Many L.A. Pot Shops Warned To Close Or Face Jail, Fines

Many L.A. Pot Shops Warned To Close Or Face Jail, Fines

In City Attorney's office letters that will go out today, Los Angeles medical marijuana dispensaries that opened after November 13, 2007 or that don't comply with new rules regarding how close they can be to schools, churches, parks and other public places were told to shut down immediately or face the possibility of six months in jail, a $1,000 fine, daily civil penalties $2,500, and more. (Read the letter in its entirety after the jump).

The clampdown is the result of the city's new medical marijuana ordinance that aims to pare down the number of pot shops in the city to about 137.

The office has estimated that more than 400 dispensaries will be shut down because the don't comply with the "sensitive use" distance rule (1,000 feet) or because they had not registered with the city by Nov. 13, 2007, the deadline set for pre-existing pot shops to declare themselves under a moratorium that attempted to stop more marijuana retailers from opening in L.A. (background).

The letter quotes language from the city's pot shop ordinance to warn that those dispensaries that were not on City Hall's map before that 2007 cutoff date, as well as those that do not meet the 1,000-foot-buffer-zone rule, will have to close their doors: " ... Any existing medical marijuana collective, dispensary, operator, establishment, or provider that does not comply with the requirements of this article must immediately cease operation... "

Those shops that made the 2007 deadline and that are not within 1,000 feet of sensitive use sites "may register with the City Clerk under the new article and must comply with its requirements within 180 days," according to the letter.

Here's an example of letters sent to those dispensaries believed to be out of compliance with the new law:

Dear Business/Property Owner:

On June 7, 2010, Article 5.1 of Chapter IV of the Los Angeles Municipal Code (Medical Marijuana Collective) will become operative. You are being sent this courtesy notice regarding certain limited portions of Article 5.1. We recommend that you review this new article in its entirety, which can be found on the City of Los Angeles website: www.LAcity.org (under Council File Management System, Council File Nos. 08-0923 and 08-0923-S5).

Section 45.19.6.2 of Article 5.1 provides that medical marijuana establishments that registered with the City Clerk prior to November 13, 2007 and that satisfy several listed conditions may register with the City Clerk under the new article and must comply with its requirements within 180 days.

Conversely, Section 45.19.6.7 of Article 5.1 provides that "any existing medical marijuana collective, dispensary, operator, establishment, or provider that does not comply with the requirements of this article must immediately cease operation...."

The establishment at the above referenced address is operating as a medical marijuana provider and did not register with the City Clerk prior to November 13, 2007. Consequently, this establishment does not, and cannot, comply with the requirements of Article 5.1. Under Section 45.19.6.7, this establishment must therefore immediately cease its operations.

Please be further advised that Section 45.19.6.8 (A) of Article 5.1 provides that: "It is unlawful for any person to cause, permit or engage in the cultivation, possession, distribution or giving away of marijuana for medical purposes except as provided in this article, and pursuant to any and all other applicable local and state laws."

Under this section, a property owner may not permit the premises to be used for any medical marijuana activity, and an operator may not engage in the cultivation, possession, distribution or giving away of marijuana for medical purposes, except as provided in Article 5.1.

Violation of any section of the Los Angeles Municipal Code is a misdemeanor, punishable by six months in jail and/or a $1000.00 fine (LAMC § 11.00 (m)) and a nuisance, subject to a daily civil penalty in the amount of $2500.00 (LAMC § 11.00 (l)). In addition to existing remedies under federal, state, and local law, Section 45.19.6.9 of Article 5.1 authorizes the City to seek injunctive relief, revocation of the certificate of occupancy for the location, disgorgement and payment of any and all monies unlawfully obtained, costs of abatement, costs of investigation and attorney fees.

For questions or advice regarding Article 5.1, please consult your attorney.


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