L.A. County To Take On Marijuana Inspection/Enforcement Role for Cities as Legalization Nears

December 21, 2017 by · 1 Comment 

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors authorized public health officials Tuesday to carry out inspections of commercial cannabis businesses for cities countywide, though it has yet to set its own rules as legalization nears.

The move comes in response to Los Angeles city officials’ request that the Department of Public Health take on health and safety inspections of marijuana businesses and enforce related regulations.

Legalization takes effect statewide Jan. 1, but is still subject to the right of local jurisdictions to set their own regulations and even ban cannabis businesses.

On Monday, the Los Angeles County Office of Cannabis Management published a set of proposals that would govern unincorporated areas of the county. The OCM plans to seek the board’s approval early next year.

The draft policies include the following proposals:

— phased-in licensing for an initial maximum of 20 cannabis stores, 20 delivery-only services, 10 cultivators, 10 manufacturers, 10 distributors and 10 testing laboratories countywide, with no more than five stores or delivery services per district;
— stores, delivery services and labs would be allowed only in heavy commercial and manufacturing zones, with other businesses restricted to areas zoned for manufacturing; all businesses would be barred from residential neighborhoods and areas zoned for agricultural use;
— additional buffers would prohibit businesses from locating near schools, day care centers, parks and drug and alcohol treatment centers; and
— a five-member quasi-judicial commission would have discretion to approve or deny applications from would-be licensees.

A map of where businesses can locate if the board approves the policies as written can be found at http://planning.lacounty.gov/cannabis/maps.

For the time being, a county ban on cultivation, manufacture, processing, testing, transportation and retail sale of medical and non-medical marijuana in unincorporated areas remains in effect. However, new storefronts are opening at a faster rate than enforcement officials can shut down illegal shops.

The board’s vote on taking the lead in managing health and safety inspections for Los Angeles and reaching out to other cities was unanimous.

However, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas reiterated a warning that “the health and safety impacts of such businesses (will) be far-reaching.”

Recommendations from the cannabis office anticipate that county licensees may be required to invest in the surrounding community — supporting youth development and substance abuse treatment programs, for example — depending on the health impacts of their businesses. The Department of Public Health is expected to help draft the relevant ordinances, based on its assessment of the consequences of legalization.

Cannabis proponents raised concerns about excessive regulation running contrary to the voters’ will to legalize marijuana, while other residents continued to caution the board about how easy access to marijuana would hurt young adults and negatively impact neighborhoods.

Supervisor Sheila Kuehl has said that any regulatory framework should be compared with rules that govern alcohol sales.

County Sees Public Restrooms as Key to Preventing Hepatitis A Among Homeless

October 12, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Prompted by an outbreak of hepatitis A concentrated among homeless individuals, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to survey homeless encampments to determine where to locate more public restrooms and hand washing facilities.

Supervisor Hilda Solis recommended the survey, calling public health safety of “paramount” importance.

“The goal is to make sure that those experiencing homelessness have a clean place to maintain good hygiene and prevent illnesses from spreading,” Solis said.

The outbreak was declared in September after two cases of hepatitis A were identified that could not be traced back to San Diego County or Santa Cruz. The contagion is worst in San Diego, where 490 cases and 18 deaths have been reported.

Hepatitis A is a highly contagious liver disease and the risk is particularly great among homeless individuals who are often living in unsanitary conditions, suffering from other health issues or don’t have ready access to treatment.

Between Sept. 19, when the outbreak was announced and Oct. 9, two more “community-acquired” cases have been identified, according to the Department of Public Health website. Nine of the total 12 patients were hospitalized for some period of time.

County to No Longer Observe Columbus Day

October 5, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday became the latest municipal body to drop Christopher Columbus from favored status, voting to eliminate all references to Columbus Day as a county holiday.

Supervisors have decided to instead designate Oct. 12 as Italian American Heritage Day and to create a new Indigenous Peoples Day, to be held on the second Monday of October, beginning no later than 2019.

Supervisors Hilda Solis and Sheila Kuehl co-authored the motion.

“This action is about publicly recognizing that America’s ancestors, for centuries, oppressed certain minority groups,” Solis said.

Many speakers were emotional, recalling a history of genocide. Others said honoring Columbus served to distort what their children learn in school.

“There are a lot of generations of hurt,” Supervisor Janice Hahn said.

Solis said the change would not mean forgetting what Columbus had done, but would lead to a fuller understanding.

“This is not about erasing history,” Solis said. “I believe the full history and impact of Christopher Columbus should be taught to current and future generations. While we cannot change the past, we can realize the pain that millions suffered throughout our nation’s history, as well as the tremendous achievements of the original inhabitants of our continent.”

Columbus, long celebrated for his discovery of America, never actually set foot on North American soil. He landed instead in the Caribbean, where he was said to have committed atrocities against the native island people he found there.

