Los Angeles City Council Continues to Wrestle With Marijuana Ban

Municipalities all over California are wrestling with many of the same issues concerning their level of involvement in marijuana cultivation and sale. question.jpg

Los Angeles marijuana lawyers know that many local governments have benefited tremendously when they worked in cooperation with the dispensaries to establish reasonable guidelines that ensured safe operation and reasonable sales taxes.

But with the federal government issuing threats to take legal action against municipalities that regulate marijuana dispensaries, many local officials have opted out altogether.

In the City of Los Angeles, anti-marijuana activists are pushing local leaders to repeal the current ordinance on dispensaries.

From there, one option is to outlaw all storefront marijuana shops in L.A., though it would grant small groups of patients and their primary caregivers to cultivate it on their own. This idea is favored by Councilmen Mitch Englander and Jose Huizar, who say the city shouldn’t be acting to regulate marijuana sales until there is a clear court ruling that establishes the city’s responsibility.

Another option is to grandfather in about 100 existing dispensaries. This measure is backed by Councilmen Herb Wesson and Paul Koretz. These would be dispensaries that had registered with the city several years ago and have complied with a litany of conditions that include certain security mandates and hours of operation.

Medical marijuana patients gave a compelling case to city council members in a recent meeting. In one case, a 28-year-old man with muscular dystrophy said he is 6 feet, 1 inch tall and weighs 84 pounds. He said he nearly died seven years ago due to the powerful cocktail of prescription drugs he was on. The one plant that helps keep him alive, he says, is medical marijuana.

Five years ago, the city issued a moratorium on dispensaries. But there was a loophole. Hundreds of new marijuana shops opened. In response, city officials in 2010 established a lottery that limited the number that would be allowed to stay open.

However, the city attorney is pushing for the city to repeal that ordinance, based on the belief that the city may be violating federal law by in a sense sanctioning marijuana sales.

As of right now, there are approximately 70 lawsuits that are pending against the city by marijuana dispensaries that are fighting to stay open.

One issue that the city may not have considered is that if they immediately shutter all of the dispensaries, local law enforcement is going to be contending with vandalism and other crimes related to a scourge of vacant storefront properties.

Federal prosecutors contend that the state’s compassionate use laws that govern medical marijuana don’t allow dispensaries to operate for-profit. That’s been the reasoning behind at least a dozen forfeiture filings over the last year, including three just last week against property owners who house marijuana dispensaries in Santa Fe Springs.

Last year, voters in L.A. passed Measure M that would serve as a tax for medical marijuana receipts.

Still, city officials continue to grapple with the details.

The CANNABIS LAW GROUP offers experienced and aggressive representation to the medical marijuana industry in Southern California– including growers, dispensaries and collectives, patients and those facing marijuana charges. Call 714-937-2050 for a confidential consultation to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:
City committee to debate future of medical marijuana dispensaries in L.A, By Rick Orlov, Los Angeles Daily News

More Blog Entries:
Los Angeles Medical Marijuana Lawyers: Taxing Equals Legitimacy, Recession Respite, May 23, 2012, Los Angeles Marijuana Lawyers’ Blog