Adopted Minutes - Advisory Neighborhood Commission 4B

Special Public Meeting, August 31, 2010

 

The meeting began at about 7:05 p.m. at the MPD's Community Room, 6001 Georgia Avenue, NW, Chair Yvonne Jefferson (also 4B08) presiding.  Also present were Commissioners 4B01 Sara Green , 4B02 Faith Wheeler, 4B03 Monique Michelle Smith, 4B04 James Sydnor, 5B05 Brenda Speaks, 4B07 Judi Jones, and 4B09 Douglass Sloan.  A quorum was present for all votes.

 

Actions

1.  The agenda was adopted following a 2-5-0 roll-call vote on an amendment proposed by Commissioner Jones.  That amendment would have cut the medical marijuana item .  Voting "yes" to the amendment were Commissioners Smith and Jones.  Voting "no" were Commissioners Green, Wheeler, Speaks, Jefferson and Sloan.

 

2.  In a 6-1-0 roll-call vote following a motion from Commissioner Green, the Commission adopted a resolution, with friendly amendments, in partial support of B18-716, the "Open Government is Good Government Act of 2010." The bill is before the D.C. City Council's Committee on Government Operations and the Environment.

 

Voting "yes" to the motion were Commissioners Green, Wheeler, Smith, Speaks, Jones and Jefferson.  Commissioner Sloan voted "no."

 

The adopted resolution:

 

”ANC 4B strongly endorses the goal of the Open Government is Good Government Act of 2010, B18-716, to make government more transparent to its constituents.  However, we believe that there are changes that would bring the Bill closer to that goal.

 

First, we agree with expert testimony from groups representing reporters and others that there are very few valid situations that require closing "quasi-judicial" meetings, that these meetings are precisely what the public should be able to see, and that Section (d)(2)(N) on Page 5 provides too wide an exemption.  We therefore request that this section detail those specific situations where privacy considerations require a closed meeting.

 

Second, Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners should not be subject to lawsuits and fines for violations of this Act.  We recommend that they be exempted from those sections and that a provision be added requiring that a Commissioner sued in connection with his/her position as a Commissioner be defended by the Office of the Attorney General.

 

 

Third, we recommend that the requirements for notice and disclosure be tailored, in the case of ANCs, to our role and resources.     

 

Specifically, we would limit the requirement for notice in the DC Register to our yearly meeting schedule, and would require that notice of individual meetings be made in venues more suitable to our constituencies and resources, such as web pages, local listserves, and/or other local media and locations.  The Mayor should provide a web site, staffed appropriately, for these notices.

 

Also, requirements to provide recordings and transcripts within three days or less are inappropriate and impractical for ANCs.

 

Finally, we request that it be made clear that we can, at most, provide notice of proposed agendas, since our agendas are not official until adopted after possible amendment. Similarly, we note that minutes are not official until adopted.

 

We submit these recommendations as per D.C. Code Section 1-309.10(a) and related provisions, which require that D.C. government bodies place "great weight" on these recommendations and respond to them in a timely manner.

 

Advisory Neighborhood Commission 4B designates every Commissioner to speak or write on this resolution as it affects his or her constituents as long as his or her statements include a copy of this resolution and do not conflict with this resolution."

 

The vote followed a lengthy discussion with Ward 4 Council Member Muriel Bowser, one of the bill's authors.

 

Commissioner Green said the bill would place unnecessary and unreasonable requirements on Advisory Neighborhood Commissions, including placing agendas in the DC Register and making tape recordings of meetings available to the public within one day, in some cases. Also, Commissioners Green and Speaks and others said they oppose provisions that expose Commissioners to possible fines and nuisance lawsuits.

 

Commissioner Wheeler noted that the term "public meeting" means that the public can attend, but ANC 4B and other bodies can establish their own rules for public participation.

 

Commissioner Green and ANC 5C12 Commissioner Gigi Ransom said they are concerned that quasi-judicial panels, including the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board and the Zoning Commission, could close meetings during their deliberative sessions.

 

Council Member Bowser said she would work to amend the bill to resolve the Commission's concerns.  Existing ANC notice requirements are already extensive, so the DC Register requirement could be eliminated, she said.  She also said she would look at changes to protect Commissioners from nuisance lawsuits and fines, but was not sure what language was appropriate.

 

Council Member Bowser noted that all Commission meetings, including the monthly planning meetings, now largely closed to the public, should be open and noticed, as per the legislation.  Often, straw votes on issues are taken at these meetings, denying the public the opportunity to hear substantive discussions, she said.

 

She agreed that the bill's provisions permitting closed meetings for quasi-judicial panels are too broad and should be narrowed to sessions where proprietary information is discussed.

 

Commissioner Smith said she supported opening ANC planning meetings. Commissioner Jones said ANC 4B's planning meetings are now open to the public.  Council Member Bowser said the meetings are not open unless they are advertised in the same manner as other Commission meetings.

 

3. In a 5-0-0 show-of-hands vote following a resolution made by Commissioner Green that included several friendly amendments, the Commission adopted a resolution with recommendations to the Office of the Mayor with respect to proposed regulations for the sale and cultivation of medical marijuana.

 

The adopted resolution:

 

"Advisory Neighborhood Commission 4B supports the proposed amendments to

Title 22 of the DCMR, which would provide detailed regulations for medical marijuana cultivation centers and dispensaries. We believe that these regulations will protect the public from the abuses experienced in other states while providing patients in need with medical marijuana.

