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LA County Supervisors look to ban medical marijuana dispensaries in unincorporated areas

The manager of Sunset Junction medical marijuana dispensary holds up marijuana plant buds in Los Angeles, California.
The manager of Sunset Junction medical marijuana dispensary holds up marijuana plant buds in Los Angeles, California.
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

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Los Angeles County Supervisors are proposing a ban on medical marijuana dispensaries in unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County, where about 1.4 million people live. Officials say only a handful of the dispensaries exist in those areas — all without permits.

L.A. County Supervisor Gloria Molina said that illegal pot shops have cropped up around her San Gabriel Valley district, and that it’s time for county regulators to shut them down.

“Use everything you’ve got to kick them the hell out of the unincorporated areas,” Molina said.

For four years, L.A. County’s permitted medical marijuana dispensaries to operate under restrictions that keep them away from schools, playgrounds and churches. But officials say the few that exist never applied for permits.

Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, the sole opponent of an outright ban, said he understood why his colleagues backed one.

“Unfortunately people who have preyed on this medical marijuana industry – taken advantage of it - have made it impossible both politically and logically for a lot of public officials to continue to support it," he said.

Medical marijuana activists decried the supervisors' decision. Victoria Zavala, who runs a medical
marijuana collective in unincorporated Quartz Hill, said, "We need safe access in our area."

But the Board of Supervisors worries that the city's crackdown on pot shops will lead to more of them in the county areas. The board has asked its legal counsel to draft an ordinance banning all pot shops in unincorporated areas that could take effect early next year.

The board took action as the Orange County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to ban medical marijuana dispensaries in unincorporated parts of the county. At the same time, the California Supreme Court is considering a lawsuit in which medical marijuana advocates claim that any outright ban on pot shops is unconstitutional.