Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer says he has this weed shop thing under control.
But now he wants to hire five new prosecutors to help close down hundreds of dispensaries in the city. Apparently the lawyers Feuer has on-hand aren't getting the job done to his satisfaction.
More than half of L.A.'s marijuana retailers have closed since voters outlawed them last year via Proposition D, and Feuer's office says its threats to prosecute not only operators but landlords deserve some credit.
On the other hand, one police official who deals with dispensaries told us last month that some shops are using their city exemptions to Proposition D in order to spin off additional stores, even though new ones are not supposed to be opening.
The measure exempts from prosecution about 135 dispensaries that were around before a 2007 city moratorium on pot shops. Last year city records showed that 1,140 weed retailers had registered to pay local marijuana sales taxes. That number went down to *462 this year. *[Update: That number has been revised to 479, the city's Office of Finance told us today].
Even if that represents all the weed retailers in the city, and it likely doesn't, it still means that hundreds are supposed to shut their doors under D.
The City Attorney's office didn't have a comment for us, but Feuer said in a recent memo to the City Council's Budget and Finance Committee that the extra legal muscle is "essential" in the effort to put these places out of business.
With hundreds of illegal dispensaries remaining as a source of nuisance in our neighborhoods and an increase in LAPD referrals, additional staff is necessary to sustain our successful enforcement of Proposition D ...
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A May 6 memo written by City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana explains that Feuer wants five additional lawyers specifically for his Proposition D Enforcement Unit. Santana's office estimates they will cost taxpayers $460,145 to $586,520 depending on the new hires' level of experience.
Mieke ter Poorten, an attorney who represents dispensaries, wrote a letter to Councilman Bernard Parks, City Hall's most budget-conscious politician, to question the spending priorities here:
Does that really seem like a prudent use of taxpayer funds when we can't seem to find the money for comprehensive infrastructure repair?
The amount of money and time consumed by the City Attorney's office on this issue is already ridiculous. Many defense attorneys like me have clients who would close down their dispensaries more readily if the city attorney wasn't so intractable about penalties for behavior that was legal prior to the passage of D. Instead, we stay in court in protracted litigation. I offered to have my client close down in exchange for a promise not to reopen, one year probation, and dismissal after the year. He has refused. So we litigate.
Now he wants more of Los Angelinos' money for more prosecutions of dispensaries? Doesn't the City have bigger concerns?