Friday, May 29, 2009

KCET on MMDs- Medical Marijuana Dispensaries Sprout In L.A. As Quickly As Their Products

"The Highest Paid City Council in the Nation" (and probably the planet) has let the Prop. 215 Medical Marijuana Dispensaries flourish in this city without any orderly regulation- that condition is something that is featured in "SoCal Connected," a KCET-TV production that is available online at It's a very informative production that tells you about the numerous MMDs opening, but also a little bit of the in-fighting that's gone on at City Hall to let it get that way.

This video is nicely done as to be highly engaging (and entertaining but disturbing). It moves quickly so watch for the mentions of the fact that the Council was to have a moratorium for a year on the MMDs opening so that they would not grow in number. The moratorium was also to allow ample time for the Council to create a strict and appropriate regulation scheme, developed to prevent what we now have, I can only assume. They did nothing, according to the video.

Well, keep watching because there's lots of shifting of blame here. The law - the moratorium- has an "exemption" for 'hardship" and that's very ambiguous. What is that all about? No one seems to be able to pin it down exactly. The dysfunctional relations between the City Attorney, Rocky Delgadillo, and anybody else he should be working with in City government have had an impact- More MMDs opening in L.A. than anywhere else in the state. The idea of an "exemption" is odd since there has to be some hearing when that provision is inserted into laws, but that has to happen BEFORE the business can open up. Here in L.A., the "exemption" is used as a "foot in the door" to ENABLE OPENING which the city allows- and from there, things get worse.

"PLUM"- not a fruit, but the City Council committee on Planning and Land Use Management- is the one to decide the hardship exemptions. They should have called them simply "applications" to be more functional in how the forms should be handled, since the mere mention of exemption seems to give everyone the notion that it's a done deal and business can begin upon filing the forms.

The video program shows that PLUM has not heard a single application - part of the problem; now there is a growing backlog. And what happens when the burden of demonstrating facts to support the "hardship" cannot be met by the applicant? Fold up your tent and leave? I doubt that all will take that decision as the final outcome, so expect LITIGATION since that might bog down the city further,and the MMDs could continue operation pending a final decision. All this is about money now. Servicing the people that Prop. 215 had in mind is no longer the focus.

Council Members Huizar (CD-14), Ed Reyes (CD-1) and Jack Weiss (CD-5) are the committee members, with Ed Reyes as the chair to run the committee, and not "into the ground," as he seems to have done on this issue, another avoidance device of government, but with major consequences here. All of these guys don't need more negative history on their Council job performance. But don't expect their pay to be affected- and that topic comes up later- keep reading.

According to "SoCal Connected's" presentation, only CM Huizar and CM Zine would appear on camera. Where's the accountability and transparency in government now? I can see that Reyes has nothing to gain from this, so keeping himself scarce is a good move for now.

In the meanwhile, CM Huizar introduced a motion at a Council meeting early May to abolish the exemption. This done after hearing detailed complaints from the Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council of the problem of increasing MMDs in Eagle Rock. "SoCal Connected" noted that the "unintended consequence" of announcing his motion was to have a flurry of filings of the applieations for hardship exemptions. I think this could have been avoided if there was some strict application of a restrictive interpretation of what they have NOW for regulations. I think the new City Attorney, Carmen "Nuch" Trutanich, will probably more functional for the City as he replaces Franklin High alum, Rocky Delgadillo, on July 1. This could have been another matter of orderly business. Now, they strugle to get this under control- but Huizar's motion to end the "hardship exemption" still has to be approved by council and signed by the Mayor before it becomes effective.

Even if and when the hardship exemption provision of the law is ended, all currently filed applications still have a right to be decided. And unfortunately, the businesses are not being prevented from opening during the waiting process, but instead, they just open for business while waiting for their hardship exemption application to be processed. The law probably could be interpreted like common sense would have it- first apply, then if you are approved, you can open. Until approval is received, you can't open. Not in L.A.

