City attorney to inform operators of LA pot clinics to close

A letter being finalized by the Los Angeles City Attorney's office will order the operators of about 400 illegal medical marijuana dispensaries to shut down by June 7, a spokesman said today.

Frank Mateljan, a spokesman for the city attorney, said the letter will be issued Tuesday or Wednesday.

"It will inform (operators) that a new ordinance is going into effect, and it is our understanding that their establishment is operating outside compliance and will be required to shut down,'' he said.

The ordinance that takes effect on June 7 allows up to 186 dispensaries to remain open -- specifically, those that started operating before the City Council instituted a moratorium on Nov. 13, 2007.

The ordinance, which Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa signed last week, states that "any existing medical marijuana collective, dispensary, operator, establishment or provider that does not comply with the requirements of this article must immediately cease operation.''

Mateljan said the City Attorney's office has prepared an initial list of about 400 operators that opened dispensaries after the moratorium was put in place.

If they have not shut down of their own volition by June 7, the city will force them to do so, he said.

Meanwhile, the dispensaries that opened prior to the moratorium will be required to file a notice of intent to register with the City Clerk's office, and be put on a priority list.

The ordinance requires dispensaries to be at least 1,000 feet away from schools, public parks, public libraries and religious institutions, as well as each other.

It also bars dispensaries from being "on a lot abutting, across the street or alley from, or having a common corner with a residentially zoned lot or a lot improved with residential use.''

If two dispensaries are currently within 1,000 feet of each other, the city clerk's office will use the priority list to determine which one can stay in its current location, and which one must move.

There were 186 dispensaries that opened prior to the moratorium, but only about 130 of them are believed to still be operating.

Some operators of medical marijuana have said they plan to challenge the ordinance in court on the grounds that it will effectively zone dispensaries out of existence.