L.A. City Council Has Not the Slightest Idea How to Regulate Medical-Marijuana Dispensaries Under Federal Crackdown

And we don't blame them.

The base premise is ridiculous enough: Selling pot under any circumstances is illegal under federal law, yet California allows thousands of pot shops to sell it anyway, so long as it's officially for medical purposes.

So, because the L.A. City Council obviously didn't want to let a federally illegal industry boom out of control on its watch, it made a feeble attempt to regulate the dispensaries last year: One hundred names were drawn out of a hat and allowed to stay.

But that didn't last long.

Not only did dozens of angry non-winners decide to just stick around anyway, many went so far as to sue L.A. for making such a "arbitrary, capricious and irrational" decision.

And the lotto approach has since been deemed legally questionable on a larger scale, seeing as it gives a stamp of approval to businesses that are illegal under federal law (albeit only 100 of them, in L.A.'s case). That logic was confirmed in a 2nd appellate court decision against a similar Long Beach lottery just yesterday.

L.A.'s lottery system is a little different -- as it challenges the dispensaries' presence based on land-use law -- but L.A. City Attorney's assistant Jane Usher says she the case is "too similar to Long Beach's to survive ... intact." (Especially given the feds' reinvigorated push, today, to wipe out California weed-selling once and for all.)

Anyway, to the matter at hand: The L.A. City Council is just as confused as the rest of us.

City Councilman Jose Huizar just introduced a motion asking the City Attorney to "advise and update the City Council on the legal ramifications of the U.S. Attorney's announcement that they are sending out letters to medical marijuana collectives throughout California, ordering them to shut down or face civil and/or criminal prosecution."

The motion also inquires into the ramifications of the Long Beach lotto ruling.

In other words: Please god (or, in this case, Jane Usher), tell us, in plain language, how to deal with this mind-screwing clash of authority in our stonerfied land of lawlessness. Preferably without making us more unpopular with the pot-smoking peoples than we already are. Amen.

The motion reeks of desperation:

"Given the federal governments announcement to prosecute medical marijuana collectives and the recent court action that will directly affect what Los Angeles medical marijuana ordinance can and cannot do, the Los Angeles City Council needs to be updated so we can consider all legal options available to us," said Councilmember Huizar. "I want to thank the City Attorney's office for their diligence in dealing with no fewer than 50 lawsuits surrounding the City's medical marijuana ordinance and I look forward to hearing a full update from them soon."

City Attorney's assistant Usher tells us Huizar & Co. will likely have to wait until all those existing lawsuits have made their way through court to know what kind of pot-shop regulation will be plausible in the future. But she says that everyone involved will "definitley be keeping an eye" on what the feds are doing, as well as other cities like Long Beach.

Leaving us more in the dark than ever. Can't we just constitutionalize this shit already, and avoid all the rogue underground drama?

[@simone_electra/swilson@laweekly.com]


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