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Drugs

Marijuana Dispensary Numbers Remain Near 2009 High: Starbucks or Weed, You'll Find Plenty of Choices in Los Angeles

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Fri, Dec 2, 2011 at 8:06 AM

click to enlarge This place was ordered to close a long time ago.
  • This place was ordered to close a long time ago.
Even after the city of L.A. tried to whittle down the number of pot shops to 100, even after a city councilman is proposing to outlaw them altogether, even after the federal government has announced a crackdown on California dispensaries, L.A. remains the medical marijuana capital of the nation.

When things were out of control in late 2009 and the city was struggling to get a grip on the burgeoning number of cannabis storefronts in L.A. -- some estimated there were more of them than Starbucks -- LA Weekly did perhaps the most comprehensive count of shops. It was so thorough that the City Attorney's office later based its estimates on ours. We came up with this number: 545.

After all that's happened since then you would think they were becoming extinct. Think again:

The L.A. City Attorney's office estimates that today there are 500 pot shops in L.A., office spokesman Frank Mateljan tells the Weekly.

Many have stood in defiance of city law, and now many appear to be failing to pay their city taxes.

The city counts 372 of them that have registered to pay up under a voter-approved plan that will tax their sales by 5 percent, according to the Los Angeles Times.

That's still an amazing number of dispensaries that are trying to act legit. As late as March the city told 141 dispensaries they weren't even close to being legal and must shut their doors. (Yeah, right).

L.A. was trying to limit shops to those that had been opened before a 2007 moratorium. And even all those would not ultimately be legal. But many a court challenge later and the dispensaries have remained defiant.

Now City Councilman Jose Huizar is proposing to ban pot shops in L.A. altogether after a California court ruled that Long Beach (and, by proxy, L.A.) can't regulate them the way they do (or try to) now.

Strange coming from a guy whose district has been inundated with illicit retailers and who has been a medical weed supporter. His move could cost the city $10 million in much needed tax dollars in future years.

The good news for you medical smokers is that these shops seem to thrive like weeds, no matter what the city does.

[@dennisjromero/djromero@laweekly.com/@LAWeeklyNews]

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