Medical marijuana activists worry about crackdown on LA pot shops

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The Los Angeles City Council expects this week to give final approval to a new law that’s shut down hundreds of medical marijuana dispensaries. Some people wonder how city officials will enforce the new law.

Last week, L.A. City Councilman Bill Rosendahl quizzed city officials on how the city plans to shut down pot shops that don’t fall under the 140 allowed under the new law.

“So when you do that, you’ll notify them so we don’t have some draconian knock on the door and come-and-smash-apart type of activity" said Rosendahl, who thinks the city is overreacting to pot shops.

Jane Usher of the city attorney's office assured the councilman that the city would seek voluntary compliance. “That’s how we’ll proceed unless you’d prefer the smashing and knocking and the draconian.”

Rosendahl said he would not.

Medical marijuana activists are still worried.

The ordinance prohibits pot shops from operating within 1,000 feet of schools, churches and parks. They can’t open across the street or alley from homes or apartments. This means that every one of the 14 in Venice must close, for example.

Don Duncan is with Americans for Safe Access, a group that’s lobbied on behalf of marijuana dispensaries and their patients. He acknowledged many dispensaries may ignore the new law.

“Obviously, we don’t expect widespread compliance, and it remains to be seen what the city’s going to do to enforce this ordinance."

Duncan said he heard the city attorney office say they’d require voluntary compliance. But, "I suspect there’s something beyond that.”

Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley has threatened to close pot shops himself. He argues that most are little more than glorified drug dealers.

The ordinance imposes a slew of regulations on pot shops. They can only operate from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.; they must employ security guards; they’re subject to police inspection. They must operate as non-profits and submit to independent audits. And they’re not supposed to sell marijuana — only to accept cash and in-kind contributions for its growth and delivery.