Four Los Angeles pot dispensaries lost their bid Wednesday for a temporary court order to stop the city from shutting them down when its medical marijuana ordinance takes effect on June 7. The judge’s decision could discourage other pot shops from seeking similar orders, reports John Hoeffel at The Los Angeles Times.
Los Angeles officials were bracing themselves for scores of such orders, putting a crimp in their plans to close hundreds of pot shops, if the dispensaries had won in court Wednesday.
“Based on the arguments we heard today, the floodgates have been closed,” exulted special assistant city attorney Jane Usher.
The motions were denied by L.A. Superior Court Judge David P. Yaffee, despite pleas from attorney David Welch, representing the dispensaries, who argued that pot shop operators face irreparable harm if the city imposes daily fines or arrests and jails them.
“The temporary restraining order is denied, again, and for the last time,” Judge Yaffee haughtily said.
The four dispensaries were among the 44 filing two lawsuits challenging Los Angeles’s ordinance, which allows only the dispensaries which registered by November 13, 2007, to continue operation. Three of the suing dispensaries opened last year, and one opened in 2007 but did not register.
About 137 dispensaries qualify to apply to stay in business, while about 450 will be forced to shut down under the ordinance.
Usher would not discuss how law enforcement actions against dispensaries which fail to close would proceed, but implied it would take some time to shut the shops. “The first step will simply be to gauge compliance,” she said.
Yaffee set a hearing on an injunction for June 18, angrily and hubristically dismissing concerns from both sides that the issue should be decided before June 7.
Judge Yaffee’s ruling was a big disappointment for the dispensaries that almost won a temporary restraining order from Judge James C. Chalfant earlier the same day. Judge Chalfant seemed skeptical of the 2007 registration deadline, which the City Council had imposed as part of its moratoriuum on new dispensaries. In an earlier decision, Chalfant had ruled that the moratorium was illegally extended.
Chalfant insisted that it would be wrong for the city to prosecute the dispensaries before their motion could be heard in court. He repeatedly said he intended to grant a temporary restraining order.
“We can’t have these people go to jail,” Judge Chalfant said.
Chalfant, however, was not able to schedule a hearing on the injunction before June 7 and transferred the cases to Yaffee, who then refused to schedule one before that date.