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Hits From the Blog: The First Hit and an Interview With City Councilman Ed Reyes



"Inhale, Exhale/just got an ounce in the mail

I like a blunt or a big fat cone/But my double barrel bong is getting me stoned."--Cypress Hill, "Hits from the Bong"

To a generation of impressionable teens weaned on the trite tautologies of Nancy Reagan, Tipper Gore, and Ed "The Fighting Tomato" Meese, Cypress Hill's words rang out like ice cream truck bells (with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle bars among the first things we wanted upon heeding B-Real's sage advice). This was 1993, after all -- the commencement of the Clinton era -- a moment that ostensibly heralded a new dawn of liberalism and an enlightened drug policy. Instead, we got the same song (word to Shock G). The ensuing Bush years managed to trump the "I Didn't Inhale" era hysteria, with Attorney General John Ashcroft presumably referencing "Reefer Madness" to determine federal policy.

But politics at the state level told a different story. Following California's landmark passage of the Compassionate Use Act in 1996, 12 states allowed doctors to prescribe marijuana for ailments ranging from glaucoma, cancer, to insomnia (though for the latter, a case could be made for prescribing Vincent Gallo films). At the present moment, California, Rhode Island, New Mexico, and Colorado allow medical marijuana dispensaries to sell chronic to "patients" in smokable, sippable, sprayable, and Snickers form--an array of options B-Real, Sen Dog and DJ Muggs never would've dreamed of 16 years ago.

In Los Angeles, there are spots where you can cop Cannabis Cookies n' Cream ice cream, vegan Kush Twinkies, and smoke stuff with THC levels creeping well into double digits. Factor in the number of quacks with RX policies looser than Greg House, and you have a problem for Nimbys, concerned parents, and the Tom McClintock fan club (for $29.95 you get four letters a year and an autographed tea bag).

While arguably overblown, their concerns have a degree of validity. Over the last several years, dispensaries have popped up next to elementary schools and clustered in a proximity and frequency that Starbucks would envy. In response, two years ago, the Los Angeles City Council placed on a moratorium on new dispensaries, allowing exceptions only for hardship cases. While an administrative lapse caused the council to ignore petitions until this spring, the number of dispensaries continued to proliferate -- especially since the number of federal raids drastically diminished under Attorney General Eric Holder, and customers were largely unable to tell the legal stores from the illegal.

Since June, the Council has unanimously denied every request that has come its way, but now faces the problem of shutting down illegal shops and fighting a lawsuit against spurned dispensary owners, who claim that without an official ordinance the city can't legally enforce a moratorium beyond 24 months. Accordingly, City councilman Ed Reyes, who represents the city's First District, chairs its Planning and Land Use Management Committee and is currently writing the ordinance, will be the first to appear in this weekly space.

Hits from the Blog seeks to cover the conflict between city, state and pro-marijuana advocates, but it will also delve into the drug-related detritus that pops up in pop culture. While it is unabashedly pro-420, it will attempt to breach a middle ground between those who think "Just Say No" actually worked, and those who wear hemp and can actually say "Pro-420" with a straight face. And yes, at some point, it will teach you how to roll a blunt. So just come along and take a hit.

An Interview with Los Angeles City Councilman, Ed Reyes

Q: At this current moment, where does the City Council stand in terms of enforcing the moratorium and drafting an ordinance to extend it?

A: We're in a place where we're going to continue having different hearings concerning the new applications for dispensaries. I believe we're getting closer to an ordinance. We just got some feedback from the city attorney and we're hoping to have him with us going forward to get these issues on the books as soon as possible and hopefully set some regulatory standards for dispensaries.

Did you have any prior interest in the medical marijuana issue or was the decision to have you become the Council's marijuana point person more a matter of it just falling under your jurisdiction?

Because of the implications the issue has. If you look at the Charter of the Land Use Committee, the dispensaries have a land use impact, and as land use issue it fell within my discretion as chair of the committee.

What specifically triggered the moratorium?

What triggered the moratorium was that the dispensaries started popping up everywhere and it created a negative impact. When we started seeing two or three of these locations on one street, it was obvious that there were too many. On top of that, it created a great alarm among the constituents of certain neighborhoods and generated the response that required us to put up the moratorium.

Are any hardship requests currently being honored?

Some of these hardships were created by special interests. The hardship request doesn't give anyone the right to open up a dispensary, that was misleading and so when we saw the abuses that were going on, it became obvious there were attorneys out there making these assertions to get money for themselves. They were gaming the system.

Do you have a personal stance on whether marijuana should be legalized for medical purposes?

I really believe that people who have serious ailments, who are trying to survive AIDS, cancer, or similar experiences -- if medical marijuana helps them survive and helps them get their lives back together, they should have access to it. As for the individual entities that abuse it or that take advantage of it for profit and recreational use, especially with minors and high school kids, these people destroy the legitimacy of it for the people who actually need it. To me, those kind of people need to be stopped.

I need to learn about the issue more from the medical standpoint. We need to have a greater understanding of how the medical profession uses it. I hope to gain more insight into the issue because I strongly feel a commitment to those who are dying -- that's where my commitment really lies.

What do you think will happen in the next six months pertaining to this issue locally?

I would hope that an ordinance will be in my place within the year, or even the next few months. By establishing this ordinance it will establish definitively who should be open and who should be closed -- it will allow us to shut down those offices that create harm and a disservice to our neighborhoods.


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