The L.A. City Council today voted to put an end to the city's infamous and numerous marijuana dispensaries, citing neighborhood concerns and court rulings that have questioned a city's right to regulate the retailers.
Most of all, however, the council argued that L.A's for-profit pot shop scene was never envisioned by state lawmakers whom the City Attorney says wanted to legalize the nonprofit growing and sharing of cannabis among the seriously ill.
That interpretation, of course, is up for debate, but …
… for now the city of L.A. is having things its way: No more weed retailers in the pot shop capital of the nation. Maybe. (See more below).
At one point LA Weekly counted about 550 of them, and in light of a lack of city regulation, it seems that the number has remained fairly constant to us. In fact sources have told us that some rogue shops have taken advantage of City Hall's lack of action — it has been trying to regulate dispensaries since at least 2007 — to open illicit pop-up shops that come and go quickly.
The council voted
13 to 1 14-0 to allow only nonprofit collectives of up to three people who want to grow and share pot for the medically ill behind closed doors.
The vote drew a raucous response from marijuana supporters in council chambers, tweeted to 89.3 KPCC reporter Alice Walton. Shouting ensued, she said, but law enforcement, at the ready, was told to stand down by council President Herb Wesson.
The core of the ordinance says that medical marijuana “businesses” will be banned until a “regulatory scheme” can be realized by the city, ostensibly after various challenges to similar bans and other pot shop regulation schemes are decided by the California Supreme Court.
Pot shop advocates have argued that shutting down the retailers will restrict sick people's access to medicine. Even LAPD veteran and councilman Dennis Zine argued for a less restrictive ordinance, saying, according to Walton, that the ban would push the scene back into the black market.
After a second vote next week the ban should go into effect within 90 days. Stock up, people.
[Added at 3:36 p.m.]: Don't hold your breath. An alternative plan, which will require some study, was also approved, according to City News Service.
Councilman Paul Koretz and Wesson introduced a motion that would allow 182 dispensaries opened before a 2007 city moratorium to remain as long as they adhered to strict regulations.
That idea has been floated before, so we'll see if the council backs off the ban in the next few weeks and kicks the can down the road once more.
[Added at 3:51 p.m.]: Earlier in the day Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa sided with the majority of the council that voted for a ban, stating:
I support a limit on dispensaries while preserving access for those with a verifiable medical need as prescribed by state law.
LAPD Chief Charlie Beck sent a letter in support of closing all pot shops' doors, saying there were as many as 1,000 of them and that they are mostly …
… for-profit' businesses engaged in the sale of recreational marijuana to healthy young adults.
Labor, by the way, which holds some sway at City Hall, supported keeping at least some of the dispensaries open. In fact, unions are backing the alternative motion, mentioned above.
UFCW Local 770 President Rick Icaza stated this yesterday:
We support cracking down and eliminating dispensaries that operate without concern for the law or their patients. We're just asking that the approximately 100 pre-Interim Control Ordinance dispensaries that registered with the city be allowed to dispense our medicine in a safe manner.
Medical pot patients have been pleading with the council not to enact a full ban. Tamra Howard, a “renal kidney failure patient” said in a statement sent to the Weekly and other outlets:
Medical cannabis helps with my pain, gives me an appetite and keeps me from being depressed … Cannabis is the only thing that keeps me alive. This morning, I was nauseous and sick. After medicating, I was able to play with my granddaughter. Please don't take that away from me.
[Added at 4:10 p.m.]: It seems that, if the city backs up this ban, it will be missing out on millions in dispensary taxes approved by voters last year.