City Attorney Carmen Trutanich has been pushing for a "gentle ban" on marijuana dispensaries all year. So when the L.A. City Council backed down under threat of a referendum and repealed the ban earlier this week, it came as a pretty staggering defeat.
Trutanich has had a few days to think about it, and he's figured out who is to blame: Assemblyman Mike Feuer, who is campaigning to unseat Trutanich in March.
"Los Angeles faces a land-use and a public safety mess because Sacramento politicians like Feuer have failed to act decisively to solve our state's medical marijuana dilemma," said Rick Taylor, Trutanich's campaign strategist, in a statement.
This marks the first time that the Trutanich campaign has directly attacked his well-funded challenger.
Feuer's campaign shot back with a statement of its own: "Mr. Trutanich seems content to cast blame on everyone except himself for his failed leadership as City Attorney," said Feuer spokesman Dave Jacobson.
Trutanich has committed 20 deputy city attorneys to work on medical marijuana issues, with relatively little to show for it. His efforts to prosecute dispensary owners ended in failure, and L.A. is no closer to a workable regulatory regime than it was when Trutanich took office three years ago.
Trutanich pushed for the ban when his earlier attempts at regulation failed in court. But the ban failed in the court of public opinion. Marijuana advocates gathered enough signatures to put the measure on the March ballot. Rather than see voters overturn the measure, the council members calculated that it would be best to do it themselves.
"Trutanich has tried to behave like a bully and shut 'em all down, instead of coming up with a common-sense solution we can all agree on," said John Thomas, campaign manager for Greg Smith, who is also running against Trutanich in March. "The failure rests solely on his shoulders."
When it repealed the ban this week, the council also pleaded with Sacramento lawmakers to clarify the state law around marijuana dispensaries.
"That is a stirring indictment of the incredible lack of leadership on this issue by Sacramento politicians like Feuer," said Taylor, Trutanich's strategist.
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Feuer's campaign countered that Trutanich has failed to push for such legislation, and was more focused on a failed effort to obtain grand jury powers. "Mr. Trutanich knew how to find his way to Sacramento when he wanted to expand his own powers, but not once traveled to Sacramento to seek any legislation on medical marijuana regulation," Jacobson said in a statement.
Having defeated the ban, medical marijuana activists are pushing for a "limited immunity" ordinance that would allow well-run dispensaries to stay open, while also giving the city the power to close pot shops that get out of line.
Feuer's campaign said that, if elected, he would also try to strike a balance between securing access for seriously ill patients while also protecting communities around dispensaries.
"There are too many dispensaries in L.A., some of them are magnets for crime and it is too easy to obtain marijuana from many of them," Jacobson said.