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City of LA will not go after pot shops — yet

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Owners and patients of Los Angeles medical marijuana dispensaries can exhale a sigh of relief as the city of L.A. won't be enforcing a scheduled ban on the facilities any time soon.

City Attorney Carmen Trutanich posted a statement on the city's web site Thursday explaining that officials will hold off on shuttering hundreds of L.A. dispensaries while they verify the approximately 50,000 signatures that have been gathered for a referendum petition.

"Notwithstanding the stay on enforcement of [the ban], the business of medical marijuana continues to be an unpermitted land use in the City," Trutanich wrote.

"Further, as stated on all City business tax registration certificates, a tax registration certificate does not constitute a license, permit, or land use approval; it is solely a tax collection document. Interested parties should contact their own attorneys, as applicable City and state laws will continue to be enforced by the City Attorney's Office, as well as other law enforcement and regulatory agencies," he wrote.

How prevalent are the pot shops in L.A.? A new study released Wednesday says not as many as was previously assumed. Bridget Freisthler, an associate professor of social welfare at UCLA's Luskin School of Public Affairs, concluded that less than half of the 1,046 dispensaries the city of L.A. sent letters to actually exist. Some dispensaries registered many times under different names in hopes to have a better shot at a lottery to become legal, meanwhile some have gone out of business.

"We spoke with an owner of one business who said he had registered with the city but was only going to open a dispensary if he got a permit during the lottery process, which was later deemed illegal and not actually conducted," Freisthler said. "We also found one location listed five times on the city finance list and registered under five different names."

The final number of medical marijuana dispensaries according to Freisthler's research was 472 -- all of whom are safe from police knocking on their door for the time being unless neighbors complain of the shop being a nuisance. 

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