In a political move that may prove to be nothing more than symbolic grandstanding – or one that could well cripple the medical marijuana industry in Los Angeles – the L.A. City Council voted unanimously (14-0) on Tuesday to ban all of their 762 currently registered dispensaries. The dispensaries will be sent letters ordering them to close immediately.
Originally, longtime medical pot backer Paul Koretz (5th District) voted against the ban, but then he approved it as well after the Council agreed to forward his counter-proposal – one that would grant immunity to 182 pot shops that existed prior to 2007 and allow them to continue operating under strict new regulations.
Medical marijuana activists, who’ve had a busy week protesting in California, were on hand in overflowing force at Tuesday’s vote, with some shouting obscenities at the City Council’s decision. The police were called in to guard against the angry crowd fueled by frustration over the forced closure of L.A. dispensaries.
Ironically, the City Council refers to this dispensary storefront prohibition as a “gentle ban” because it will allow medical pot patients and their caregivers to grow and share in groups of three or less, but many patients don’t have the money, space, expertise, or energy to produce the high-caliber medicine a professional is capable of cultivating.
Some of the most ardent council members are justifying the widespread dispensary shutdown on the basis that dispensaries are magnets for crime – when studies on the issue have proven just the opposite – that crime does not increase in neighborhoods containing dispensaries
Previously, an L.A. City Council committee had approved the dispensary ban but that news was tempered after a California appellate court ruled that dispensaries are protected under state law. All of which occurred over the last month, making this an incredibly turbulent time for LA cannabis businesses.
The L.A. City Council proceeded with their dispensary prohibition on Tuesday, as they await a pending State Supreme Court decision. However, that high court ruling may not be rendered until 2013.
Medicinal cannabis activists have promised to file lawsuits and are even considering drafting a ballot initiative to have voters overturn the dispensary ban. Pending those actions and the state high court ruling in a year or so, here’s where L.A. stands as of now:
The dispensary ban will take effect 30 days after it is signed by L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa (which he has promised to do).
The city will obtain orders from a judge to legally shut down each dispensary that refuses to do so voluntarily, beginning with those that have generated the most complaints from residents.
However, in approximately three months, the City Council will revisit the Koretz ordinance to allow the original 182 dispensaries to reopen/continue operation. So, if you’re looking for a sliver of hope for L.A. pot patients, that seems to be it.
For more HT coverage on the LA City Council, click here.