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Planning Commission OKs new rules for medical marijuana clinics

Medical Marijuana

Bear Guerra/KPCC

The Planning Commission approved an ordinance Thursday that would limit the number of medical marijuana clinics operating in Los Angeles.

New regulations would require most of the medical marijuana clinics in Los Angeles to close their doors if the LA City Council approves. The city Planning Commission approved the rule changes Thursday. 

An estimated 800 to 1,000 pot shops operated in Los Angeles. The Planning Commission forwarded the ordinance to the Los Angeles City Council for consideration; it would close dispensaries that opened after 2007.

The 182 clinics that opened before September 2007 and  filed the necessary papers with the city of L.A. could remain open if they follow a slate of restrictions. Those include operating at least 1,000 feet away from schools, prohibiting patients from using cannabis on the premises, and banning unaccompanied minors from entering. 

The proposal is the city’s latest effort to regulate medical marijuana clinics. During the summer, the Los Angeles City Council voted to close all storefront clinics, although legitimate patients would have been allowed to continue growing their own marijuana. But that ban never took effect. Opponents gathered enough signatures to qualify a referendum on the issue and the city council voted to repeal the ban.


LAPD to work with federal drug agents to close down medical marijuana clinics

Pot/Marijuana Stock Photo

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

The Los Angeles City Council directed the LAPD to work with federal drug agents on putting together a strategy to ensure medical marijuana clinics close down once the city's ban is in place.

With the clock ticking down to the city’s complete ban on medical marijuana clinics, the Los Angeles City Council today asked police officers to work with federal agents and the District Attorney’s Office on ensuring that dispensaries close. 

Following a closed session discussion, the council directed the Los Angeles Police Department to partner with the federal Drug Enforcement Administration in creating a citywide enforcement strategy. There are an estimated 800 to 1,000 collectives in the city, and on Sept. 6 they must all close.

The City Attorney's Office was also instructed to report back on ongoing litigation. Last week, the Patient Care Alliance-Los Angeles sued the city to stop enforcement of the ban. The group, which includes patients, vendors and clinic owners, argues there is a constitutional right to assemble for the purpose of using medical marijuana, which is legal under California law.


Group sues Los Angeles to block medical marijuana shop ban

A one-eighth ounce container of Maui Afg

Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images

A one-eighth ounce container of Maui Afghooey medical marijuana displayed at the PureLife Alternative Wellness Center on July 27, 2012 in Los Angeles. The Los Angeles City Council's unanimous vote on July 24 to ban all marijuana dispenseries has received a mixture of anger and support with all 762 dispensaries registered in the city due to be sent letters ordering them to shut down immediately, or face legal action from the city.

A pedestrian walks toward the entrance o

Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images

A pedestrian walks toward the entrance of a clinic offering medical marijuana cards in Los Angeles on July 25, 2012.

Yamileth Bolanos, a livertransplant reci

Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images

Yamileth Bolanos, a livertransplant recipient, two-time cancer survivor and operator of PureLife Alternative Wellness Center returns baked goods into a cabinet behind a display of medical marijuana available at the collective on July 27, 2012 in Los Angeles.

An alliance of medical marijuana collective owners, vendors and patients sued the city of Los Angeles Friday to block the implementation of a ban on pot shops.

The lawsuit from the Patient Care Alliance-Los Angeles seeks an injunction against the ban, which is scheduled to take effect on Sept. 6. The plaintiffs argue that the city will deny patients access to badly needed medicine and put an entire industry out of business. 

“We’re going to knock the snot off the city council,” said Marc O’Hara, executive director of the Patient Care Alliance.

Attorneys for the Patient Care Alliance argue that patients have a right to associate with one another for the purpose of cultivating and distributing medical marijuana. City officials are also accused of acting “arbitrarily and capriciously in regulating land use and business,” according to the lawsuit.


Marijuana clinics likely to shut down in waves


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.


Medical marijuana patients urged to grow own cannabis

Medical Marijuana

Michael Juliano/KPCC

Following the L.A. City Council's vote to ban medical marijuana clinics, Councilman Paul Koretz said he believed the drug would be virtually unavailable to patients in Los Angeles.

Once the city of Los Angeles forces more than 800 medical marijuana clinics to close, how will patients obtain the medication they need to curb the effects of serious illness?

There are a few options for those with medical cannabis cards:

  1. Grow your own marijuana: The city’s ban on storefront clinics allows patients to form their own collectives with one or two other people. The members of those collectives may grow the plants at their homes.
  2. Get it from a primary caregiver: Primary caregivers may continue to distribute, deliver and give away medical marijuana. The drug will also be allowed in hospices and licensed clinics.
  3. Go to another city: Medical marijuana clinics remain open in Long Beach, West Hollywood, Marina del Rey and Ventura. provides a listing of clinics by city and neighborhood.