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A budtender pours marijuana from a jar at Perennial Holistic Wellness Center medical marijuana dispensary, which opened in 2006, on July 25, 2012 in Los Angeles, California.
Update: The Los Angeles City Council repealed a ban on medical marijuana dispensaries in an 11-2 vote Tuesday.
The council majority voted to rescind a July decision to put a "gentle ban" on medical marijuana, one that would shutter all storefront medical marijuana dispensaries but allow patients and licensed caregivers to grow their own cannabis.
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Today, the L.A. City Council will vote on whether to repeal the ban on pot shops that they passed this July. The shops were supposed to close August 5, but challengers gathered the 50,000 signatures needed to put it on hold temporarily. Council members are currently holding a special meeting on the ban this morning.
"I don't think [L.A. City Council] expected the medical marijuana community, the pot shop owner community to hit back so hard and so fast against this ban," KPCC's Frank Stoltze said.
The council has only two options: to repeal the ban and draft new dispensary regulations, or let voters decide. According to Stoltze, putting the proposal on a special election ballot comes with a $3-4 million price tag, while adding it to the March ballot would incur nominal fees.
The crackdown resulted from L.A.-area pot shop numbers ballooning to around 1,000 in recent years, though a recent UCLA study showed that the count was overblown.
Stoltze said the city got off to a bad start when first trying to establish control in 2007, creating exemptions that many dispensary owners took advantage of. Other owners opened storefronts illegally.
Primary caregivers were also allowed to grow their own marijuana for medicinal purposes, but the definition quickly blurred.
"The original idea was a bunch of patients could get together collectively and grow marijuana," Stoltze added. "The argument from pot shop owners is, a lot of patients cannot grow pot so ... their contribution to the collective is to give money [to pot shops]. Authorities say that's essentially just paying for pot."
Regulation also proved difficult due to conflicting court rulings, "on whether or not cities can regulate pot shops. The federal government bans the use of pot for any reason, but we have state law that allows certain uses," Stoltze continued.
Regardless of the vote, the federal government has promised to continue its dispensary-closing spree. Last week, federal authorities targeted 71 local pot shops in an effort to shut them down.