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Reefer madness: committee votes to ban medical marijuana clinics in Los Angeles (updated)

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Medical marijuana clinics would be banned in the city of Los Angeles under an ordinance approved today by the Public Safety Committee. 

The proposed ordinance, which still requires approval from the full Los Angeles City Council, would shut down existing dispensaries throughout the city. Angelenos with the proper prescription would be allowed to cultivate marijuana for their personal medicinal use, under the proposal. Residential care facilities and hospices could also continue to provide medical marijuana.

“It's about the many who have spoiled it for the few," said Councilman Mitch Englander, chair of the Public Safety Committee.

Clinics have bred crime, including assault, burglary, identity theft, drug possession and murder, Englander said. The Los Angeles Police Department estimates there are 700 to 800 clinics in the city.

Patients and caregivers who say medical marijuana is a right granted by Proposition 215, which California voters approved in 1996, do not support the ban.

The legal liaison for the Greater Los Angeles Collective Alliance urged committee members to approve an alternate plan from Councilman Paul Koretz that would allow a limited number of clinics to remain in operation. 

“If you start over with a limited immunity ordinance you will give a small amount of access to the people who really need it and you’ll put it in the hands of the people who have always been responsible adults,” said Sarah Armstrong.

With a full ban, “you are setting the stage for an enormous, enormous tsunami of problems,” she said.

Councilmen Englander, Joe Buscaino and Paul Krekorian voted in favor of the ban. The dssenting vote was Councilman Dennis Zine, who likened the city’s efforts to regulate medial marijuana to Prohibition. 

“I support that we have a legitimate number of locations that are regulated... instead of the black market,” Zine said.

The proposal to ban clinics came about after 2nd District Court of Appeal found a Long Beach ordinance that regulated dispensaries via a lottery system was unenforceable.

The issue will be heard by the city council on June 22. 

This post has been updated. 

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