Southern California breaking news and trends

Advocates want voters to overturn pot shop ban

Lev Goukassian, owner of the Nirvana Pha

GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images

Supporters of medical marijuana are working on a referendum campaign to overturn the city of Los Angeles' ban on pot shops.

Advocates of medical marijuana are hitting back at the city of Los Angeles’ ban on pot shops with a referendum, an ordinance and possibly a lawsuit.

One day after the Los Angeles City Council moved to close the 800 to 1,000 medical marijuana clinics that are in operation, representatives with Americans for Safe Access said they are working on a referendum to repeal the law.

“It’s not an initiative. The referendum would simply delay the implementation of the ordinance until either the city council rescinds it, which we would certainly endorse, or gets put on the ballot,” said Kris Hermes, a spokesman with Americans for Safe Access.

Advocates would need to gather 27,425 valid signatures to get the referendum on the ballot, according to the City Clerk’s Office. Petitions would need to be filed by Sept. 21 for the referendum to qualify for the city’s March ballot. For the May 2013 ballot, petitions could be filed until Dec. 7.

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The final days of LA's medical marijuana clinics?

Frank Stoltze/KPCC

Medical marijuana clinics will close in about 40 days, under a new Los Angeles city ordinance.

It could be the final days for medical marijuana dispensaries in Los Angeles, with Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa expected to sign the Los Angeles City Council's ordinance to shut down the clinics. 

The mayor has 10 days to sign off on the law. 

"The mayor has long supported a limit on dispensaries while preserving access for those with a verifiable medical need as prescribed by state law," according to a statement from Villaraigosa's office. 

Under the city council's plan, patients may grow their own medical cannabis in collectives no larger than three people. Primary care givers may continue to distribute the drug, as well. The City Attorney's Office believes there are currently 800 to 1,000 pot shops in Los Angeles. 

Americans for Safe Access, which supports the nonprofit shops that distribute medical marijuana, has called for a referendum to overturn the law. 

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Medical marijuana clinics banned by LA City Council (updated)

Medical Marijuana

Michael Juliano/KPCC

An increasingly unruly crowd begins to stand after being repeatedly told to stay seated.

Medical Marijuana

Michael Juliano/KPCC

Two passionate medical marijuana supporters argue with the council and police.

Medical Marijuana

Michael Juliano/KPCC

Police presence is temporarily increased after some members of the crowd act out.

Medical Marijuana

Michael Juliano/KPCC

A smaller crowd than early in the day begins to reenter the chamber.

Medical Marijuana

Michael Juliano/KPCC

Two passionate medical marijuana supporters argue with the council and police.

Medical Marijuana

Michael Juliano/KPCC

The public waits outside of the chamber as the council holds a private session.


Nonprofit storefronts that sell medical marijuana will be banned in the city of Los Angeles under a proposal approved Tuesday.

The Los Angeles City Council voted 14-0 to prohibit the sale of medical cannabis in retail establishments. However, exemptions will allow patients to continue growing marijuana for their own use, and primary caregivers may continue to distribute the drug.

The vote, which came after hours of public testimony and debate, drew sharp criticism from patients who use medical marijuana to tame the side effects of their illnesses. Some public speakers shouted at council members and then the police officers who took to the council chamber after the vote.

Earlier in the day, the council heard from patients and advocates of medical marijuana. 

“A ban on medical cannabis collectives and cooperatives is an attack on patients. They need this. It can work in other cities,” said Don Duncan, the California director of Americans for Safe Access. “You guys have to get it together and pass regulations that protect safe access for legitimate patients for legal operations.”

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Reefer madness: committee votes to ban medical marijuana clinics in Los Angeles (updated)

Bags of medical marijuana.

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Medical marijuana clinics would be forced to shut down under a plan approved today by the Los Angeles City Council's Public Safety Committee.

Medical marijuana clinics would be banned in the city of Los Angeles under an ordinance approved today by the Public Safety Committee. 

The proposed ordinance, which still requires approval from the full Los Angeles City Council, would shut down existing dispensaries throughout the city. Angelenos with the proper prescription would be allowed to cultivate marijuana for their personal medicinal use, under the proposal. Residential care facilities and hospices could also continue to provide medical marijuana.

“It's about the many who have spoiled it for the few," said Councilman Mitch Englander, chair of the Public Safety Committee.

Clinics have bred crime, including assault, burglary, identity theft, drug possession and murder, Englander said. The Los Angeles Police Department estimates there are 700 to 800 clinics in the city.

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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. 

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