A group representing 300 marijuana dispensaries in L.A. filed suit today in an attempt to stop L.A.'s pot shop ban from taking effect Sept. 6.
The Patient Care Alliance-Los Angeles was filing the suit at L.A Superior Court literally as we spoke to the group's director, Marc O'Hara, on the phone this afternoon. The suit seeks a temporary injunction that would stop the city's dispensary ban.
But O'Hara admitted that, by the time the matter is heard, the ban will have already taken effect:
He said it would probably take four to six weeks to be heard and that the group is not seeking emergency action.
However, O'Hara offered up some hope for shops that plan to stay open: He thinks the city will not try to enforce the ban immediately because it would be a difficult task: There are more than 1,000 dispensaries in the city.
O'Hara also said that dispensaries could file requests for temporary restraining orders against the city while the Patient Care Alliance suit gets worked out.
The suit argues, essentially, that the city will be violating medical patients' First Amendment right to be able to freely associate with each other (via medical marijuana dispensaries).
“Cultivation and use for medical purposes is legal,” O'Hara told us, “so trying to deny adults assocation is illegal.”
O'Hara says the city's caveat that a maximum of three people can grow marijuana for medical sharing is legally pointless:
The idea that three people could lease the L.A. Coliseum and grow medical marijuana but that four people constitutes a criminal conspiracy is stupid.
If the city limits to three people growing, how many people don't have the wherewithal to grow medical marijuana? A homebound cancer survivor? It's on its face a lame attempt to put a happy face on what I say is a heartless and reckless attempt to harm patients.
He said the filing is just a first step in permanently “seeking to overturn the ban entirely.”
[Updated at 2:29 p.m.]: The L.A. City Attorneys office sent us this response:
We still haven't seen today's MM lawsuit. But it has been described as a first amendment challenge of the denial of the right to associate.
A “freedom to associate” complaint was also raised in the litigation over the City's prior, permissive medical marijuana ordinance. Judge Mohr denied the claim. California case law holds that the “freedom of association” is not violated by a zoning ordinance that simply limits how a property can be used or the number of people that can use it.