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City of LA will not go after pot shops — yet

Los Angeles City Council Votes To Ban Medical Marijuana Dispensaries

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Reed Moran smells a variety of marijuana shown to him by President and CEO Sam Humeid (L) of the Perennial Holistic Wellness Center medical marijuana dispensary, which opened in 2006, on July 25, 2012 in Los Angeles, California

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.


LAPD serves warrants on San Fernando Valley pot shop, arrests owner


Photo by Alexodus via Flickr Creative Commons

Los Angeles' dispensary ban takes effect August 31.

The very same day L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa signed the city's new medical marijuana dispensary ban into law, LAPD officers arrested the owner of a San Fernando Valley pot shop.

The two events were apparently unrelated: detectives had apparently been investigating West Valley Caregivers for some time, and allege the dispensary was operating not as a caregiver, but outside of California's law allowing medicinal sales of the drug. 

However, raids may become commonplace very soon. L.A.'s ban goes into effect on August 31. 

LAPD Commander Andrew Smith couldn't provide details, but said the department is working out the details of how the law will be enforced.

"When we do it, we certainly won’t talk about it beforehand," Smith said. "People will have been given warnings. Everyone will know they’re acting outside the boundaries of the law and then we’ll shut them down."


Sea weed: 50 smuggled tons of marijuana seized off SoCal coast

coast guard marijuana

Photo credit: U.S. Coast Guard/PA3 Henry G. Dunphy

This is what approximately eight tons of marijuana looks like. (Image taken at a 2009 bust in San Diego.)

With the Coast Guard catching 8,500 pounds of green cargo on Wednesday, authorities say they've now seized an overwhelming 50 tons of marijuana from smuggling boats off the coast of Southern California so far this fiscal year.

The quantity of incoming sea weed -- four times the amount seized in the entire previous fiscal year -- has an estimated street value of $90.7 million.

Maritime smuggling, of people and drugs, has expanded from the U.S./Mexican border, to as far north as Santa Barbara County, say officials.



Weeds in the wild: Marijuana boat sentencing, Tujunga sanctuary arrest

Mercer 20179

Abdelhak Senna/AFP/Getty Images

Marijuana plantation.

The Ventura County Star reports that 29-year-old Pedro Lopez-Rocha will serve a six year federal prison sentence for smuggling half a ton of marijuana into the U.S. on a panga boat that came ashore near Malibu in January. Investigators say the man sent a text to someone in L.A. announcing the boat's arrival from Ensenada.

Lopez-Rocha and two other Mexican men were arrested by Customs and Border Protection agents while unloading more than 45 bales of marijuana. He will be deported to Mexico after serving the sentence, said prosecutors. The codefendants were sentenced to a year in prison. 

Meanwhile, at the Tujunga Ponds Wildlife Sanctuary, deputies have arrested a 51-year-old man for illegally building a makeshift house in which he was growing marijuana.

Los Angeles County sheriff's investigators said that Robert Downs was found in a remote section of the SoCal sanctuary where he'd erected a crude structure and surrounding area that included bunk beds, a rock patio, barbecue, tables, and eight potted pot plants.


State Appeals Court: LA County ban on medical marijuana dispensaries against state law


Photo by Dank Depot via Flickr Creative Commons

A three judge panel at California's Second District Court of Appeals ruled Monday that L.A. County's blanket ban on medical marijuana dispensaries in unincorporated areas is "preempted" by state law, which calls for the drug to be made available to those who need it for a legitimate medical purpose. 

While cities and counties have the ability to regulate and restrict marijuana dispensaries, they can't simply ban them outright, the justices ruled. 

Justice Robert Mallano wrote the unanimous decision for the court, which now throws the Los Angeles City Council's plan to consider a citywide dispensary ban on July 24 into question. 



Pot Ban Decision