Judge sets aside LA’s moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries

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A man enters Private Organic Therapy (P.O.T.), a non-profit co-operative medical marijuana dispensary, on October 19, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. Attorney General Eric Holder announced new guidelines today for federal prosecutors in states where the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes is allowed under state law.

On the day the U.S. attorney general released new guidelines for prosecuting medical marijuana distributors and users, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge ruled that the city of L.A.’s moratorium on new pot dispensaries is invalid.

In June, the L.A. City Council extended a two-year-old moratorium on new medical marijuana dispensaries. But a dispensary owner, along with a medical marijuana collective, sued. They claimed the moratorium couldn’t continue for more than two years unless a permanent law took its place.

An L.A. County Superior Court judge agreed. His ruling applies only to the dispensary in this case, but it could make way for more dispensaries.

Many of the hundreds now in business opened under a loophole in L.A. city law. The city’s and county’s lead prosecutors say they’ll work to shut down the ones they can.

It’s uncertain whether the new federal policy will complicate that goal. It maintains that growing and selling marijuana are illegal under federal law. But it backs off from prosecuting medical marijuana users with prescriptions and the outlets that fill them – as long as they operate within the law of states like California that permit medicinal use.

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