Marijuana Dispensary Ban Inches Closer In Los Angeles


Dispensary ban author, L.A. City Councilman Jose Huizar: “If you don’t like the state law, let’s change the state law”

A Los Angeles City Council committee on Tuesday moved forward with a ban on medical marijuana dispensaries, approving a recommendation to outlaw storefront cannabis outlets in the city while still allowing “small groups” of up to three patients and caregivers to grow their own.

The Planning and Land Use Management (PLUM) Committee agreed to allow the full City Council to consider a complete ban on the pot shops, one of two options they considered on Tuesday, reports Mike Szymanski of City News Service.
PLUM could have considered a less restrictive plan, proposed by council member Paul Koretz, but the committee instead approved a full ban until a decision comes down from the California Supreme Court on pending lawsuits regarding the legality of dispensary sales of medical marijuana.

A ruling by the California Supreme Court isn’t expected for at least a year. The proposed ban in Los Angeles would last art least until the Supreme Court’s decision on the Pack v. Long Beach case, where California’s 2nd District Court of Appeal ruled that cities can’t, by way of regulating sales of a federally prohibited substance, affirm the right of such dispensaries to exist.

Mike Szymanski/StudioCityPatch
Lisa Sarkin, chair, Studio City Land Use Committee: “I spoke and recommended they all be banned until they figure out how this whole thing can work”

The proposed ban comes after years of legal wrangling — and a convincing portrayal of incompetence by the city council — over how L.A. should regulate medicinal cannabis distribution. In 2007, Los Angeles imposed a moratorium on dispensaries, but a loophole allowed hundreds of new shops to open. City council members reacted two years ago with an ordinance calling for a lottery to limit which dispensaries would be allowed to operate, reports Kate Linthicum at the Los Angeles Times.
“I spoke and recommended that they all be banned until they figure out how this whole thing can work,” said meeting attendee Lisa Sarkin, chairperson of the Studio City Land Use Committee, where an advisory committee is trying to hammer out an agreement between local business people and medical marijuana dispensary owners.
Sarkin said she “sees the need” for the shops to “help some people,” she called the proliferation of dispensaries in Studio City “ridiculous and unnecessary.”
City council member Jose Huizar — an opponent of dispensaries all along — moved to pass along the proposal and council member Mitchell Englander seconded it. It passed unanimously. Huizar represents the Eagle Rock neighborhood, where a proliferation of dispensaries has disturbed some members of the community.
The ordinance proposed by Huizar would allow “mini-collectives” of three or fewer patients to jointly grow their own marijuana at one location, and would allow patients to transport cannabis.

Damon D’Amato
L.A. City Councilman Bill Rosendahl: “To ban it would be totally insane and would throw it right back into the back alleys”

Huizar, Englander and fellow PLUM Committee member Ed Reyes disapproved of a separate plan — the less restrictive one, proposed by Koretz — that would have had the city refrain from prosecuting about 100 dispensaries which follow strict restrictions on where and when they could operate, along with tight security requirements.
“If you don’t like the state law, let’s change the state law,” Huizar told the PLUM Committee and an audience of about two dozen marijuana activists.
The committee, however, did allow the Koretz plan to also move forward, referring to a request by other city council members to hear both plans at the same time before the full city council.
Medical marijuana advocates said the ban would unfairly restrict access to cannabis for patients who have come to rely on it. The small collectives, limited to three people, allowed under the proposed ban would be hard on those who do not have the time or talent to cultivate weed, according to advocates.
Patient advocates support Koretz’s counterproposal, alsop backed by Councilman Bill Rosendahl, who spoke in favor of it at the PLUM Committee meeting. Rosendahl’s West L.A. district includes Venice Beach, where there are as many pot dispensaries as hot dog stands.
Rosendahl allowed that the number of dispensaries in Los Angeles is “out of control,” but said an outright ban would create more problems than it would solve, because it would force patients underground to obtain medicinal cannabis.
“To ban it would be totally insane and would throw it right back into the back alleys,” Rosendahl said.
“You’re cutting off access to patients, which is against what Proposition 215 says,” agreed attorney Steven Lubell, who represents dispensaries in a lawsuit against the city. “Instead of totally banning and waiting for the Supremes to rule, have some form of regulation that works in the interim.”
The two competing plans will be heard by the Public Safety Committee as early as Friday before going to the full city council.