Retail Marijuana for All? Not So Fast ...

Marijuana for sale
Marijuana for sale
Nanette Gonzalez/L.A. Weekly

We dare you to tell the difference between recreational pot and medical pot. The true distinction these days has to do with who's allowed to sell it.

Following reports that a few Los Angeles–area medical pot shops were opening their doors to anyone 21 or older, regardless of whether they have a doctor's recommendation, the L.A. City Attorney's office warned medical dispensaries that they face prosecution if they're caught selling to the general public.

The medical shops reportedly advertised their wares to the recreational market in the wake of the Nov. 8 passage of California's Proposition 64, which legalizes possession of up to an ounce of weed for everyone 21 or older. The law, however, does not allow recreational sales to begin until Jan. 1, 2018.

"Under Proposition 64, the possession of small amounts of recreational marijuana has been decriminalized," Rob Wilcox, the city attorney's director of community engagement and outreach, said via email. "Proposition 64 does not permit the sale of recreational marijuana until 2018, when the state will begin to issue licenses.

"When referred cases by the Los Angeles Police Department on the sale of recreational marijuana, we will review and if appropriate will prosecute."

Two shops in the reports about post–Proposition 64 recreational sales are within city limits. One of the shops, Mr. Nice Guy downtown, had a description on dispensary listings site WeedMaps announcing that the shop is open to nonmedical customers. According to a Mr. Nice Guy representative who did not want her name published, the description was posted by a third party in error. "It was not accurate," she said. "Somebody else did it."

Its recently updated description says: "Proposition 64 is not in effect. As a result, all patients must provide these documents in order to enter." Those include valid California identification and a doctor's recommendation.

The other shop mentioned in the reports, Green Light District, was not reachable via phone and did not respond to an email. A post at California Weed Blog includes a screen shot in which the shop is listed as "Prop. 64 friendly!" An updated listing on WeedMaps, however, has no such claim.

Under Proposition 64, dispensaries that want to sell cannabis must obtain permits from the state and from their local city hall. Los Angeles technically bans all pot shops, including medical ones, while providing limited legal immunity to about 135 or fewer medical shops. It does not yet issue any dispensary permits.

Two efforts slated for the March ballot, one by City Council president Herb Wesson and one by a group of dispensary operators known as United Cannabis Business Alliance, are aiming to open the door to permits.


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