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Making The City Attorney Account For Erroneous Legal Information

Daily Dose 2010-09-21 0 comments

By Greggory Moore, on

Long Beach allows medical-marijuana collectives to operate within city limits. For a very heavy price. If I’m not mistaken, the heaviest price in the country.

Ironically, the price is heaviest on the smallest collectives. In fiscal terms, our City treats collectives with as few as four (4) members exactly the same as a collective with 500 members.

Why such a heavy burden on such small collectives? From whence this definition of collectives as being “four (4) or more Qualified Patients and their designated Primary Caregivers (LBMC § 5.87.015(I))?” That’s exactly what Councilmember Rae Gabelich wanted to know at the May 18 City Council meeting. Here’s exactly what she was told by Assistant City Attorney Mike Mais: “We came to that number because that’s what the state, the Compassionate Use Act, defines a collective as:  four or more.” One minute later, in response to Gabelich’s inquiry into the possibility of raising the figure, Mais replied, “Since we did follow the state law, which defines a collective as four or fewer [sic; he meant to say “more”], I would suggest that we stay with that for the purposes of regulation.”

Trouble is, what Mais said is completely false. State law does not define collectives, period. Consider the following:

* The word ‘collective’ does not appear in the Compassionate Use Act (1996), nor does any synonym for ‘collective.'(1)

* In the Medical Marijuana Program Act (2003), the word ‘collective’ and its synonyms appear only as adjectives.  No number of patients, members, etc., is associated with their usage nor anywhere discussed. (2)

* In State Attorney General Jerry Brown’s August 2008 guidelines regarding medical marijuana, he notes that “California law does not define collectives” (IV.A.2). (3)

Being that the City Attorney’s office explicitly referred to all three of these documents numerous times during the process of crafting our medpot guidelines, it is (to put it politely) puzzling why they would provide such erroneous legal counsel. Worse, the City has made policy in part based on this erroneous counsel.

Am I the only one who thinks that the City Attorney’s office providing erroneous counsel and the City Council making policy based on that erroneous counsel is cause for concern—and that it’s an issue that transcends the specific context in which it occurred?

During public comment on non-agenda items at the June 15 City Council meeting, I pointed out all of this (4). City Attorney Robert Shannon replied that he did not believe his office had provided any erroneous information but that he’d be happy to look into it, and Mayor Bob Foster request that Shannon provide the Council with a memo on where this figure “4 or more” comes from.

It’s three months since then, and to my knowledge this memo has never materialized. But I’m going to the September 21 City Council meeting to find out. I’ll let you know what happens.


1 – See

2 – See

3 – See

4 – Prior to this Mais did not respond to my attempts to contact him about his claim.