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Oakland city attorney: I won't advise on pot plan
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Sunday, 13 February 2011 00:00

OAKLAND, Calif.—Oakland City Attorney John Russo has decided he would no longer advise the city council about its plans to license large-scale marijuana farms.

Russo announced the decision—the latest blow to the city's plans to license and tax the farms—in a letter to Mayor Jean Quan and each council member dated Thursday. His office had been working on amendments to the city's proposed pot cultivation ordinance that were scheduled to be discussed over the next few weeks.

He did not say specifically what prompted the move, but cited state professional conduct rules and the council's efforts this week to redraft the pot-farm ordinance to address state and federal law enforcement officials' concerns about its legality.

In July, Oakland became the first city in the country to authorize the licensing of medical marijuana cultivation operations. But the city council in December put the application process for growers' licenses on hold following a warning from the Alameda County district attorney that the ordinance violated state law.

The top federal prosecutor in Northern California said this week that large-scale marijuana farms licensed by the city would violate U.S. law and could lead to a crackdown on growers and their backers.

2011 Legislature: Assisted suicide, medical marijuana bills on agenda
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Monday, 07 February 2011 00:00

HELENA - Assisted suicide, medical marijuana and more attempts to block health care reform are among the items on tap this week at the Montana Legislature.

Here's a quick look at upcoming hearing highlights:

Abortion: On Friday, the Senate Judiciary Committee will hear Senate Bill 97, which requires notification of a parent before a minor can get an abortion. Sen. Jim Shockley, R-Victor, is the sponsor. Room 303, 8 a.m.

Annual sessions: Two bills that would result in annual legislative sessions will be heard this week. House Bill 362, from Rep. Ken Peterson, R-Billings, would have a budget session in odd-numbered years and then a "special session" in even-numbered years for nonbudget bills. Monday, House State Administration Committee, Room 455, 9 a.m.

SB261, from Sen. Jeff Essmann, R-Billings, would accomplish the same thing with a constitutional amendment. Tuesday, Senate Taxation Committee, 8 a.m., Room 405.

Assisted suicide: On Wednesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee will hear bills to outlaw or allow assisted suicide in Montana. Sen. Anders Blewett, D-Great Falls, is sponsoring SB167, to allow it; Sen. Greg Hinkle, R-Thompson Falls, is sponsoring SB116, to prohibit it. Hinkle also is presenting SB169, which would create additional penalties for a "suicide predator" who assists a suicide. Room 303, 8 a.m.

Marijuana law's legal ambiguity 'unfortunate'
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Saturday, 05 February 2011 00:00

The state's medical marijuana law is often described as ambiguous and poorly crafted.

An Oakland County judge called it "one of the worst pieces of legislation I've ever seen."

State lawmakers, prosecutors and legal experts believe the law, which voters passed in 2008 by a wide margin, is intentionally vague - because its supporters and authors want complete legalization.

Among those caught in the middle is Fredrick Wayne Dagit, who is facing prison time and whose case is on hold while the state Court of Appeals decides if it will consider whether his activities were protected under the statute.

"The ambiguity, to me, is extremely unfortunate not only for the community, but also for those people who are trying to take advantage of the statute - they're going to be sacrificial lambs," said Thomas M. Cooley law professor Gerald Fisher, an expert the state's medical marijuana law.

"The ambiguity cuts both ways, and some of them are going to jail."

Lawmaker wants to bar firings for medical pot use
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Friday, 04 February 2011 00:00

SACRAMENTO, Calif.—A state lawmaker this week introduced a bill that would prohibit employers from firing qualified medical marijuana users who consume pot when they're not on the job.

The bill, proposed by Democratic state Sen. Mark Leno, also would make it illegal for employers not to hire someone solely because they use marijuana for medical reasons.

Leno, who represents Marin and parts of San Francisco and Sonoma counties, proposed a similar bill in 2007 that was passed by the legislature, but vetoed by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

"The bill simply establishes a medical cannabis patient's right to work," Leno told the San Francisco Chronicle. "It astounds me that there would be any controversy around it."

The California Supreme Court ruled in 2008 that nothing in the state's current medical marijuana laws bars an employer from firing medical marijuana users who test positive for pot.

Californians approved a landmark ballot measure in 1996 that legalized the use of marijuana for medical purposes. Leno said voters never intended for the measure to apply only to unemployed state residents.

Mapping The Legal Marijuana Industry
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Friday, 20 August 2010 00:00

If a November proposition passes, plenty of moneymakers will want in.

OAKLAND, CALIF. -- Welcome to Oaksterdam, California's newest, least orthodox tourist attraction. Welcome, possibly, to the future of a multibillion-dollar business around legal marijuana.

Spread over an eight-block area of formerly disused downtown Oakland, the self-described Oaksterdam district neighborhood includes clinics and dispensaries for medical marijuana, coffee shops catering to cannabis patient, pot-themed souvenir shops, specialist law offices and Oaksterdam University, an education center for growing and dispensing marijuana. There are Segway tours, tourists and film crews.


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