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Hits from the Blog: The Los Angeles City Council's Half-Baked Plan to Shut Down Medical Marijuana Dispensaries

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Thu, Oct 1, 2009 at 1:27 AM

click to enlarge Mr. Hand regulates on dope
  • Mr. Hand regulates on dope
"What are you people, on dope?--Mr. Hand, Fast Times at Ridgemont High.

So it would seem that the Los Angeles City Council has belatedly copped the paternalistic and patronizing tone perfected 25 years ago by Ray Walston, rocking a cardigan sweater and harboring the sickening suspicion that everyone is on dope. At least, this is the conclusion you're forced to draw should you seriously consider the Draconian dunce-like ordinance currently up for debate in the 15-member governing body.

As first reported by Sandy Banks in the Los Angeles Times, the would-be decree proscribes new medical marijuana dispensaries from opening, shut down existing shops and coerce patients into joining collectives--essentially, forcing them to grow weed, a time consuming and arduous process regardless of how many times you play "Dr. Green Thumb" on repeat. And, in a move sure to further heighten already enhanced paranoia, the proposed law contains a provision that would forbid on-site sign-ups, making patients register their names, addresses, and phone numbers in advance, creating a data-base subject to review by police at "any time, without need for search warrant, subpoena, court order."

Presumably, newly elected City Attorney Carmen Trutanich and City Councilman Ed Reyes, chair of the City Council's Planning and Land Use Management Committee (and reportedly, the chief authors of this draft), have been reading "Inherent Vice" and furtively incubating nostalgia for the precedent established by the Parker police force.

After all, this is 2009, an era when both the president and his Attorney General, Eric Holder, have expressed a desire to alter federal marijuana policy and have de-emphasized the need for federal raids. California voters have repeatedly declared their desire for medical marijuana, a right that no less than the United States Supreme Court has affirmed. The state itself is currently mulling a proposition to outright legalize the wackiest tobacc-ee (word to Fat Tony). Hell, even Afro-Man can still sell out shows. We don't need Mary-Louise Parker and Kevin Nealon to inform us that public mores have at least temporarily reverted to the laissez-faire liberalism of the pre-Reagan years.

So why would the City Council even consider such a myopic and silly gambit? Of course, nature abhors a vacuum (sealed sack), and with federal and state authorities increasingly wary of squandering resources chasing after dispensary owners with butterfly nets (to say nothing of incarceration and court costs), an accretion of self-righteous city officials, NIMBYs, and former hall monitors have painted the situation as in dire need of reform.

Even if you've smoked several grams of the sourest diesel, this is no laughing matter, with no less than Trutanich and District Attorney, Steve Cooley preparing to host an October 8th panel, grimly titled: "The Eradication of Medical Marijuana Dispensaries in the City of Los Angeles and Los Angeles County." There's no word if afterwards, they'll be showing old episodes of "Dragnet," sipping High Balls, and throwing marbles at errant biscuit ladies that happen to stroll by.

Surely, regulation is needed, but something more along the lines of San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom's decision to shut down roughly half of the city's dispensaries earlier in the decade, rather than forcing the black market to flourish and bankrupting the thousands of people currently serving the marijuana community.

Indeed, from a strictly fiscal perspective, the decision is madness for the perpetually cash-strapped and deficit-riddled city. With tax dollars waiting to be reaped, schools continually in need of funding and billboards no longer able to cause epileptic fits, now is the time for the city council to heed the public's will, not kow-tow to a narrow coalition of the anti-blind (glaucoma sufferers vote too). Let alone the fact that 700+ new vacant storefronts should do wonders for the city's already abysmal commercial vacancy rate (14.8 percent in the second quarter of 2009) and ensure that Burbank, West Hollywood and other surrounding un-incorporated communities continue to enjoy relative economic prosperity at the expense of Los Angeles. Keep in mind, this is a situation the city council got itself in by willfully ignoring the proliferation of new dispensaries by refusing to enforce the moratorium it passed two and a half years ago.

Someone's a dope, alright.

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