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Marijuana clinics likely to shut down in waves

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Photo by Alexodus via Flickr Creative Commons

Los Angeles' medical marijuana clinics are likely to shut down in waves, first with voluntary compliance and then with legal action.

When medical marijuana clinics start shutting down across Los Angeles in a little more than a month, the most flagrant violators will be the first to feel the heat from police and building inspectors, according to the City Attorney’s Office.

Closure letters that will be sent to clinic owners are in the works. City officials hope there is a wave of voluntary compliance when the ban takes effect in less than 40 days. From there, city attorneys will use administrative and judicial processes to close clinics that are the greatest nuisances. 

“We are complaint driven and so we will focus on dispensaries that have significant and repeat complaints,” said Jane Usher, a special assistant to City Attorney Carmen Trutanich. “We won’t know who those are until we see who voluntarily closes.”

Under Measure M, which taxed clinics, 762 marijuana dispensaries registered with the city. Usher estimates there are another 100 to 200 shops in operation. Officers with the Los Angeles Police Department and inspectors with Building and Safety are expected to report back to the City Attorney’s Office on the progress of closures.

“The resource issue is sufficiently serious that we’ll direct all the resources to the hard cases,” Usher said.

Pot shops that remain open could face a $1,000 penalty a day for violating the municipal code. Owners could also face a misdemeanor charge. 

“The possibility of a criminal record seems to be in and of itself a deterrent,” Usher said. 

Pro-clinic advocates with Americans for Safe Access plan to gather more than 27,000 signatures to qualify a referendum for the spring ballot. That referendum would ask voters to overturn the ban on storefront medical marijuana clinics. According to the city charter, once a referendary petition is filed and certified, the ordinance in question cannot take effect until voters have their say. 

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