Solis said the motion amounted to restorative justice. She pointed to the contributions of Native Americans to agriculture, medicine, music, language and art, while also noting that they suffer some of the highest percentages of depression, incarceration and infant mortality and have a lower life expectancy than other Americans.

Supervisor Kathryn Barger voted against the motion without comment.

As a result of the 4-1 vote, the board will also urge Los Angeles Unified School District officials to take similar action.

The Los Angeles City Council voted in August to eliminate Columbus Day from city calendars. Several states no longer recognize Columbus Day.

GOP Health Care Bill Will Harm County, Say Supes

June 29, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Four of the five members of the Board of Supervisors said Tuesday that the pending Senate bill to repeal Obamacare would be a damaging step backward for Los Angeles County.

Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, flanked by fellow Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas, Janice Hahn and Hilda Solis, told healthcare providers and community advocates gathered outside the downtown Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration, “We mean to stop this bill.”

Department of Health Services Director Mitchell Katz said more than 1.2 million county residents gained health insurance coverage under the expansion of Medicaid or health care exchanges created by the Affordable Care Act, more commonly known as Obamacare, which meant “they no longer had to wait days for care in emergency rooms” and could afford the medications they needed to stay healthy.

“All of that’s in jeopardy now,” Katz said.

California Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris are opposed to the Senate proposal — the Better Care Reconciliation Act — and all of their Democratic Party colleagues are also expected to vote against it. The Republican Party needs at least 50 of its 52 members to pass the bill, even if it relies on Vice President Mike Pence for a tie-breaking vote.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, had pressed for a vote before the Senate’s scheduled 4th of July recess. However, that vote was postponed after several Republican senators expressed concerns, with some criticizing the bill as doing too little to unwind Obamacare and others worried that it would hit their constituents too hard.

Tuesday’s rally was about making sure everyone understands the consequences, said Louise McCarthy, president and CEO of the Community Clinic Association of Los Angeles County.

“The thing that’s most notable about this fight is the fact that it really doesn’t know boundaries because of social media,” McCarthy said. “The more people hear stories, they understand that they’re actually connected to these issues.”

Residents who don’t rely on Medicaid or the ACA for health insurance will also feel the effects if Obamacare is repealed, she said.
“If you think this doesn’t impact you, hop in the line at the emergency room once there are 22 million uninsured people lining up for care,” McCarthy said. “Or when your nanny doesn’t show up. Or when your substitute teacher shows up sick and gets your kids sick … this is public health.”

The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that 22 million people would lose care under the Senate proposal.

The COB reported that the BCRA would reduce the federal deficit by $321 billion over the next 10 years. It would also eliminate taxes on the wealthy that were used to pay for expanding coverage and do away with mandates requiring insurance and associated penalties.

At a board meeting following the rally, Supervisor Kathryn Barger — the sole Republican on the nonpartisan board — said legislators on both sides of the aisle believe “the ACA as written has flaws,” but praised the work Katz has done to expand coverage.

“We’ve done very well under the ACA,” Barger said.

Both Solis and Hahn called the Senate proposal heartless, while Kuehl proposed a new slogan for the Senate bill.

“The slogan for the proposed plan may as well be `Make America sick again,”’ Kuehl said. “If this terrible plan passes, Medicaid, as we know it, will be virtually gutted and L.A. County will be ground zero for the plan’s deadly consequences.”
Ridley-Thomas said the board was willing to push back.

“We will not retreat. We will not relent. We will fight for the people of this county because healthcare is a right, not a privilege,” Ridley-Thomas said.

County to Review Contracting Policy

January 30, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Tuesday directed staffers to review how sole source contracts get awarded and consider new limits on the use of no-bid agreements.

The board approved the review after Supervisor Hilda Solis said the Sheriff’s Department request — on Tuesday’s agenda — to renew a contract with DataWorks Plus for its digital mug shot technology was an opportunity to step back and re-evaluate the way things are done.

The department had asked for approval to extend the contract for another seven years.

“Sole source agreements should be the exception and not the rule,” Solis said. “I understand people get comfortable and familiar with existing vendors but that can lead to exclusion and a lack of transparency.”

Current policy typically limits no-bid contracts to items or services that are only available from one source, like proprietary technology, or in emergency situations where there is no time for a bidding process.

According to Solis and fellow Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, sole source contracts have led to higher costs for the county because of a lack of competition.

“By circumventing the competitive solicitation process, this practice effectively precludes many vendors, especially new, small and/or minority or women-owned businesses from competing for county contracts,” Solis said.

The board directed the Sheriff’s Department to solicit bids for a mug shot system and approved renewal of the DataWorks contract for only four years.

The board also directed the county’s interim chief executive officer, the interim director of the Internal Services Department and the director of Public Works to review the sole use agreement policy now in place and report back on how best to limit the use of no-bid contracts.

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