Regulating Pot Shops? Councilman Asks, "Can't Someone Else Do It?" | The Informer | Los Angeles | Los Angeles News and Events | LA Weekly
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Regulating Pot Shops? Councilman Asks, "Can't Someone Else Do It?"

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Wed, Feb 3, 2010 at 6:02 AM

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City Councilman Jose Huizar has called on the state legislature to clarify California's medical marijuana rules, arguing that the city's own ordinance could only go so far with out clearer guidelines on such issues as what constitutes a sale, whether over-the-counter dispensaries were legitimized by state voters, and where collectives can legally get their cannabis.

Huizar's argument, made in a guest opinion piece published in the Los Angeles Times, seems to justify the council's multi-year foot-dragging on the issue by blaming the vagueness of state law. At the same time, it provides an out for the council should its own ordinance, which aims to shut down more than 400 dispensaries, fail to provide the kind of crackdown that many residents in neighborhoods besieged by pot shops have called for.

"Without clarity from the state," he writes, "the council also had to punt on the issues of cultivation and transportation of marijuana by saying that the ordinance would abide by state law."

It's as if Huizar is asking, "Can't someone else do it?" And what's really strange about the councilman's buck-passing to the legislature is that it comes barely two weeks after the state Supreme Court ruled that the legislature can't really amend an initiative approved by voters -- only voters can do so.

In throwing out legislative limits on how much pot a medical marijuana patient can possess, the California high court stated: "The legislature is powerless to act on its own to amend an initiative statute. Any change in this authority must come in the form of a constitutional revision ... We are compelled to conclude that section 11362.77 [the eight-ounce-limit law) impermissibly amends the CUA and ... is unconstitutional as applied in this case."

Huizar makes some valid points. It's true that 1996's voter-approved Prop. 215 is vague when it comes to such issues, particularly regarding the exact mechanism for getting weed into the hands of the "seriously ill" (the proposition calls for nonprofit collectives and doesn't outline anything like the retail stores we see today). But we have to wonder if passing the buck down a dead end road like legislative clarification in a matter only the voters can amend is just another sign that the council has thrown up its hands.

One councilman even suggested that the city's ordinance would be shaped by court challenges (so why bother). It's a wonder cities such as Culver City and Beverly Hills have managed to keep pot shops out of town altogether.

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