Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
Jars full of medical marijuana are seen at Sunset Junction medical marijuana dispensary on May 11, 2010 in Los Angeles, California.
Medical marijuana clinics in the city of Los Angeles could go up in smoke.
L.A City council officials will meet on Friday, to debate a motion put forward by Councilman Jose Huizar to close up to 800 clinics that operate in the city.
"This has been a huge debate in the council over the last four, five, six years with medical marijuana users flooding the council at times saying we need access to our medicine. And with neighborhood groups coming in and saying that some of these pot shops are basically crime operations,” KPCC reporter Frank Stoltze said.
The four-member public safety committee are in favor of the ban which now goes to the full council.
Councilman Huizar, in a 2011 statement, said, “As someone who has advocated for safe access to medical marijuana for those who truly need it, while balancing that with the need to protect our local communities from an over-proliferation of dispensaries, this is not an easy decision for me.”
This proposal is the latest in a long line of attempts to control medical marijuana clinics in Los Angeles. In 2007 a moratorium was imposed on new dispensaries, followed by a city ordinance introducing a 'lottery' to limit which clinics can operate.
Since then, L.A. City Attorney Carmen Trutanich has said the ordinance could violate federal law, prompted by a court case brought against Long Beach for a similar lottery system last year. The case will be heard by the California Supreme Court.
Patient advocacy groups say it's time for a permanent solution to this problem so that legitimate medical marijuana users can be served properly.
KPCC listener Matt from West L.A. says medical marijuana is crucial to the care of his wife who is battling cancer.
"If they close these shops I don't know how I would be able to get her medical marijuana. I mean I don't have the expertise, I'm not a grower, I wouldn't be able to get it fast enough for her. It's just crazy to ban this when it's the only medicine that works for her."
An alternative proposal by Councilman Paul Koretz would allow up to 100 clinics to remain open but has not passed committee.
What benefits do you see to an outright ban on medical marijuana? If you use marijuana for medical purposes, what are your concerns about a ban? Councilman Koretz's proposal would allow for a limited number of dispensaries throughout the city of Los Angeles - would this be enough?
Frank Stoltze, KPCC reporter
Joe Elford, Chief Counsel, Americans for Safe Access