Southern California breaking news and trends

Obama's marijuana comments prompts call for policy change - especially in California

Long Beach Police Department

Long Beach Police raided seven medical marijuana dispensaries Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2012. Several of the dispensaries operated elaborate marijuana growing facilities.

President Barack Obama says he won't go after pot users in Colorado and Washington, two states that just legalized the drug for recreational use. But advocates argue the president said the same thing about medical marijuana — and yet U.S. attorneys continue to force the closure of dispensaries across the U.S.

Welcome to the confusing and often conflicting policy on pot in the U.S., where medical marijuana is legal in many states, but it is increasingly difficult to grow, distribute or sell it. And at the federal level, at least officially, it is still an illegal drug everywhere.

Obama's statement Friday provided little clarity in a world where marijuana is inching ever so carefully toward legitimacy.

That conflict is perhaps the greatest in California, where the state's four U.S. Attorneys criminally prosecuted large growers and launched a coordinated crackdown on the state's medical marijuana industry last year by threatening landlords with property forfeiture actions. Hundreds of pot shops went out of business.


Silver Lake man finds $175,000 worth of high-grade weed and hash in his hot tub

Mack Reed

Some of the marijuana and hash found in the bag in Mack Reed's backyard.

What would you do if you went into your backyard, opened the lid of your drained hot tub, and discovered a duffel bag filled with high quality marijuana and hash? Imagine that the herbs are labeled, bagged, and ready to sell to a local medical marijuana dispensary.

This week, while leading a solar panel installer around his property, longtime journalist Mack Reed found himself in the sticky (and potentially dangerous) situation.

After making sure the bag didn't have any guns, heroin, or cash buried among the marijuana, he called the police. Unfortunately, the LAPD were busy and it took two hours for a supervisor to make it to Reed and his green bag of green buds.

Once Sgt. Adrienne Legaspi arrived, Reed asked the officer how he could best notify the unknown owner of the duffel bag that his six-figure stash was now in the hands of Johnny Law. 


Union gathers signatures to get medical marijuana regulation on the ballot

Los Angeles City Council Votes To Ban Medical Marijuana Dispensaries

David McNew/Getty Images

UFCW Local 770 is gathering signatures in hopes of getting a new medical marijuana ordinance on the May 2013 ballot. That would allow about 100 clinics to remain open in Los Angeles.

The regulation of medical marijuana is back — again — as a local union collects signatures to get an ordinance on the city of Los Angeles’ May 2013 ballot.

The United Food and Commercial Workers Local 770 submitted an ordinance to the City Clerk’s Office that would allow small groups of no more than five patients and caregivers to grow medicinal cannabis together. About 100 clinics that opened and registered with the city prior to Sept. 14, 2007 would be exempted from regulation. Clinics would have to pass annual LAPD background checks and maintain their distance from schools and parks.

The UFCW will have to collect 41,138 valid signatures by Dec. 7 to get the ordinance on the city’s May 2013 ballot.

It was just a month ago that the Los Angeles City Council repealed a ban on medical marijuana clinics after organizers gathered enough signatures for a referendum on the ordinance. That ban would have allowed groups of no more than three patients to get together and grow their own marijuana. 


Pot dispensary chief convicted on drug charges, will serve at least 10 years in prison

Medical Marijuana

Bear Guerra/KPCC

Marijuana plants for sale at Studio City's Perennial Holistic Wellness Center.

Federal prosecutors in Southern California say a medical marijuana dispensary president has been convicted on several drug-related charges.

In a release Friday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Bruce Riordan says 41-year-old Aaron Sandusky, the president of G3 Holistics, Inc., was convicted of conspiracy to manufacture marijuana plants, possession with intent to distribute and other charges.

Sandusky, of Rancho Cucamonga, faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison when he is due for sentencing Jan. 7, 2013.

A mistrial was declared on four charges accusing Sandusky of maintaining a drug involved premises at G3′s stores in Upland, Colton and Moreno Valley.

Sandusky and five others were arrested in June for their roles in a trio of Southern California medical marijuana dispensaries ordered to be shut down by the government last year.


Referendum on medical marijuana ban qualifies for ballot (updated)

Medical Marijuana

Bear Guerra/KPCC

Advocates for medical marijuana collected enough valid signatures to qualify a referendum petition on the city's pot shop ban, according to the City Clerk's Office.

Advocates who support the medicinal use of marijuana submitted enough valid signatures to force a referendum on the City of L.A.'s ban on dispensaries, the City Clerk’s office announced Monday.  

The city’s ban on pot shops was to have taken effect Sept. 6. However, it was halted when cannabis supporters turned in more than 49,000 signatures to overturn the ban. The City Clerk’s office, through a random sampling, found there are enough valid signatures to meet the minimum requirement for a referendum. That means the city’s ban cannot take effect until one of three things happens: 

  • The Los Angeles City Council repeals the ordinance; or
  • A special election is held in the next 110 to 140 days; or
  • The ordinance is placed on the March 5, 2013 ballot and voted on by Angelenos.