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Debate over medical marijuana dispensaries is back on the table




Jars full of medical marijuana at a Los Angeles dispensary.
Jars full of medical marijuana at a Los Angeles dispensary.
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

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L.A. City Councilman José Huizar called on his colleagues last week to repeal the city’s ordinance allowing medical marijuana shops. The ordinance, passed in January 2010, mandates regulation and restrictions on the dispensaries, including how many can exist, the distance they can be from one another and from "sensitive use" areas such as libraries and churches, and safety measures such as money drop offs and security guards.

In his proposal last Wednesday, Councilman Huizar claimed the city has failed to enforce the numbers restriction, resulting in a proliferation of "pot shops" operating without a permit or without following regulations. He was supported by several community groups, who voiced their complaints about increasing shops in their neighborhoods.

But the councilman’s most potent reason for the ban points to a November District Court of Appeal decision which ruled that Long Beach's marijuana dispensary ordinance was invalid because federal law considers cannabis an illegal drug. Huizar maintains that since Long Beach's ordinance is very similar to LA's ordinance, the Long Beach ruling deems the Los Angeles ordinance unenforceable.

The California Supreme Court is currently weighing a challenge to that decision; meanwhile, it’s uncertain whether the council will approve the ban, which if passed could take effect in about two months.

WEIGH IN:

The decision to ban dispensaries outright would come as a major setback to proponents. The city council has never inclined towards prohibition -- will this motion affect their reconsideration of dispensaries? If the ordinance can’t be enforced, should the city shut down the pot shops? What will that mean to those who rely on marijuana for their medical needs?

Guests:

José Huizar, City Council Member, 14th District

Joe Elford, Chief Counsel, Americans for Safe Access Now