party, Cannabis Culture magazine, Pot TV, and non-stop political campaigning. In 2004 Emery did 90 days at a correctional center in Saskatoon for passing a joint in public. The latest bust was orchestrated by the U.S. government according to Richard Cowan of marijuananews.com (who was a founder, long ago, of Young Americans for Freedom):

DEAland claims international jurisdiction over anyone it accuses of growing cannabis anywhere in the world, so the Vancouver Police collaborated with the DEA to raid the BC Marijuana Party Office and Bookstore and the Pot-TV studios with a search warrant issued under Canada’s Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Act.

The search warrant allowed for a search only on the Hastings Street offices, but it claims that there would be evidence there that Emery, et al., have conspired to grow cannabis and distribute seeds, and – of course – launder money. I doubt if they found any evidence of such a "conspiracy" there. Of course, the next step for them would be to get the "evidence" shipped to DEAland. To my knowledge, there are no customer records at the store – or anywhere else, for that matter.

Apparently, DEAland and its local Quislings have used undercover agents to make "controlled buys" of seeds, which by its nature involves lying. The evidence obtained by lying was then presented to a Seattle Grand Jury, which issued a sealed indictment last May… this attack has been planned for at least a year.

Presumably, DEAland will now seek to extradite our friends, which will quickly become a major strain on DEAland/Canadian relations. Frankly, if these people were not my friends, I would be delighted by the stupidity of this move. The weak Canadian government has tried to ignore the cannabis issue, but this is going to change everything.

FRED GARDNER can be reached at: fred@plebesite.com