The campaign to make Los Angeles pot shops fully legal has its biggest champion yet in the group known as the Southern California Coalition (SCC). The most well-established organization representing quasi-legal dispensaries in town, the Greater Los Angeles Collective Alliance (GLACA), recently decided to merge with the relatively new SCC.
The mash-up is being touted as a game-changer. The SCC calls GLACA "the nation’s oldest, continually operating medical cannabis trade organization." The mega-group now claims to represent more of those quasi-legal dispensaries, which exist under 2013's voter-approved Proposition D, than any other organization.
"With this newly formed agreement, SCC now represents the most ... Proposition D-compliant dispensaries (more than 50) in Los Angeles, along with a broad array of industry leaders in cultivation, manufacturing, distribution, delivery, transportation, lab testing, and minority equity," according to the nonprofit.
The United Cannabis Business Alliance still calls itself "the largest trade association of Proposition D-compliant medical marijuana dispensaries" in town. UCBA endorsed March's Measure M — a City Hall proposition shaped with the input and cash of the SCC — that empowers the City Council to make L.A. pot shops fully legal. UCBA did not respond to a request for comment.
As the city moves toward licensing not only pot shops but growers, manufacturers and possibly delivery services, SCC says it has the advantage in lobbying council members because it represents entrepreneurs across that spectrum. UCBA, which had opposed permitting delivery services, is mainly a pot shop group.
"The SCC is representing all the components of the industry," says co-founder Virgil Grant. "We're a big tent."
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Grant says the top priority for the group is to ensure that its members and other Proposition D-compliant shops get the first shot at city-issued licenses, expected to be available early next year.
"We want priority, of course," Grant says. "Who doesn't want to be licensed?"
It is believed there are 135 or fewer shops with limited legal immunity under Proposition D. But experts estimate that more than 1,000 outlaw dispensaries exist in town. It's not clear how many shops the City Council will officially permit, but both the SCC and UCBA have supported a number greater than 135, meaning that at least some of those outlaws might get licenses.
"At the end of the day we represent the 135," Grant says. "It's not about who gets it done. We just want to see the process done right."