The political will just isn't there on the part of the City Council to deal with the out-of-control pot dispensary business in Los Angeles. That much was clear today when a joint committee meeting passed along the city attorney's proposed near-ban of medical marijuana businesses like an unwanted joint.
The Public Safety and Planning and Land Use committees on Monday decided to water down this festering weed before it goes to the full City Council on Wednesday. The ordinance proposed by City Attorney Carmen Trutanich would have barred "over-the-counter" sales of pot, limited the number of dispensaries by district and disallowed sales near schools, churches and rehab centers.
Councilmen Ed Reyes and Dennis Zine, however, felt the over-the-counter ban was too harsh -- it would have shut down virtually each of the estimated 800 or more dispensaries in the medical marijuana capital of the nation -- and proposed that cash transactions be allowed as long as they comply with state law.
As it stands, anyone with a doctor-issued medical marijuana card can walk into a dispensary and leave with their favorite bud. Trutanich's law would have outlawed the practice and made sure that L.A.'s dispensaries were more like the nonprofit membership collectives envisioned under the state's 1996 medical marijuana law.
The committees also requested that a legislative analyst draw up an ordinance that mirrors West Hollywood's dispensary code, which allows for over-the-counter sales.
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Trutanich's office wasn't happy with the committees' alleged weak strain of legislation, with special assistant David Berger saying it was like "putting lipstick on a pig.''
Even watered down, however, Berger said the law -- there is no city ordinance in place right now -- would still allow the city attorney's office to go after shady dispensaries.
It appears that the City Council is prepared to hash out the ordinance's language line-by-line and that it might even push its meeting back to Friday. Reyes said it would be a "marathon meeting."
The council appears afraid to tackle the issue because constituents largely support medical marijuana, but law-and-order types, including police leaders and some activists in communities that have been inundated with dispensaries and their clienteles, are unhappy with the virtually unregulated proliferation of pot shops in L.A.