Crime & Justice

Medical marijuana ordinance fast-tracked by LA City Council

A worker at the San Francisco Medical Cannabis Clinic prepares packets of marijuana buds for sale in San Francisco, Monday, Oct. 19, 2009.
A worker at the San Francisco Medical Cannabis Clinic prepares packets of marijuana buds for sale in San Francisco, Monday, Oct. 19, 2009.
AP Photo/Eric Risberg

A proposed ordinance regulating medical marijuana dispensaries in Los Angeles has been fast-tracked. It will bypass a committee hearing and go directly to the City Council for a vote, the chairman of the council's Public Safety Committee said today.

Councilman Greig Smith announced he would waive a committee hearing on the proposed ordinance, and he hoped to have the matter brought before the full council for a hearing and a vote on Nov. 3

The proposed ordinance would only allow medical marijuana collectives (groups of qualified patients and their primary caregivers) would be allowed to cultivate the drug to relieve pain from serious illnesses. Over-the-counter sales of the drug would be outlawed.

The City Attorney's Office finished crafting the ordinance Tuesday, one day after Los Angeles Superior Court Judge James Chalfant ruled that Los Angeles' temporary ordinance banning medical marijuana dispensaries was invalid.

If the council approves the ordinance and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa signs it, enforcement usually begins 30 days later. It was unclear if the council would adopt the ordinance with an "emergency clause" under which it would take effect immediately after being signed.

Don Duncan, a primary caregiver for a medical marijuana patient and an official of Americans for Safe Access, which bills itself as the nation's largest organization promoting access to marijuana for medical reasons, criticized portions of the ordinance.

"The primary concern we have with the city attorney's regulations is
that they don't have the adequate protections that we need for the patients'
privacy," Duncan said.

Medical marijuana could be distributed to collective members between 10 a.m. and 8 p.m. only, and no collective can have more than five pounds of dried marijuana or more than 100 plants at any given time.

Duncan criticized this, saying "By limiting the medical marijuana to such a small amount, that may make it very difficult for the collective to supply members. That's going to encourage people to look back at dealers and we certainly
don't want that."

The ordinance says that medical marijuana produced by collectives must be in accordance with Health and Safety Code. Recent studies have shown that marijuana sold at dispensaries may be contaminated with pesticides and other chemicals.

Collectives would also have to be at least 1,000 feet from other collectives, schools, playgrounds, child care facilities, religious institutions, public libraries, public parks, hospitals, and rehab centers. They also must have strict security measures, including closed circuit cameras and bars on the windows.

Dispensaries that opened up before the temporary ban was put in place will be given 180 days to come into compliance with the new ordinance, while those that opened afterward will have to come into compliance immediately, or they will be shut down.