In Los Angeles, selling medical marijuana is illegal.
It's just that it's tolerated. You see, voters passed the city's Proposition D in 2013. But it doesn't really legalize pot shops. It simply provides "limited immunity" from prosecution for fewer than 135 of them.
There are no permits for collectives in Los Angeles. On top of that, the L.A. City Attorney's Office says that delivering medical marijuana in town, even from a shop with limited immunity, is basically illegal. "There is no lawful delivery service under Proposition D," City Attorney Mike Feuer has said.
Commercial cultivation isn't really legit either. The law says only grows done collectively by three or fewer patients are permitted
A group that represents many of those quasi-legit shops, the Greater Los Angeles Collective Alliance, wants to change all that. GLACA says it plans to file initiative language this week that would license shops, permit some delivery and regulate cultivation in the city.
The rules would bring Los Angeles in line with California legislation, the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act, that mandates local cannabis-business licensing.
"We want to open the city law to state law," said GLACA's president and founder, Yami Bolanos.
"We are looking to help L.A. create local licenses to go with the state's licenses, coming in 2018," Aaron Justis, president of Valley dispensary Buds and Roses and a founding board member of L.A.'s Cultivator Alliance, told us last week.
Though legal delivery is not mandated, it would be allowed under the state rules, which go into effect in 2018. The initiative would continue to make the 135 or fewer limited-immunity shops in town legit while also opening the door to larger-scale delivery and cultivation.
If successful, it would go into effect on Jan. 1, 2017, organizers say.
"The delivery is going to be out of our dispensaries," Bolanos says. "The way it's written, we can also partner up with delivery services."
In a memo last month, the City Attorney's office said that dispensaries in L.A. would be fully illegal under the new Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act unless changes to local law are made:
Because Proposition D, as currently written, does not provide for the issuance of permits or other authorization by the City of Los Angeles, medical marijuana businesses in the city will not be able to obtain a state license and, therefore, will not be able to comply with the Act. As such, when the State begins issuing licenses (projected to be January 2018) MMDs [medical marijuana dispensaries] in the City will not be authorized under State law unless the Act is amended or the City establishes a permit or other authorization process.
Cities also feel pressured to regulate or ban cultivation by March 1 as a result of a "drafting error" in the act, which legislators vow will be cleaned up before then. California NORML suggested in a letter recently that city councils are being hasty and that cultivation bans are unnecessary.
The GLACA initiative has a Friday deadline to make the November ballot in the city. Bolanos wants to take advantage of the increased turnout provided by a presidential contest.
"We really don't want to wait," she said.
The initiative would likely share space with a proposal to legalize recreational pot in California. Bolanos said it would take $2 million to gather signatures and to campaign for the local measure, cash she's confident L.A. dispensaries, delivery services and growers can raise.
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Bolanos said about 80,000 valid voter signatures would be required to make the ballot.
Stakeholders plan an "emergency" meeting on the initiative Wednesday in West Hollywood.
"This meeting is open to all segments of the industry: Cultivators, Manufacturers, Edibles, Distributors, Nurseries, and Testing Facilities. If you want the ability to exist within the State and Local laws in Los Angeles after January 1, 2018, you need to contribute to make it happen," reads an invite for the event.
We reached out to the City Attorney's office but did not immediately hear back.