Study Corrects LAPD Inaccuracies on Medical Marijuana

Think tank urges city to take "sensible approach" in regulating dispensaries

Los Angeles (March 20, 2007) - A new report identifies several inaccuracies in the Los Angeles Police Department's "Fact Sheet" about medical marijuana dispensaries and urges the city to take a "sensible approach" that respects the rights of medical marijuana patients and the legitimate, legal businesses that are serving their medical needs.

Los Angeles is considering a moratorium that would block the establishment of new medical marijuana dispensaries and Police Chief William Bratton is calling for a ban of existing dispensaries operating within 1,000 feet of schools, churches, and parks.

LAPD claims "anecdotal evidence" shows the growing number of dispensaries has caused an increase in the number of marijuana-related arrests and seizures. In reality, the number of marijuana-related arrests in 2006 (5,506) was lower than the number of arrests in 2004 (5,946) according to police department figures.

"If dispensaries are to blame for marijuana arrests, why were there fewer arrests in 2006 – when the LAPD says there were at least 98 'documented' dispensaries – than in 2004 – when there were no more than four dispensaries operating in LA?" asked Skaidra Smith-Heisters, author of the Reason Foundation report.

LAPD also alleges medical marijuana dispensaries are targeting children. Yet data from the California Attorney General shows that marijuana use among teens has decreased since voters passed the Compassionate Use Act in 1996.

Chief Bratton wants to ban all dispensaries from operating within a 1,000 foot radius of schools, parks and churches. However, Reason finds the LAPD report curiously and quietly extends – and extends - its danger zone, complaining that some dispensaries are within 1,000 yards (3,000 feet) and others are within one mile (5,280 feet) of the "public locations of concern."

"The vast majority of dispensaries are operating in a responsible manner and have taken numerous steps to regulate themselves to ensure the safety of their patients and the community around them," said Adrian Moore, vice president of research at Reason. "Most Angelenos agree that medical marijuana helps people and voted with the rest of California to make it legal. The LAPD should not try to subvert the will of the voters. Unless a risk that is unique to the dispensaries can be clearly proven, the business requirements should be consistent with those for other businesses throughout the city."

"The city should focus on measures that ensure dispensary members are qualified patients and have valid doctors' recommendations," stated Smith-Heisters. "California voters have made it clear: we want ill, suffering patients to receive the medicine they need and their doctors recommend. The City Council should keep these patients, and the will of voters, at the forefront of its discussion on how to improve the dispensaries."

Full Report Online

The full report, Sensible Policies for Medical Marijuana Dispensaries, is available online at www.reason.org/pb57.pdf.

About Reason

Reason Foundation is a nonprofit think tank dedicated to advancing free minds and free markets. Reason produces respected public policy research on a variety of issues and publishes the critically acclaimed monthly magazine, Reason. For more information, please visit www.reason.org.

Contacts

Skaidra Smith-Heisters, Policy Analyst, Reason Foundation (707) 321-1249
Adrian Moore, Vice President of Research, Reason Foundation, (661) 477-3107
Chris Mitchell, Director of Communications, Reason Foundation, (310) 367-6109




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