The Los Angeles City Council will take another shot at enacting a law to rein in medical marijuana stores in the city Wednesday but, as history attests, just because the matter is on the body's docket doesn't mean it will act.
This time around the city has before it a law that would cut the number of pot shops from 545 to 137 and eventually to 70. The most contentious issue will be whether to enact a 500 foot barrier or 1,000 foot barrier for schools, houses of worship, rehab centers and other “sensitive use” sites.
The matter is contentious because some council members, such as the Westside's Bill Rosendahl, are actually arguing that stricter buffer zones for pot shops would leave their districts without enough marijuana retailers to properly serve their constituents. Clearly, some council members have the shop-owners backs.
But the shops have been largely unregulated and their sources of pot are, if not shady, at least gray. Cash is being changed hands in a retail way, something California's 1996 Compassionate Use Act and 2003 Medical Marijuana Program Act never really spelled out.
So the council will likely impose “cash and in-kind contributions, reimbursements and
reasonable compensation” for transactions. It will also likely require stores to undergo audits to ensure that they are operating as nonprofit collectives, which was intended by the original medical marijuana initiative in California.
It all sounds good, but the council has had a history of continually putting off the matter. It can be seen as no-win for some on the council: Protecting shops in their district could come back to haunt members if they run for higher offices and opponents paint them as pro-pot, anti-law. Limiting them could alienate a core and powerful contituency in Los Angeles — young, liberal professionals.