Marijuana Dispensary Advocates Challenge Restrictive L.A. Ordinance


Photo: The Bong Place

​A medical marijuana advocacy organization upped the ante on Tuesday, filing a lawsuit against the City of Los Angeles, saying that certain provisions in a recently adopted ordinance would shut down virtually all dispensaries in the city.

In order to comply with the local ordinance, passed by the City Council and signed by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa on February 3, dispensaries must be located at least 1,000 feet from schools, parks, libraries, churches, and other so-called “sensitive uses,” and cannot abut or be across the street from any residence — which excludes almost all commercial areas in the city, according to patient advocacy group Americans for Safe Access.
Dispensaries in “sensitive” areas — which means almost all of them — are required to find a new location within seven days after the ordinance takes effect.
“The dispensary ordinance passed by the Los Angeles City Council might have been reasonable, if not for some onerous provisions,” said Joe Elford, chief counsel with ASA, who filed the lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court on Tuesday.

Photo: ASA
Joe Elford, ASA: “The dispensary ordinance passed by the Los Angeles City Council might have been reasonable, if not for some onerous provisions”

​”The requirement to find a new location within seven days is completely unreasonable and undermines the due process of otherwise legal medical marijuana dispensaries,” Elford said.
Despite spending more than two years to develop regulations, the Los Angeles City Council passed an ordinance without maps to show where dispensaries could locate in order to comply with the law, according to ASA.
Among other restrictive programs, the Los Angeles regulations require that dispensaries “notify the City Clerk within one week after the effective date of this ordinance of their intention to register… at an identified location.”
The 11-page lawsuit’s plaintiffs, Venice Beach Care Center and PureLife Alternative Wellness Center, two dispensaries that have operated in Los Angeles since before the city’s moratorium, call the seven-day requirement to find a new site unnecessarily prohibitive.
Plaintiffs further argue without the assistance of maps such a requirement is inconceivable.
“We want to work with the city to comply with its regulations, but such unreasonable requirements make compliance impossible,” said plaintiff Yamileth Bolanos of PureLife Alternative Wellness Center. “We are more than willing to negotiate a compromise that would cut short costly litigation.”
The plaintiffs said they understand the City of Los Angeles is facing a budget shortfall of more than $200 million, and want to strike a balance between the concerns of elected officials and the needs of thousands of area patients that rely on local dispensaries.
Given the city’s economic crisis, many also question the rationale of expensive enforcement action recently taken by Los Angeles City Attorney Carmen “Nuch” Trutanich.
Trutanich, in lockstep with pot-hating, obnoxious media hog Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley, has said that California law authorizes collectives only to grow marijuana and recover their actual costs, not sell it over the counter.
Courts still have made a definitive ruling on whether collective dispensaries can sell marijuana to their members.
Over the past few years, more than 40 California localities have adopted ordinances regulating dispensaries. According to advocates, the Los Angeles regulatory ordinance is one of the most restrictive in the state.
Advocates claim that certain provisions in the local law threaten to shut down all the city’s dispensaries and amount to a de facto ban.

Photo: ASA
Kris Hermes, ASA: “The whole point… was to study the effect of restrictions like these”

​”The whole point of the moratorium was to study the impact of restrictions like these,” said ASA spokesperson Kris Hermes. “Unfortunately, a sufficient assessment never happened.”
The Planning Department was unable to provide residential buffer zone maps prior to the passage of the ordinance and, according to city staff, may never be able to produce them.
Both plaintiff dispensaries have operated since 2006 without any negative incidents, criminal or otherwise, and have established good relations with neighbors.
A recent study commissioned by L.A. Police Chief Charlie Beck compared the number of crimes in 2009 at the city’s banks and medical marijuana dispensaries. It found that 71 robberies had occurred at the more than 350 banks in the city, compared to 47 robberies at the more than 500 medical marijuana facilities.
“Banks are more likely to get robbed than medical marijuana dispensaries,” Chief Beck said, adding that the claim that dispensaries attract crime “doesn’t really bear out.”
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