Advocates Outraged; Vow To Reverse New Law With A Referendum
The Los Angeles City Council, after having flirted with the idea for some time, on Tuesday voted to ban the medical marijuana dispensaries in the city, claiming “neighborhood concerns” were a factor in the decision, along with recent court rulings questioning the right of cities to regulate the cannabis collectives.
The majority view of the council has evolved, reports Dennis Romero of LA Weekly, to the outlook that the city’s dispensary scene was not foreseen by state legislators when they allowed collectives as part of SB 420, which in 2003 clarified and expanded Proposition 215, approved by state voters back in 1996.
The council voted 13-1 to allow only nonprofit collectives of up to three people who want to grow and share medicinal cannabis. The vote drew a loud and unhappy response from marijuana advocates in the council chambers, tweeted KPCC reporter Alice Walton.
Shouting reportedly ensued in the meeting, but law enforcement, ready to take action, were told to stand down by Council President Herb Wesson.
The ban was passed despite more than 10,000 letters sent by medical marijuana patients and their supporters over the past few weeks urging the council to adopt sensible regulations rather than a complete ban. Advocates expressed outrage at the vote and vowed to seek a referendum to reverse the new law.
|Don Duncan, Americans for Safe Access: “The tens of thousands of patients harmed by this vote will not take it sitting down”|
“This is an outrage that the city council would think a reasonable solution to the distribution of medical marijuana would be to simply outlaw it altogether,” said Don Duncan, California director with medical cannabis advocacy group Americans for Safe Access (ASA). “The tens of thousands of patients harmed by this vote will not take it sitting down. We will campaign forcefully to overturn this poor decision by the council.”
The council had spent more than four years attempting to craft a medical marijuana dispensary ordinance, despite dozens of working regulatory examples across California.
According to the new ordinance, medical marijuana businesses will be banned until a regulatory scheme can be devised by city officials, presumably after challenges to both similar bans and to attempted regulations have been decided by the state Supreme Court.
In an attempt to cover for the harmful approach the city has taken on medical marijuana, local officials have referred to the ordinance as a “gentle ban.” Patient advocates take issue with this characterization of the city’s new policy.
“The city is whitewashing their actions by calling this a ‘gentle ban,’ when in reality it offers patients nothing more than what’s already legal under state law, and denies patients the real need to safely and legally obtain their medication,” Duncan said.
Advocates have long argued that such bans on distribution are not only illegal, but also deprive patients of a legal medication and needlessly push those patients into the black market.
Mayor Villaraigosa has 30 days to sign the ordinance into law, and then it will go into effect a few days later, upon publication.
The ban isn’t yet definitive, because the council also passed, by a 9-5 vote, to have the city attorney draft an ordinance that would allow for a certain number of city-regulated facilities. Patient advocates said they will continue to support sensible proposals such as the one previously recommended by Council member Paul Koretz and Council President Wesson, which took into account the need to regulate dispensaries in the city.
Under the proposed alternative plan, the 182 dispensaries which opened before a 2007 city moratorium would be allowed to remain in business as long as they adhere to stringent regulations.
The next few weeks will possibly determine if the council decides to go that route — grandfathering in the pre-2007 shops — or go with a hard ban, which is looking more and more likely.
If the city goes forward with the ban, it will be missing out on millions of dollars in dispensary taxes approved by L.A. voters last year.