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Outside the Circle News

Marijuana causes problems in Los Angeles

One year ago, federal law enforcement officials began focusing efforts on California’s medical marijuana industry. They made several high-profile arrests throughout the state and moved to Los Angeles last month. Since they arrived there, 71 dispensaries have been told to shut down. At the same time, however, the Los Angeles City Council repealed a ban on these dispensaries.

The ban had been passed a few months earlier and was removed due to the actions of medical marijuana supporters. California has had consistent problems with medical marijuana regulation for years. The number of dispensaries in Los Angeles alone is estimated to be between 500 and 1000.

Michael Larsen, president of the Neighborhood Council in Eagle Rock, said that people are desperate to get rid of the dispensaries. Eagle Rock itself boasts 15 dispensaries within a one-and-a-half-mile radius.

Medical marijuana was legalized in California in 1996, but, in the past few months, the federal authorities have closed over 600 dispensaries. Their argument is that federal law states that marijuana is illegal, while state law says that dispensary operators need to be nonprofit primary caregivers to the patients and that the distribution of marijuana needs to be for medical purposes only.

The warnings to the 71 dispensaries in Los Angeles are expected to be only a small fraction of the war against medical marijuana. Asset penalty lawsuits have been filed against three dispensaries and criminal warning letters have been sent to 68 others. Thom Mrozek, a spokesman for the United States attorney, told The New York Times that this strategy has led to the closing of 97 percent of the targeted dispensaries.

In 2004, when California first allowed marijuana dispensaries, there were only a few. However, the number quickly jumped to hundreds. Over the summer, the City Council voted to ban dispensaries. Because of this ban, a counter-attack was created. With the help of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, the Americans for Safe Access, and the Greater Los Angeles Collective Alliance, the opposition raised $250,000. This money was used to get signatures, which would lead to a vote to overturn the ban on the ballot in March of 2013.

Instead of letting this plan unfold, the City Council voted to rescind the ban. José Huizar, one of the few council members that opposed the repeal, believed that the council was not prepared to fight the marijuana industry and that better access and restriction laws of marijuana are necessary. He said, “unless that happens, local cities are going to continue to play the cat-and-mouse game with the dispensaries.”

Not all of the dispensaries want to fight however. Rigo Valdez, director of organizing for the local union that represents over 500 dispensary workers in Los Angeles, told The New York Times that he would be glad to support an ordinance that limited the number of dispensaries to about 125. He also noted that he would support keeping these dispensaries away from schools and homes.

The outcome of the fight for medical marijuana is still unknown. David Welch, a lawyer representing 15 of the 71 Los Angeles dispensaries, promised that “medical marijuana dispensaries are very much like what they distribute; they’re weeds. You cut them down, you leave, and then they sprout back up.”


Falcon 9 takes flight

The first commercial cargo flight aimed for the International Space Station departed late Sunday evening. This flight was an essential step for NASA because private companies will now be in charge of transporting people and supplies to low-Earth orbit.

Space Exploration Technologies in Hawthorne, Calif. made the launch possible. The Falcon 9 rocket left from Cape Canaveral, Fla. at 8:35 p.m. This particular launch contained only cargo, as human transportation is still many years in the future.

The cargo, a capsule named Dragon, holds 1000 pounds of food, clothing, equipment, and science experiments. Twenty-three of these experiments were designed and created by students. A freezer that can cool samples to 300 degrees below zero is also part of the cargo.

The experiments chosen to be launched into space are determined through a program run by NanoRacks and the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education. One of the experiments comes from a middle school in Santa Monica, Calif. The experiment aims to discover whether silly putty will have different properties in space.

Major General Charles F. Bolden Jr., the NASA administrator, said, “It actually marks the beginning of true commercial spaceflight.” Flacon 9’s launch was the first of 12 that are set to occur due to a $1.6 billion contract with NASA. If everything goes according to plan, Falcon 9 will come back to Earth at the end of October, landing approximately 250 miles off the coast of Southern California.


Meningitis cases continue to increase

United States health officials announced this past Sunday that 27 additional cases of fungal meningitis have been reported. The meningitis outbreak, linked to steroid injections, has now affected a total of 91 individuals in nine states. It has also killed seven.

Most of the new cases were discovered in Michigan, where the numbers increased from eight to 20. Virginia totaled the next highest number of victims, going from 11 to 18. The states affected by these outbreaks are Florida, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, and Virginia. The first outbreak was noticed in Tennessee, which now has 32 infected individuals and three deaths. The other four deaths occurred in Michigan, Maryland, and Virginia.

The outbreak has caused focus to be shifted to pharmaceutical compounding companies, like the New England Compounding Center Inc. in Framingham, Mass. A compounding company is one that takes medication from pharmaceutical manufacturers and divides them into specific dosages and strengths.

According to the Massachusetts Health Department, this company shipped 17,676 vials of methylprednisolone acetate, the meningitis-causing steroid, to 76 facilities in 23 states from the months of July to September. The facility has previous complaints and was searched in 2011, but no issues were found.

Typically, the steroid is used as a painkiller, frequently for back pain. Approximately one to four weeks after their injections, the affected patients began showing meningitis symptoms. These symptoms can range from nausea, headache, and fever to serious neurological problems.

The New England Compounding Center Inc. has temporarily halted its operations while the facility is investigated. All lots of the distributed steroids have been recalled, as well as all products that are compounded or distributed by the facility.

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