Today the L.A. City Council is scheduled to bust a long-awaited move: To ban marijuana dispensaries or not to ban them? That is the question.
Few on the council, however, seem to be saying 'tis nobler to let pot shops operate in the city. The arguments so far have been over the details of how strong this banishment should be.
Up for consideration is an ordinance by Councilman Jose Huizar and friends:
Though Huizar calls it a “gentle ban,” the ordinance would outlaw all the storefronts in town and allow only collectives of three or more people to grow and share weed behind closed doors.
That would be consistent with the City Attorney's interpretation of state collective law (SB 420), which it has said only allows for the nonprofit distribution of weed among the seriously ill. These 500 or so cannabis retailers we have in L.A. were never envisioned by state lawmakers, the argument goes.
However, the main author of SB 420, ex-state Sen. John Vasconcellos, told us that lawmakers in fact did want it to be okay to sell pot to medical patients.
Just wait. There are also several legal challenges to pot shop bans in California winding their way up the state Supreme Court; they could throw the City Council's vote into question.
Already, pot advocates say, a recent California 2nd District Court of Appeal ruling means that cities can't ban pot shops like this.
Meanwhile, some neighborhood leaders are really tired of dispensaries in their areas. The stores attract crime, they say.
Huizar has certainly been the target of folks in Eagle Rock who say rogue dispensaries pop up like drug dealers in the hood. He used to be a pot shop supporter.
Maria Fisk of Granada Hills wrote this to the council Monday:
… What the $1.3 billion medical marijuana industry has become in cities and
neighborhoods throughout the state is a means for unscrupulous operators and recreational
users to game the system for profit and illicit use of a federally banned substance.
Medical pot backers argue that California voters granted sick people the right to access marijuana just like any other medicine. If this passes, the most-vulnerable among us, the old and ill won't be able to get their supplies, they argue.
What this really all means, ultimately, is that even though the council is headed for a ban, don't expect to see closed doors just yet. There will be plenty of lawyers involved. And legal challenges.