Southern California breaking news and trends

With LA thinking about banning dispensaries, who will defend medical marijuana?


Photo by Dank Depot via Flickr Creative Commons

The Los Angeles City Council, if everything goes according to schedule, will vote whether to impose a ban on marijuana dispensaries June 22. On Friday, the proposal cleared its second-to-last hurdle, the Public Safety Committee, and is moving to the full council with momentum.

Those advocating for the ban point out that LA’s medical marijuana system — and really, California’s medical marijuana system — is a massive source of recreational, and not just medicinal, pot. They also worry that local and state medical marijuana laws do not trump federal bans on the sale and manufacture of the drug.

Meanwhile, those against LA imposing an outright ban mostly agree with that assessment, but point out that there are many clean, safe, responsible dispensaries frequented by people who actually use marijuana to help treat illness. They also point out that banning marijuana has generally been an ineffective means of preventing its widespread recreational use.

The truth of the matter is that the recent federal crackdown on medical marijuana enterprises (both legitimate and not) has made it very difficult for local governments that want to support the industry. Take Mendocino County, in the heart of California’s pot country, as an example.

There, the county authorized the sheriff to issue licenses to those cultivating medical marijuana and make sure they were complying with local regulations. It was the only such program in California, and was specifically designed to provide cleanliness and clarity to a notoriously explosive scene. Early this year, the feds came in, busting up licensed grows in the county, and reportedly going as far as threatening local officials with RICO suits. So Mendocino massively downscaled its program.

California has long seen itself as a pioneer in medical marijuana, but with the industry in disarray, it’s looking like key localities like Oakland, Mendocino, and LA are not stepping up to the challenge.

Who, then, is thinking creatively about how you pull together a viable industry?

According to a piece in the New York Times last week, Arizona is the new model for those who want to see a legitimate medical marijuana system. In Arizona, the theory seems to be that the stricter your laws are, the more the system will have the aura of a legitimate medical enterprise. To that end, they’ve pulled together bits and pieces of laws from other states, invented their own, and come up with the tightest standards in the country, including:


More US teens smoking marijuana than smoking cigarettes, says CDC


Photo by Alexodus via Flickr Creative Commons

A new government survey shows more teens are smoking marijuana than are smoking cigarettes, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Thursday.

The CDC found 23 percent of high schoolers said they recently smoked pot, while only 18 percent said they'd recently had a cigarette. The survey questioned the kids on a variety of risky businesses.

While teen smoking has been on the decline for decades, last year marked the first time the measure of marijuana clearly rose above the cigarette cloud.

A University of Michigan study also found that partaking of pot had surpassed cigarette use, and that teens today may see marijuana as less dangerous than cigarettes.



Proposal to outlaw pot shops fires up LA City Council

A man walks past a medicinal marijuana d

Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images

A loophole in the 2007 dispensary moratorium allowed for a crop of new pot shops to pop up across the city. To counter the weed-like growth of storefronts, an ordinance went into effect that limited, via a lottery, which establishments would be allowed to operate.

Now, a recommendation to oust that ordinance, and outright outlaw pot shops in Los Angeles, is burning its way through City Council. This week, the recommendation, and a counterproposal, were approved by a city council committee. 

The proposed ban would signal the end of medical marijuana dispensaries in L.A., allowing only for small groups of patients and caregivers to continue to grow their own.

Councilman and committee member Jose Huizar backs the ban with the belief that obliterating the ordinance would limit the city's liability, while Atty. Carmen Trutanich says the ordinance may be in violation of federal law. 


Authorities seize more than $3 million in pot found floating off the Orange County coast

Photo by jnocca93 via Flickr Creative Commons

Dana Point Harbor got a different kind of haul Sunday after 8,000 pounds of marijuana was discovered floating 15 miles offshore.

It’s a funny kind of flotsam and jetsam.

Authorities hope to discover the source of more than $3 million worth of marijuana found floating off the Orange County coast Sunday.

The illicit pot -- 160 bales were counted bobbing about, totaling 8,000 pounds -- was fished out of the water yesterday by authorities and hauled in to Dana Point Harbor, the L.A. Times reports.

The bales were first seen just after noon Sunday about 15 miles offshore by a boater, who notified authorities, according to the Orange County Register. Several U.S. Coast Guard and Orange County Sheriff’s Department vessels worked together to collect the floating pot.

(The exact amount and value of the pot has been reported variously as somewhere between $3 million and $3.6 million, and between 7,000 and 8,000 pounds -- but anyway, it’s a lot.)


Authorities estimate value of Diamond Bar pot-growing operation at about $4 million


Pot plants grow in the room of an upscale home in Diamond Bar.


Pot plants grow in the room of an upscale home in Diamond Bar.


Pot plants grow in the room of an upscale home in Diamond Bar.


Seedlings grow in the room of an upscale home in Diamond Bar.


The finished product, hanging out to dry.

The L.A. County Sheriff’s Department has released photos of the enormous indoor pot-growing operation taking place in an upscale Diamond Bar home, giving a sense of how big the farm was at the time it was raided earlier this week.

Seedlings grew, plants flourished under grow lights and harvested plants hung out to dry in the house’s cavernous rooms, which were sealed off and filtered to keep the smell from escaping to the outside, authorities said.

About 1,000 plants in various stages of growth were seized, along with 400 pounds of harvested marijuana -- an estimated value of about $4 million altogether, the sheriff’s department said.

The Monday evening bust on the 24000 block of Highcrest Drive also resulted in two arrests: 43-year-old Guoyun Zheng of El Monte and 32-year-old Bat Chenh of Alhambra were booked at Walnut Sheriff’s Station and are being held in lieu of $100,000 bail, the sheriff’s department said.