Updated at the bottom with feedback from Americans for Safe Access, a group that is supporting an appeal of the Long Beach decision that inspired Huizar's proposed ban. They say outlawing pot shops is not necessary under the ruling. First posted at 11:14 a.m.
Is the end near for L.A.'s go-go medical marijuana industry? Is the heyday of 545 dispensaries across the city over?
Maybe. Because one of the city leaders who has been a staunch advocate of medical-pot users' rights is now saying it might be time to roll up the green carpet:
City Councilman Jose Huizar today said he planned to introduce a law that would outlaw pot shops citywide. But why?
Huizar's office explained that a recent ruling in Pack v. City of Long Beach essentially set a bad precedent for L.A: Essentially the court said a city had no right to regulate the operations of folks who sell a federally outlawed drug.
According to the interpretation set forth by Huizar's office …
… Under Pack, Los Angeles would not be able to hold a lottery to select collectives operating under its ordinance, could not cap the number of dispensaries at 100, or limit the distance dispensaries can be from one another, effectively opening the door for thousands of new medical marijuana businesses throughout the City.
In other words, that City Hall plan to pair down pot shops to 100 of those that existed prior to a 2007 moratorium and that comply with rules regarding how far they can be from schools, parks and churches is a dead deal under the ruling.
L.A. has no right to regulate what Uncle Sam has banned.
As someone who has advocated for safe access to medical marijuana for those who truly need it, while balancing that with the need to protect our local communities from an over-proliferation of dispensaries, this is not an easy decision for me. However, given that the Pack case will severely limit the City's ability to regulate medical marijuana use, opening up the floodgates to potentially thousands of unregulated marijuana storefronts, to sit idly by and do nothing would be completely and utterly irresponsible and a disservice to a large majority of our City's 3.8 million residents.
In a funny side note, Huizar said he has asked the City Attorney to petition the California Supreme Court to overturn the decision.
L.A. City Attorney Carmen Trutanich never met a pot shop he liked.
Meanwhile, another huge critic of dispensaries, Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council president Michael Larsen, is happy with Huizar's ban:
Mr. Huizar's plan to repeal the current ordinance and temporarily ban dispensaries, is the only reasonable path.
Huizar said the proposal was headed to the Public Safety Committee and the Planning & Land Use Management Committee for review. That could take a month or two. So keep toking for now.
And stock up. (Talk about Black Friday, eh?).
[Update]: The folks at California-based Americans for Safe Access note that they're supporting an appeal by the City of Long Beach of the Pack case to the state Supreme Court.
The ACLU and the Drug Policy Alliance are also onboard, we're told.
As such, ASA staff attorney Joe Elford tells the Weekly it's “premature” for L.A. to be proposing to wipe out its pot shops based on a decision that's still up in the air:
We think it's premature to be passing bans. It's still very much up in the air whether it will still be good law four months from now.
What's more, Elford argues that the 2nd District Court ruling contradicts rulings of other courts, including three of those at the 4th District, so this thing is far from final.
What's more, he says the Pack ruling does not prohibit cities from regulating dispensaries, just from doing so in certain ways, including using a lottery system to chose which ones can stay open, as L.A. had planned to do.
The ruling said no to lotteries, testing pot for pesticides or other reasons, exorbitant city fees, and permitting as opposed to maintaining a “registry,” Elford says.
“You could still conform to the Long Beach decision” and regulate dispensaries, he says.
Following last month's Pack decision ASA even sent a letter to L.A. officials and the leaders of other cities urging them not to take the ruling as an excuse to ban dispensaries.
Oh well. ASA spokesman Kris Hermes tells the Weekly:
For L.A. to preemptively shut down facilities operating for years under local and state law is unreasonable. It's a very poor solution for a problem that doesn't really produce any imminent danger for the city of L.A. You can still have a regulation scheme that would fall within the requirements of Pack. It didn't rule out all regulation.
Elford notes there's one surefire solution: Legalize it on a federal level:
It's all the more reason why we should change federal law.