LA City Council taking steps toward enforcing medical marijuana dispensary ordinance

Two City Council committees were poised today to take a key step towards enforcing an ordinance that would shut down hundreds of medical marijuana dispensaries around Los Angeles within months.

The City Council passed the ordinance in February, but it can't take effect until registration fees for medical marijuana operators have been established.

The City Council's Planning and Land Use Management Committee and Budget and Finance Committee are expected to take a vote on the registration fees today.

"My goal for the joint committee meeting is to move forward with the medical marijuana collective fees and final draft ordinance," said Councilman Ed Reyes, chairman of the Planning and Land Use Management Committee.

"I continue to work closely with the affected city departments and review public testimony to ensure that the collective fees are fair, reasonable and prioritize the health and safety of our communities," he added.

Reyes said he expects the ordinance to take effect in May.

In a report submitted to both committees, City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana estimated that a single manager of an existing collective with no significant issues or construction will have to pay the city about $1,595 in registration fees.

Currently, there are hundreds of pot shops operating across the city. The ordinance would cap that number at 70, but grant a reprieve to the 187 medical marijuana dispensaries whose operators registered with the city prior to a moratorium.

If any of those 187 dispensaries close or go out of business, they will not be replaced until the overall number is reduced to 70.

The ordinance also requires that dispensaries be at least 1,000 feet away from schools, public parks, public libraries, religious institutions and other so-called "sensitive use" sites.

It also bars dispensaries from being "on a lot abutting, across the street or alley from, or having a common corner with a residentially zoned lot or a lot improved with residential use."

The nation's largest medical marijuana advocacy organization filed a lawsuit challenging the ordinance earlier this month. Kris Hermes with Americans for Safe Access said they plan to seek a temporary restraining order to prevent the ordinance from taking effect.

Last week, a coalition of pot shop operators led by Daniel Halbert of The Rainforest Collective in Mar Vista failed to gather enough signatures to force a referendum on the ordinance.