Strange days when the city's most-outspoken critic of medical marijuana dispensaries does an about face and says 100 or more should be allowed to operate.
L.A. City Attorney Carmen Trutanich, who's running for reelection, had argued vehemently in the past that California law leaves no room whatsoever for the kind of retail pot stores we have in the weed-shop capital of America.
Now he says, let them be:
Trutanich today announced he's endorsing a ballot measure being put forward by City Hall to counter at least one other that is headed for the May polls as a voter initiative.
The City Council measure authored by Paul Krekorian would raise taxes on pot shops and allow the 100 to 180 retailers that existed before a fall, 2007 city moratorium on dispensaries to essentially carry on so long as they follow certain rules.
The council approved putting the measure on the same ballot as two other pot-shop initiatives in May, but a final vote from the body is required.
Interestingly, after arguing until he's blue in the face that L.A.-style pot shops aren't allowed under the state's medical marijuana laws and court rulings, Trutanich called the City Council measure “legally defensible.”
Trutanich has said that for-profit marijuana retailing was never intended under California law, that only the nonprofit sharing of pot for and among the serious ill was intended.
That argument was refuted by the guy who wrote the law, ex-Sen. John Vasconcellos, who said profit-taking was discussed by lawmakers and permitted.
Trutanich's office then told us, sure, but courts have knocked down that part of the law, SB 420.
Here's a 2010 statement from Trutanich:
The law … does not allow collectives or so-called 'dispensaries' to sell marijuana or otherwise unlawfully operate a highly profitable commercial enterprise under the cynical guise of purportedly providing medicine to patients.
Now Trutanich says:
The Koretz-Wesson measure would protect patients and neighborhoods. It is legally defensible – and I strongly recommend that the council vote today to put it on the ballot and that voters support it in May.
One competing initiative, put forth by the Greater Los Angeles Collective Alliance and other groups representing those pre-fall-2007 dispensaries, is quite similar to the City Hall measure. So GLACA says its abandoning that measure and throwing its weight behind the City Council's proposal.
The third initiative would allow most of the 1,000 or so dispensaries in Los Angeles to remain so long as they paid slightly higher taxes and adhered to certain rules such as background checks for operators, tight security and decent hours of operation.
[Added at 6:03 p.m.]: Trutanich's camp says he has always supported access to medical marijuana for patients who need it.