Crime & Justice

Most Los Angeles marijuana dispensaries ineligible to remain open

Yamileth Bolanos in the trading room of PureLife Alternative Wellness Center
Yamileth Bolanos in the trading room of PureLife Alternative Wellness Center
Brian Watt/KPCC

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The Los Angeles City Clerk’s office has determined that about 75 percent of the medical marijuana dispensaries that want to stay open under the city’s new ordinance will have to shut down. The city clerk surveyed the paperwork from 169 dispensaries that already operated under the city’s interim ordinance. Only 41 of them met the requirements of the new ordinance.

The city clerk's office published the list of eligible and ineligible dispensaries on its web site. The news came as a shock to Yamileth Bolanos, who runs the Pure Life Alternative Wellness Center on L.A.’s La Cienega Boulevard. It’s been in business for almost five years.

“We’re a family-based business and we’re so aghast that we’re ineligible,” said Bolanos.

The City Clerk's Office has sent letters to the ineligible dispensaries explaining why. Bolanos hadn’t yet received her explanation. She’s upset because she’s tried to work with the city on medical marijuana policy.

"We have had several visits from city government, because we’re not afraid to show what we’re doing," she said.

To remain open under the new ordinance, dispensaries had to prove that they hadn’t changed management or ownership, that they’d stayed in the same location or only moved once because of federal drug enforcement and that they had no criminal record. Bolanos says her enterprise meets all those criteria.

"We’re taking them to court," she said.

That’s exactly what the L.A. City Attorney’s Office expected. So, it filed its own lawsuit.

Special Assistant City Attorney Jane Usher says it names the ineligible dispensaries and asks a Superior Court judge to rule on the legality of the city clerk’s actions.

"We’ll gather everyone in front of one judge – the judge that has been assigned all of the medical marijuana ordinance cases – and we’ll consolidate in one proceeding, economizing on the court’s resources and hopefully be able to bring the public an answer with greater speed," Usher said.

"At the same time as we’re insuring that there are dispensaries available and open so that there’s patient access, we’re equally determined to have the city’s laws upheld," she said.

The city’s new medical marijuana ordinance took effect in June. It aimed to close hundreds of dispensaries, and to cap the number of legal ones at 70. Until a judge sorts all this out, or rules that the city must do so on its own, Los Angeles won’t try to shut down the ineligible dispensaries with the new ordinance.