LA City Attorney's Office recommends shutting down marijuana clinics

A bud grows on a marijuana plant at
A bud grows on a marijuana plant at "Oaksterdam University" July 22, 2009 in Oakland, California.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

The Los Angeles City Attorney's Office is recommending shutting down the city's medical marijuana clinics.

Under a proposal from the City Attorney's Office, medical marijuana shops would be banned, but patients and caregivers could still grow their own marijuana, Special Assistant City Attorney Jane Usher said.

Representatives with the City Attorney's Office presented the proposal at the City Council's Public Safety Committee meeting Friday, and they asked for it to be forwarded to the Planning Commission for consideration at its Jan. 26 meeting. Their hope is that the proposal will move on to the full Council by the end of the month.

The City Attorney's Office has billed it as a "gentle ban."

"It doesn't look like bans in other cities," said Special Assistant City Attorney Jane Usher. "Most people think the ban means everything is getting cut and so we want to be very, very clear. Our ban is cutting edge."

The ban proposal comes in the wake of a controversial October decision in which a Long Beach ordinance allowing medical dispensaries was found to violate federal law.

"[It said] you basically can't pick winners and losers," said Rick Coca, a spokesman for Los Angeles City Councilman Jose Huizar. Huizar authored the motion supporting the city attorney's proposed ban. "You can't do a lottery, can't say a maximum number of dispensaries [in an area]. We can't say how close they would be to one another. As soon as we start going 'we choose you or choose you,' we're regulating a federally banned substance."

And that's illegal, according to the Superior Court of the City of Long Beach. Opponents of the decision want to appeal it, but the California Supreme Court won't decide whether to take the case until early February.

Which is too much time for Los Angeles to wait to see if its own ordinance is also illegal, Usher and Coca agreed. Currently there are 60 lawsuits involving 200 litigants, including dispensary owners and customers, pending against the city.

"We have an ordinance on the books that we cannot influence or enforce," concluded Usher. "It's our recommendation that the city clear the books, clear the air."