Breaking News: L.A. City Bans Marijuana Dispensaries

Los Angeles City Council has approved an immediate ban on all 762 medical marijuana dispensaries in the city, while simultaneously proposing a loophole that would allow certain pot shops to remain open. hempflowers.jpg

Los Angeles marijuana attorneys understand that council chambers erupted into a roar of jeers and threats to sue the city in what has been widely panned as an attack on patient’s rights and the failure of government to heed the will of its people.

It’s anticipated that the city will have to contend with a slew of lawsuits brought by outraged patients, dispensary owners and activists, while others are vowing draw up a ballot initiative that would effectively overturn the ban.

Whatever the outcome, marijuana advocates don’t plan to take the decision lying down.

In the meantime, here’s what dispensary owners and operators need to know:

First of all, you will need to consult with an experienced Los Angeles marijuana attorney. You may have more options that you realize under state law that can be explored.

Secondly, will likely receive an official letter in the mail in the coming days or weeks ordering you to cease your operations immediately. Again, consult with a lawyer before you take any action at all. One of the reasons for this is that if you opened your shop prior to 2007, the city is considering a measure that may allow you to be grandfathered in. If you close your operation, you may hurt your chances of ever opening again.

About the grandfathered plan:

Council members, in addition to the ban, voted to have city staff draw up a plan that would allow those shops founded before the city’s 2007 moratorium to remain open. However, it won’t automatically go into effect. Council plans to revisit the issue in three months.

Some council members voted against that measure, saying that it would give the public false hope that the ban wouldn’t be actively enforced.

However, other council members asked that police not focus on those older dispensaries in their shut-down efforts, instead gearing their energies and resources toward the newer shops that are reportedly violating the moratorium.

What the ban does not do:

It does not make medical marijuana totally illegal. Patients and their caregivers will still technically be allowed to grow and share marijuana, so long as they do so in groups of three or fewer people.

While it’s good that this fundamental consideration was made, the problem with it is that very few patients or caregivers have the time or special knowledge it takes to do this. By some estimates, it can cost as a minimum of $5,000 to effectively grow the plant in your home. Plus, you risk electrical hazards and the like if you don’t know exactly what you’re doing.

And that’s the whole benefit of dispensaries.

City council members, with the backing of Police Chief Charlie Beck, say this move was necessitated by the fact that dispensary shops currently outpace Starbucks coffee shops by a ratio of 2-to-1. They contended that the ordinance will allow the city to shutter shops.

However, it still leaves us in very murky legal territory, as the state advocates battle it out with federal prosecutors and local municipalities teeter between not wanting to draw federal ire and realizing the tax benefits they can reap – not to mention the overall improved quality of life for their citizens – when these shops are allowed to thrive.

The Los Angeles CANNABIS LAW Group represents growers, dispensaries, collectives, patients and those facing marijuana charges. Call us at 714-937-2050.

Additional Resources:
Medical marijuana hub Los Angeles moves to ban dispensaries, By Alex Dobuzinskis, Reuters

L.A. City Council bans medical marijuana dispensaries, By Kate Linthicum, Los Angeles Times

More Blog Entries:
Court Rules L.A. Marijuana Dispensary Ban Violates State Law, July 11, 2012, Los Angeles Marijuana Lawyer Blog