Last year Los Angeles voters essentially outlawed all marijuana dispensaries in town. Prop. D, which passed 62 percent in favor to 37 percent opposed, grants limited immunity to the 135 or fewer legit weed stores still standing following a 2007 City Council moratorium on pot sellers.
As we've said, that leaves about 90 percent or so of our town's pot shops eligible to be closed down. And the L.A. City Attorney's office and LAPD say they've been making headway.
Well, not so fast:
The city Office of Finance, in declaring this week that it has collected $8.6 million in business taxes from self-proclaimed medical marijuana collectives since April 18, 2011, noted the number of said shops paying tribute to the fine people of Los Angeles today is ... 1,140.
Yep. That's the largest number of active dispensaries counted by the city that we've ever seen, and it's more than double the 545 shops LA Weekly counted in 2009 when the city began trying to regulate the places in earnest. (The city itself back then asked for our list to use as the basis for its own accounting).
And it's also much more than the woefully low 472 shops a UCLA count turned up in 2012. The number is even higher than the 1,046 counted by the city in the summer of 2012, before the ban represented by Prop. D.
Despite numerous crackdowns, including a declaration this week from City Attorney Mike Feuer that more than 100 shops have closed their doors since L.A. authorities began enforcement measures against D non-compliant businesses, 1,140 appears to be a historic number.
See also: LAPD Vows New Crackdown on Weed Shops
It's quite possible that as some shops have closed their doors in the face of lawsuits and criminal action by the City Attorney's office (some operators and landlords have been convicted or have settled with the city), others have opened up.
It's clear that it would take extraordinary resources to close all the shops in town by force, and this week Feuer tried to use the threat of court to get dispensaries to shut down voluntarily. The City Attorney's office said in a statement that Feuer has ...
...filed criminal charges against hundreds of defendants including dispensary owners, operators, managers and property owners.
... It is important when renting property to a medical marijuana business to verify that requirements have been met under Proposition D.
Interestingly, Feuer told us in an interview last month that "we don't have a list" when it comes to the number of working dispensaries:
In order for us to know with certainty we have to look at each one. We're working closely with neighborhood councils, police, and Building and Safety to identify those illegal dispensaries and to take steps to have them go out of business.
His office told us last night, however, that it has used the Office of Finance's list of taxpaying dispensaries to send out letters to 850 dispensaries warning them that non-compliant stores would be taken to court.
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The City Attorney's folks questioned just how current the finance list is, and it suggested that shops that have closed up under the Prop. D crackdown might not be showing up on finance's radar.
Here's what finance general manager Antoinette Christovale told us:
The Office of Finance has issued 1,400 business tax registration certificates under the L050 [marijuana collective] tax category. However, approximately 1,140 are currently active.