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Sacramento

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director June 7, 2012

    The establishment of medical cannabis dispensaries does not adversely impact local crime rates, according to a federally funded study published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.

    Investigators at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) examined whether the proliferation of medical marijuana dispensaries is associated with elevated crimes rates. Researchers assessed the spatial relationship between density of medical marijuana dispensaries and two types of crime rates (violent crime and property crime) in 95 census tracts in Sacramento, California, during the year 2009.

    Researchers reported: “There were no observed cross-sectional associations between the density of medical marijuana dispensaries and either violent or property crime rates in this study. These results suggest that the density of medical marijuana dispensaries may not be associated with crime rates or that other factors, such as measures dispensaries take to reduce crime (i.e., doormen, video cameras), may increase guardianship such that it deters possible motivated offenders.”

    Authors acknowledged that their findings “run contrary to public perceptions” and that they conflict with public statements made by the California Police Chief’s Association, which had previously claimed, “Drug dealing, sales to minors, loitering, heavy vehicle and foot traffic in retail areas, increased noise, and robberies of customers just outside dispensaries are … common ancillary by-products of (medicinal cannabis) operations.”

    The UCLA is not the first study to dispute the allegation that brick-and-mortar dispensaries are adversely associated with crime. A 2011 study of crime rates in Los Angeles published by the RAND Corporation similarly concluded, “[W]e found no evidence that medical marijuana dispensaries in general cause crime to rise.” However, shortly following its publication RAND removed the study from its website after their findings were publicly criticized by the Los Angeles city attorney’s office.

    Other analyses of crime statistics in the cities of Denver, Los Angeles, and Colorado Springs have separately disputed the notion that the locations of dispensaries are associated with elevated incidences of criminal activity.

    Full text of the study, “Exploring the Ecological Association Between Crime and Medical Marijuana Dispensaries,” appears in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director November 10, 2010

    Despite last week’s defeat of Proposition 19 at the polls, new taxes on marijuana are coming to California.

    As I write today in High Times online, California voters on election day by wide margins endorsed citywide medical marijuana tax ordinances in Albany, Berkeley, La Puente, Oakland, Rancho Cordova, Richmond, Sacramento, San Jose, and Stockton. You can read the full details of each of these tax measures, as well as Los Angeles’ latest medi-pot tax plan, here.

    While the bulk of these new tax plans impose fees on the dispensaries themselves — fees that will no doubt indirectly be passed on to the consumer via higher retail prices for cannabis — at least one plan (Rancho Cordova’s Measure O) seeks to impact patients directly by instituting local fees on personal home grows.

    While it is possible (read: likely) that this exorbitant fee will be eventually struck down by the courts as an undue infringement upon patients’ rights under Prop. 215, it could be months or years before such a clarification by the courts is made.

    Patient advocacy groups like Americans For Safe Access oppose the implementation of such medi-tax laws, noting that they could unduly raise the already inflated black market price of medical cannabis, lead to fewer dispensaries, and ultimately limit patients’ access. Nonetheless, it is hardly surprising to see a majority of Californians, at a time of record budget deficits, voting to impose additional taxes upon a minority subset of their community.

    In short, the success of these tax measures at the ballot box is yet further evidence that with or without Prop. 19, more and more city governments — rightly or wrongly — are going to be looking at new ways to raise revenue from California’s burgeoning cannabis industry and its consumers. Industry insiders and those they represent, patients especially, would be best advised to begin playing an active role in their local politics, or else risk suffering the consequences of unreasonable taxation without representation.

    You can read my full thoughts on this developing issue, and comment on it, by clicking here: Like It Or Not, Pot Taxes Are Coming to California.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director June 25, 2010

    While most Californians and the media in recent months have understandably remained focused on The Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010 — which seeks to eliminate criminal penalties for the adult personal possession and cultivation of marijuana — state lawmakers in Sacramento have quietly been moving forward on a cannabis liberalization bill of their own.

    Senate Bill 1449, which seeks to reduce personal, non-medical marijuana possession penalties from a criminal misdemeanor to an infraction, is now only one vote away from heading to Gov. Schwarzenegger’s desk.

    On Wednesday, members of the California Assembly Committee on Public Safety voted 4 to 1 to send the measure to the Assembly floor. (Senate lawmakers had previously voted 21 to 13 in favor of the bill.) Once the full Assembly acts, the measure will go before the Governor for his signature.

    Under current law, marijuana possession has a unique status in California law as the only misdemeanor that is not punishable by arrest or jail time. However, offenders must still appear in court, pay a fine ($100), and pay court costs (approximately $200). In addition, defendants who wish to avoid a criminal record must attend a court-ordered diversion program. Defendants who do not attend such a program are saddled with a criminal record for at least two years following their conviction.

    By making possession an infraction, Senate Bill 1449 would spare possession offenders time in court or the risk of a criminal record. Instead, they would simply pay a fine.

    More information about S.B. 1449 is available from California NORML, and from NORML’s ‘Take Action Center’ here.