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(USA) Medical marijuana users with chronic ailments lobby City Council

LAKE FOREST – Medical pot proponents called their peaceful rally tonight at Lake Forest’s City Council meeting a success, saying the turnout brought awareness to the many patients helped through the use of medicinal marijuana.

The group – about 150 strong, filling the council chambers to capacity – vowed to return for the next City Council meeting to work toward keeping city dispensaries going by collaborating with city officials on how to regulate them.

“The solution is to regulate them,” said Ryan Michaels, 27, who works with several of the Lake Forest dispensaries, to assure they are in compliance. “I don’t think the problem is the city of Lake Forest. They are being pushed by their attorneys. The solution is regulating them and mitigating them through patient fundraisers. Potentially, we can come to a compromise.”

About eight people spoke before Mayor Mark Tettemer cut the meeting short because of the pending departure of Councilwomen Marcia Rudolph and Kathryn McCullough, who were headed to San Jose to join already absent Councilman Richard Dixon for a League of California Cities Conference.

Tettemer invited speakers to return for the Oct. 6 meeting or submit written comments.

The group carried signs with messages such as “Support your state. It supports marijuana” and “My grandmother needs safe access.”

Testimonials from medical marijuana patients drew loud applause from those present.

Suzette Frank, a resident of Lake Forest, spoke about Crohn’s disease and the battle she waged to stay off of prescriptions like Vicodin and OxyContin.

“I’m chronically nauseous and I’ve had major surgery,” she said. “The only thing that helps me is medical marijuana. I like the collectives here so I don’t have to drive to Los Angeles. They’re always professional and everything is nice and clean.”

Michael Hawkins, 58, from Ladera Ranch told the council that last year, he was diagnosed with a massive brain tumor, which was crushing the left side of his brain. He had surgery and was put on morphine and other painkillers.

“I was sent home addicted,” he said. “They reduced my pain but left me completely incapacitated. The withdrawal was hellish. I reduced myself to over-the-counter medication but that didn’t help. Then a friend told me about cannabis. I smoked some and it relieved the pain and gave me back my appetite. Please don’t choose political expedience over the care of people like myself. Please follow the law of the state and the will of the people.”

The group – made up of representatives for patients with cancer, AIDS, chronic pain and nerve issues also includes advocacy groups like Medical Marijuana Inc. and OC NORML, the local chapter of the National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws. The group is hopeful of changing the city’s direction in the wake of its recent legal efforts to remove at least 10 pot dispensaries operating in some of the city’s strip malls.

On Sept. 1, the Lake Forest City Council announced that it had filed civil complaints against 35 people associated with 14 medical marijuana dispensaries in the city and called on immediate prosecution and abatement of the storefronts.

“We will initiate prosecution against the operators and landlords of these dispensaries operating in violation of federal law and violation of the city’s zoning code,” said City Attorney Scott Smith. “They are not permitted in any area of the city.”

The complaints are the first step in the city’s ultimate goal of permanently shutting down these shops. The city’s municipal code prohibits uses not explicitly allowed in commercial areas and prohibits businesses that violate state and federal law.

The City Council has taken no position on the use of medical marijuana for personal use by seriously ill people where the medical use is deemed appropriate by a physician, officials said.

Contact the writer: 949-454-7307 or eritchie@ocregister.com

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