"SoCal Connected" shows the actual statute involved on camera, and contradicts what some CMs say about what it's about and what it contains- and also, THEY wrote it. Actually, somebody was assigned to put it together and these CMs sign off on it and most don't know anything beyond what they get as a summary, not bothering to read all that they approve. With the pay they get (almost $15,000.00 a month each) and the staff of 20 authorized to each CM, you'd think they might get around to being responsible for each matter brought up. Too many? Then maybe there's too much unnecessary production of laws in the first place.
Like I said before the council is the highest paid in the nation- AND it's not just in cash salary since there's another $100,000.00 you can count in. I forgot that the L.A. Weekly has some revealing information on the pay for city council and how it stands compared to other cities. One of the latest articles is:

"L.A. City Council Clings to Stunning Perks and Pay;
They can't bear to give up those record-high $178,898 salaries,"
Paul Teetor, May 20, 2009.

You really are not getting your money's worth here when you look at the MMDs getting out of control. The city council for all it's tax and fee gouging of residents, clearly missed a golden opportunity to charge some hefty fees for all the prospective work the MMDs would create- but it didn't. The fees for L.A. for MMDs? ZERO dollars. That's got to have the CMs kicking themselves for letting that slip through. Maybe they were too busy thinking of parking meter hikes they quadrupled, or the extended hours of restrictions, the "Districts" that they could create to bring in more money, and maybe their attention was taken up with thoughts of other fees to tack onto the DWP bill besides the trash collection fees that they tripled.

But look at this L.A. Weekly article- and there's more of these articles besides that one- to show you we are not getting A-1 performance from the premium pay they pull down. At the Council meeting this past Wednesday, Eric Garcetti replied to a speaker's criticism on their pay and performance during public comment segment on a matter. Council President Garcetti seems to be very defensive lately and spewed a Wikipedia's page-worth of "facts" that he must have had ready for such an occassion to defend their pay and performance. He sure can't claim poverty. Past items in the L.A. WEEKLY have examined this topic, too. See the especially revealing one that came out a week before the March 3rd city election,
"Los Angeles on $300,000 a year; Why next week's City Council "coronation" will cost you far more than money," By Patrick Range McDonald, Published on February 25, 2009, L.A. Weekly.

Garcetti is wasting his breath and like all of the CMs, is not honest about the situation.
Indeed, I'd say, since THE PAY is what lures them to "PUBLIC SERVICE" in City Hall. (If you lower the pay to about $90,000.00 to $95,000 and trim some CM benefits to realistic proportions, I am sure that alone would still be a healthy paycheck and would filter out a quite a few who claim they are "dedicated" to public service.

Garcetti's defense Wednesday was all very hollow (and annoying) since the AMOUNT of pay- scandalous in its own right- was laid off by Garcetti to be the fault of a 1990 City Charter amendment that sets pay. That City Charter amendment itself was a cleverly decptive device. The state court judges' pay is used as the control CMs pay rate- and when judges get raises, which is normally annually, then the Council gets raises. The part that Eric left out was that it was a charter amendment that was generated by City Council. City Council was responsible for the creation And it was purposely created JUST TO HAVE AN EXCUSE, the one Eric used here, "It's not within our control." It might have been done by THIS cast of Council members, but THESE ones there now could have fixed it. Sure, they could have put in an initiative to change the pay back to local control and be ACCOUNTABLE- they haven't been shy to create initiatives for the ballot before, but then why should they? They don't want a change and everyone falls for "We can't control it" story without challenging the basis.

Jose Huizar was going to have a press conference this morning at 9 a.m., set for "Friday morning to urge City leaders to quickly adopt a Control Ordinance to regulate and monitor Medical Marijuana facilities in the City of Los Angeles." That was cancelled at the last minute but then it was arranged at the last minute, too. Huizar has to follow through on trying to be responsive and fix this and he needs to have Ed Reyes, the Chair of the PLUM committee pull his own weight, too. Who else can Reyes blame for not hearing a single Exemption application since they were created? This is unique to government. Private sector would have replaced non-performers with others to get the job done. If they operated this like a private sector business, there might be some improvement, but I still believe the system can be twisted by these folks to still foul it all up. Meanwhile, they will make out well, financially speaking, of course.

See the video, at 11 minutes, it's packed with some things to think about- one might be "How can I open up my own MMD?" There's a company featured in the video that has classes on how to do that. Everybody's making money here it seems.

Stay tuned for more developments in the City Council on this topic. [And if you are interested in finding a MMD, the L.A. WEEKLY print edition is the place. The paper is available for free all over the city in stores, book stores, public libraries, and other public places.]