By Edwin Folven, 8/02/2012
Paul Koretz and Bill Rosendahl are longtime supporters of medical marijuana
Los Angeles City Councilmen Bill Rosendahl, 11th District, and Paul Koretz, 5th District, have admitted to accepting campaign contributions for medical marijuana dispensaries and their supporters.
Rosendahl, who reportedly suffers from a neuropathic condition affecting his feet and disclosed Wedesday that he has cancer in the pelvic area, also admitted to having a prescription and using medical marijuana for his condition, but reportedly did not divulge where he buys the drug. Tony Arranaga, a deputy for Rosendahl, said the councilman was not available for comment, but confirmed that he had accepted nearly $8,900 from dispensary owners and their supporters. Both Rosendahl and Koretz are running for reelection in 2013.
Koretz, who reportedly received more than $7,300 in campaign contributions from dispensary owners and their supporters, said he has long supported medical marijuana usage for patients who receive a legitimate doctor’s prescription. Koretz said it is a position that was formed during the past 20 years during his tenure on the West Hollywood City Council and in the State Assembly. Koretz said he was on the West Hollywood City Council during a period when many people in the LGBT community were dying of AIDS, and that medical marijuana provides relief for people suffering from AIDS and other diseases such as cancer and multiple sclerosis. Koretz added that he was principal co-author of SB 420, a state law approved in 2003 that cleared the way for dispensaries to distribute medical marijuana.
Last week, when the city council approved a ban on medical marijuana dispensaries, Koretz said he voted for the motion only because he knew it was inevitable that such a ban would pass. He authored a motion, also approved last week, that will explore the possibility of allowing approximately 100 dispensaries that were operating before the city passed a moratorium in 2007 to remain open. Koretz said he believes there is nothing wrong with accepting donations from dispensary owners who were operating legally prior to the ban approved on July 24, and said it is no different than any other legal business that contributes to his campaign.
“I don’t really find anything wrong with it,” Koretz said. “I am not concealing it. I have been a supporter of medical marijuana for many years, and it is not surprising that a group of people who share that support would want to donate to my campaign.”
Koretz said the campaign contributions were primarily made by individuals, and he said he did not remember their names. A list of Koretz campaign contributors available through the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission listed Cahuenga Caregivers, which is doing business as No Ho Compassionate Caregivers, as making a $700 donation. The Eagle Rock Herbal Collective donated $100, while Robertson Caregivers Beverlywood donated $700. Koretz added that some donations have come from individual dispensary employees who have organized through the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 770 union. The list showed that approximately $2,700 in donations came from the union, but it was unclear from the list of contributors what other donors are involved with dispensaries.
According to the City Ethics Commission, the campaign contributions are not illegal. The only individuals or entities prohibited from making contributions to political campaigns are lobbyists or lobbying firms, foreign nationals and foreign corporations, and some businesses that have contracts with the city. Koretz said they are legal because the dispensaries were operating before the moratorium was put into place, and the other donations were made by individuals under their own names.
Koretz said he believes too many dispensaries are currently operating in the city, and something needs to be done to curb illegal operations. He added, however, that patients need access to medical marijuana, and that it will be difficult under the ban approved last week. Under the ban, groups of three patients and their caregivers will be allowed to grow and share marijuana. The ban will go into effect in approximately one month, and the City Attorney’s Office will begin sending letters to all dispensaries operating in the city ordering them to close. The owners of dispensaries that do not close could face steep fines and property liens. Koretz’s measure to allow some dispensaries to stay open will likely be considered within the next couple of months.