Pot Delivery Is Illegal in L.A. Some in the Weed Business Want to Change That

A group of L.A. marijuana dispensaries wants delivery legalized.
A group of L.A. marijuana dispensaries wants delivery legalized.
Timothy Norris/L.A. Weekly

Unless you're a legit home nurse or other "primary caregiver" bringing medicine home to your patient, pot delivery is illegal in the city of Los Angeles.

The Los Angeles Cannabis Task Force is hoping to change that.

The group, which represents marijuana industry interests in L.A., is challenging another advocacy organization, the United Cannabis Business Alliance, to expand on some of the proposals included in its initiative to allow the city's legal dispensaries to be granted permits once statewide medical marijuana regulations — known as the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act (MMRSA) — kick in in 2018.

The UCBA says it represents a majority of the roughly 125 legitimate dispensaries in town. Those shops have been around since a 2007 "interim control ordinance" (ICO) and currently enjoy limited legal immunity under Proposition D, a 2013 initiative designed to give dispensaries and their customers some freedom from law enforcement. The UCBA proposal would allow 135 shops to exist: When dispensaries close new ones could open so long as that number stays the same. City officials have estimated that about 125 of the original 135 "pre-ICO" businesses remain. So if it passes, UCBA's Marijuana Regulation and Safety Measure would immediate present 10 openings for new, legal dispensaries. However, it would also allow the City Council to expand that number from time to time.

The UCBA has submitted its March ballot initiative to the City Attorney, but the Los Angeles Cannabis Task Force wants to push it further to include the legalization of delivery, as well as the expansion of proposed dispensary permits to include shops that currently operate outside the law.

"The ban on delivery services lacks common sense and ignores the needs and preferences of numerous patients who lack the desire or ability to travel to a dispensary, and smacks of unfair trade practices," the group wrote in a letter to the UCBA. "There is simply no reason why the city cannot license delivery retailers disconnected from brick and mortar retail dispensaries, which is precisely what [MMRSA] recommends."

The task force also criticized the measure for protecting the pre-ICO dispensaries while leaving others out of the potential windfall that could happen should Californians legalize recreational marijuana under November's ballot measure Proposition 64. The Adult Use of Marijuana Act, which would regulate sales alcohol-style, would allow cities to continue to ban or limit dispensaries. UCBA's initiative would allow city-permitted dispensaries, and only city-permitted dispensaries, to transfer to recreational sales.

"The L.A. marijuana consumption market can well sustain more retail outlets, and indeed there are a number of responsible dispensary operators in the city who have paid taxes for years but fall outside the UCBA’s exclusive group," the Cannabis Task Force letter states. "Although they may not strictly meet the criteria under Proposition D, it is only fair that they should have an opportunity to apply on a case-by-case basis for a local dispensary license."

Some experts have estimated there are more than 1,000 pot shops in Los Angeles. The California Board of Equalization says there are 935 dispensaries registered to pay taxes. The L.A. City Attorney's office, which says it has shut down 763 illegal shops in recent years, disputes that figure. Only 135 or fewer are supposed to exist.

But those outside the pre-ICO system want in, especially as full legalization looms.

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The task force also argues that, because UCBA's measure would ban drug felons from even managing pot shops, it would hinder the racial and ethnic diversification of the state's burgeoning marijuana industry, an aim of MMRSA.

It argues UCBA's initiative, as is, would simply protect the interests of today's legit dispensaries.

"The UCBA Proposal has serious flaws," the letter concludes. " It does not meet the goals of creating opportunity and diversity, and does not serve the interests of an overwhelming majority of current and prospective providers and consumers in the medical cannabis industry of the city of Los Angeles. We hope you take these concerns to heart, and work with us and other interested parties to put together a more reasonable and inclusive proposal."

Harvey Englander of government-relations consulting firm Englander Knabe & Allen, which represents UCBA, says the Marijuana Regulation and Safety Measure will allow the City Council to consider allowing delivery and increasing the number of licensed shops in the future..

He argues that there is not support on the council, however, for legalizing third-party delivery services like Speed Weed.

"We're not opposed to delivery from dispensaries," Englander said. "Will there be delivery in the future? Yeah. But this is exploding so quickly. The problem is there a lot of cowboys who believe this is the Wild West. The UCBA are not cowboys."


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