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Advocates want voters to overturn pot shop ban

Lev Goukassian, owner of the Nirvana Pha

GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images

Supporters of medical marijuana are working on a referendum campaign to overturn the city of Los Angeles' ban on pot shops.

Advocates of medical marijuana are hitting back at the city of Los Angeles’ ban on pot shops with a referendum, an ordinance and possibly a lawsuit.

One day after the Los Angeles City Council moved to close the 800 to 1,000 medical marijuana clinics that are in operation, representatives with Americans for Safe Access said they are working on a referendum to repeal the law.

“It’s not an initiative. The referendum would simply delay the implementation of the ordinance until either the city council rescinds it, which we would certainly endorse, or gets put on the ballot,” said Kris Hermes, a spokesman with Americans for Safe Access.

Advocates would need to gather 27,425 valid signatures to get the referendum on the ballot, according to the City Clerk’s Office. Petitions would need to be filed by Sept. 21 for the referendum to qualify for the city’s March ballot. For the May 2013 ballot, petitions could be filed until Dec. 7.

It is unclear what would happen to dispensaries between the time the ban takes effect and when the referendum qualifies for the ballot.

“We’re certain going to argue that these dispensaries have some right to be able to operate in accordance with state law and the city of Los Angeles should enforce state law in that regard, and not just simply shut down these facilities indiscriminately,” Hermes said.

Supporters of medicinal cannabis also back Councilman Paul Koretz’s motion to study how the 182 clinics that properly registered with the city in 2007 can eventually reopen.

Americans for Safe Access has not yet decided whether to sue the city to stop the ban.

“It’s unclear at this point whether a lawsuit makes sense under these circumstances given that there were dozens that preceded this vote,” Hermes said.  “I think the city, in many ways, is saying that this is the only solution that they can see – the ban – but in reality, that’s just the city sticking its head in the sand.”

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