Trutanich and Usher – The Clown and The Joker?

The Griffith Park Wayist, a local political blog, first started referring to Los Angeles City Attorney Carmen Trutanich as “Carmen the Clown,” about a year ago. The reason or reasons have never been spelled out, but it’s highly likely based on the number of people Trutanich has threatened to put in jail, and then disappointed us when he didn’t follow through.

Now another political blog, Mayor Sam, has started referring to Trutanich’s Special Assistant, Jane Usher, as Jane the Joker,” based on her mishandling of the long awaited ordinance governing the location and operation of medical marijuana dispensaries in the City of Los Angeles. Both blogs point to a recent decision by a judge who found fault with Usher’s ordinance as grounds for calling her “the Joker.”

So, have The Clown and The Joker really made a mess of medical marijuana?

One thing Los Angelenos do seem fairly agreed on is that there has to be a balance between the needs of medical marijuana patients to get their medicine, and the concerns of neighborhood residents at the vast number of medical marijuana dispensaries that suddenly appeared once US Attorney General Eric Holder announced a change in policy towards medical marijuana.

The City Council had basically punted the issue since at least 2005, and so in 2009, they turned to newly elected City Attorney Carmen Trutanich for a solution. Trutanich entrusted his Special Assistant Jane Usher with the task and it was Usher who presented her solution to the Council several times before she convinced them to accept her law.

Last week’s ruling by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Anthony J. Mohr allowed a dispensary (DTPG) to stay in business for the time being, rather than be closed as demanded by Usher. Judge Mohr’s ruling is significant because it marks the first time a court has ruled against Usher, who seemed to have the law on her side up to now

At issue in the DTPG case was the city’s draconian interpretation of which dispensaries have right to remain in business and which must close. Experts believe Judge Mohr’s final decision is likely to side with DTPG (as well as many other dispensaries currently facing closure) and are citing a ‘fatal flaw’ in Usher’s law.

“Divide and Conquer”

Usher’s ‘solution’ to regulating the hundreds of dispensaries in Los Angeles was a classic piece of strategy – divide the dispensary owners into two separate camps; those who had registered with the City in November 2007 under an “Interim Control Ordinance,” and those who either did not register or opened their dispensaries after November 2007. Only those who had registered in November 2007 would be allowed to apply to the City for the right to remain in business.

There were 186 ‘registered’ dispensaries, out of a total estimated to be upwards of 800, so Usher’s strategy had some merit. Instead of fighting with 800 dispensary owners, Usher only has to deal with a small group of the so-called ‘Original 186,’ and the rest are ‘SOL.’

Well it seems the ‘SOL’s are not taking this lying down and have fought back. They are quick to point out that Usher’s choice of the ‘Original 186’ fails the constitutional test of “rational basis review,” because the ‘Original 186’ was based on a 2007 Interim Control Ordinance that was subsequently found to be invalid – hardly the criteria for making a rational distinction between two similarly situated groups.

Whether the dispensary owners succeed in convincing Judge Mohr that Usher’s law is fatally flawed because it relies on invalid selection criteria and thereby denies them “equal protection under the law,” remains to be seen. If Usher prevails (and she’s won every other round of this battle) then perhaps Mayor Sam will be proven wrong in calling her “Jane the Joker.” As for “Carmen the Clown,” however, it seems he’ll have a much harder time shaking off the nickname.

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3 Responses to Trutanich and Usher – The Clown and The Joker?

  1. Mort says:

    Usher has been poisonous to Trutanich from the beginning. I can’t believe she didn’t know about the rational basis thing and I think she did it to make Trutanich look bad. She wants to be the next city attorney and will blame Trutanich for this mess.

  2. Anonymouse says:

    People at the City Atty’s Office are using the names “Clown” and “Joker” for the dynamic duo. They have their reasons and its no just the embarrassing screw up over Usher’s law, it goes way beyond that.

  3. Antonymous says:

    You are making a mountain out of a molehill. Judge Mohr’s ruling concerns ONE pot shop that was in compliance with the SPIRIT of the law (they provided evidence of insurance) but not in compliance with the LETTER of the law (they did not provide an insurance). The reasonable thing would be to grant them an exception and allow them to stay open. However, once the City grants ONE exemption, it opens the door for all the other pot shops to ask for exemptions, and for the courts to invalidate the whole ordinance because the City is enforcing it selectively. Having Judge Mohr order the exception in this ONE case, allows the City to continue to enforce its ordinance without running the risk of having the whole ordinance shot down. Trutanich and Usher actually did the right thing by denying the exception and leaving it for the courts to sort it out.

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