LA City Council approves new medical marijuana law

A client enters Sunset Junction medical marijuana dispensary in Los Angeles, California.
A client enters Sunset Junction medical marijuana dispensary in Los Angeles, California. Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

The Los Angeles City Council Friday capped the number of pot shops at 100, with only those that opened on or before September 14, 2007, qualifying to enter a new lottery system that will determine who may continue to operate. The urgency ordinance approved on a 12-0 vote follows a judge's December ruling that struck down L.A.'s old ordinance as arbitrary and capricious.

The L.A. City Council acted amid concerns that pot shops were sprouting back up across the city.

“Already in my district, I have illegal operators who are already redecorating and remodeling their shops ready to reopen," Councilman Paul Krekorian of the San Fernando Valley said.

Councilman Jose Huizar said illegal pot shops already were popping back up in his East L.A. district.

“It is affecting the quality of life," Huizar said. "The sooner we put this genie back in the bottle, it's going to improve the quality of life for thousands and thousands of Angelinos.”

The new ordinance eliminates a grandfather clause that allowed as many as 187 pot shops in L.A. It retains restrictions that keep shops at least 1,000 feet away from schools, parks and churches. The law also creates a lottery to select the 100 that may remain open.

Councilman Richard Alarcon said the lottery was a bad idea.

“By doing a lottery, we are not able to select who the best providers will be," Alarson said. "We could literally end up with the worst providers of the bunch."

Alarcon ended up supporting the measure, and successfully lobbied the council to explore establishing and advisory council on medical marijuana.

Medical marijuana advocates said the city's law remains too restrictive, and could prevent people who need pot from getting it.

T.V. personality Montel Williams became emotional as he described how he desperately needed pot to treat pain caused by multiple sclerosis.

“Every single one of those doctors has recommended for me to continue using marijuana because I came to a point that opiates don’t do it," Williams said.

Williams is a national advocate for medical marijuana. He was arrested earlier this month for possession of a pot pipe at the Milwaukee Airport.

Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Krekorian said he was sympathetic to medical marijuana users but thought the cap and other restrictions would prevent another explosion of pot shops. L.A. had as many as 1,000 at one point.

"I for one am not comfortable with opening it up to the wild west again," Krekorian said.

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