 

We propose that these regulations be amended to give the D.C. Department of Health (DOH) the sole responsibility for enforcing all of these regulations for the following reasons:

 

*  Medical marijuana is a new industry in our city and dividing responsibilities between two agencies increases the potential for error. Medical marijuana is a drug.  DOH currently regulates and supervises pharmacists and pharmacies where drugs with the potential for abuse are sold. DOH has staff with the appropriate professional backgrounds.

 

*  Medical marijuana is a drug to be used by sick people, not a recreational drug like alcohol.  Therefore, putting the agency that regulates the sale of alcohol in charge of medical marijuana sends the wrong message to the public.

 

*  Medical marijuana is a new and controversial D.C. program that needs the full confidence of the community, particularly in the location of dispensaries and cultivation centers.  Communities need to know that ANCs will have genuine "great weight," as the law promises, with respect to those licenses and their location.

 

Additionally, we recommend that ANCs have veto power, rather than "great weight," over the licensing of a cultivation center or a dispensary within their Commission boundaries.

 

The selection of medical marijuana dispensaries and cultivation centers should be based on merit, and not on "first come, first served."

 

We recommend that the retail component of this law be revisited to put the dispensing of medical marijuana in a medical facility.

 

We also endorse the provisions that initial licenses for both cultivation centers and dispensaries be issued for only one year, with annual renewal required, which will give communities and regulators an opportunity to correct problems quickly and evaluate performance. License renewals should be predicated on correcting the cited problems, if any.

 

In addition, several community representatives, including at least two Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners, plus a qualifying patient and one doctor with expertise in the use of medical marijuana, should be added to all boards and panels overseeing medical marijuana.

                                                                                                     

We submit these recommendations as per D.C. Code Section 1-309.10(a) and

related provisions. This law requires that D.C. government bodies, including the D.C. City Council and the Mayor, among others, place "great weight" on these recommendations and respond to them in a timely manner.

 

Advisory Neighborhood Commission 4B designates every Commissioner to speak or write on this resolution as it affects his or her constituents, as long as his or her statements include a copy of this resolution. "

 

4.  In a 5-0-0 show-of-hands vote following a motion made by Commissioner Green, the seventh paragraph of the resolution that begins with the words, "[t]he selection of medical marijuana dispensaries..," is amended to say, "[t]he selection of medical marijuana dispensaries and cultivation centers should be based on merit, and not on 'first come, first served.'"

 

There was a lengthy discussion and debate prior to the vote, with presentations from Susan Mottet, of Council Member David Catania's office, and Caren Woodson, of Americans For Safe Access.

 

Commissioners Smith and Jones said they are very concerned that the cultivation centers and dispensaries will attract crime and create problems similar to those created by the methadone centers that were located on Georgia Avenue. Commissioner Jones also said she is concerned that the District of Columbia is permitting medical marijuana because it will generate tax revenue.

 

Commissioner Jones said she wants medical marijuana sold in a medical facility, where the public cannot identify customers, not in a stand-alone retail space. Methadone is now dispensed in a hospital, she added. Commissioner Sydnor said pharmacies are a good place to sell medical marijuana.

 

Cliff Valenti, the Chair of ANC 1A, said he remembers the negative impact of the methadone centers and said the Washington Hospital Center is the best location for a dispensary. Tessae Harrington, of Dahlia Street, NW, said she is concerned about the impact on her neighborhood.

 

Ms. Woodson and others explained that federal regulations make it very difficult to put a dispensary in a medical facility or a pharmacy.  A pharmacist who dispenses medical marijuana will lose his or her license.

 

Andy Catanzaro, of ANC 4B02, a physician who treats HIV and AIDS patients, said medical marijuana could have a detrimental effect on an HIV patient but has value for AIDS patients.  Ms. Woodson disagreed and said that marijuana is effective on nausea, a problem for HIV patients.  She said that patients, including some in wheelchairs, are now forced to purchase marijuana in open-air drug markets and that several members of her family are suffering because they cannot get it.

 

Nicholas Schiller, of Safe Access, noted that the proposed regulations, among other things, prohibit patients from opening packages of marijuana in the dispensing center or in the street, a rule designed to protect communities from illegal drug sales.

 

John Pylka, of the DC Statehood Party, said DC voters approved permitting medical marijuana to be sold and instructed the City to set rules to sell it safely.  Those who need it deserve access to it and compassion.

 

Commissioner Wheeler said legal access needs to be given to those who need it. She noted that only five to eight centers will be permitted in DC, compared to hundreds that sprang up in California.  ANC 5C Commissioner Gigi Ransom cited differences between DC law and laws in other states.

 

Wanda Oates, of ANC 4B05, a health teacher in the DC Public Schools, said cigarettes are more detrimental to health than medical marijuana.

 

Ms. Woodson asked that ANC 4B recommend that the DC Department of Health, not the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration, have complete authority over medical marijuana, that a patient representative be added to the advisory committee, and that licenses be approved on merit, not on "first-come, first-served."

 

Kathy Borris-Hale, of Ward 4, asked that ANC 4B recommend that license applications be approved on merit and that only DC residents should be issued licenses.

 

The meeting adjourned at around 9:40 p.m.

  ---- Submitted By Sara Green, Secretary