L.A. City Council Set To Vote Tuesday On Marijuana Dispensary Law


Photo: Damon D’Amato, WAMC
Medical marijuana supporters march on L.A. City Hall in 2007

​After a delay of nearly three years resulting in hundreds of unlicensed medical marijuana dispensaries opening in Los Angeles, the City Council there will try to pass an ordinance Tuesday to regulate the booming industry.

The council already resolved some key issues, reports the Los Angeles Daily News — including whether to cap the number of dispensaries citywide, and the size of buffer zones between dispensaries and homes — during sessions that began last year.
Now the council must decide whether dispensaries should be kept 500 or 1,000 feet away from “sensitive use” sites, including schools, hospitals, religious institutions and rehab centers.
Once that’s settled, the council could pass the ordinance on first reading — but only if at least 12 of its 15 members vote for the measure. Otherwise, there will be a second reading a week later, when only eight votes are required to pass.

Photo: Laurie Avocado

​The proposed ordinance sets a cap of 70 dispensaries in Los Angeles, but specifically allows the 137 dispensaries that registered with the city before Nov. 13, 2007, to stay open, provided they follow certain rules.
If any of the 137 original dispensaries closes down or goes out of business, it won’t be replaced until the number is reduced to 70.
Since cash sales for profit aren’t allowed under California’s Compassionate Use Act, passed by voters in 1996, and the 2003 Medical Marijuana Program Act (SB 420), the proposed ordinance provides for an independent certified public accountant to audit the dispensaries every year and submit the findings to the City Controller.
Authorities would not be allowed to look into patients’ records without a search warrant, subpoena or court order.
The ordinance would require dispensaries to be open between 10 a.m. and 8 p.m., and would enforce strict security measures, including window bars, closed-circuit cameras, burglar alarms, and security guards patrolling a two-block radius around each store.
Collectives would not be allowed to store more than $200 in cash overnight, and would have to make twice-daily bank drops.
The council eliminated restrictions on how much marijuana can be stored at a dispensary.
Los Angeles has had since Sept. 14, 2007, a temporary ordinance banning dispensaries which registered with the city after Nov. 13, 2007. However, a boilerplate “hardship” exemption was used to open between 800 and 1,000 dispensaries throughout the city.