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Pot clinics go up in smoke after city council vote

Dispensaries like this one are going up in smoke due to the LA city council ban
Dispensaries like this one are going up in smoke due to the LA city council ban
Corey Moore/KPCC

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The Los Angeles City Council voted unanimously (14-0) last night to ban marijuana dispensaries in the city, where the number of pot shops have mushroomed in recent years.

It's expected that Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa will sign the ordinance within the next week. Once that happens, pot shops will have 30 days to close. As many as 900 stores could be affected, but it's not clear what will happen if business owners decide not to close.

LAPD Police Chief Charlie Beck and Los Angeles Special Assistant City Attorney Jane Usher, feel that most of the dispensaries will voluntarily comply with the new law.

“Once we receive the ban and once we have the ordinances worked out, there will be significant incentive for them to comply with the law,” said Beck on AirTalk. “I don’t think we’ll have to chase down every medical marijuana dispensary. I think that by and large we’ll have to do a few enforcements and most people will comply.”

KPCC Reporter Frank Stoltze says that many sources he has spoken with feel the opposite might be true and that virtually no one will comply with the law.

The complete ban on storefront dispensaries is something that Los Angeles City Council member Jose Huizar felt had to be done.

“Even with our ordinance, it was unworkable. And I came to the conclusion, even after I helped spearhead the ordinance in 2007 to strike that balance, I got to thinking that in fact no matter what we do at a municipal level it’s gonna be unworkable because we have a broken state law,” said Huizar.

The state law does not provide for storefront dispensaries, but rather protects individuals with medical need from being prosecuted if they are in possession of the drug, according to City Attorney Jane Usher.

The ban will still let hospices and home health agencies distribute medical marijuana, as well as allow up to three people to grow and share marijuana.

Councilmember Huizar grants that this new law will make it challenging for those who are using the marijuana for legal purposes to find it, but says ultimately the solution lies with the state.

“The passion that people put out here in Los Angeles, we should focus that on the state and fix the broken law ... where you have largely liberal council members saying ‘wait a minute we’re going to ban medical marijuana dispensaries’ something is wrong with this picture,” said Huizar.

Weigh In:

Will this ban be effective in curbing pot distribution in the city or will the issue get caught in a web of lawsuits that could be filed by store owners?


Frank Stoltze, KPCC Reporter

Jose Huizar, City Councilman, 14th district

Charlie Beck, Chief of the Los Angeles Police Department

Jane Usher, Los Angeles Special Assistant City Attorney

Joe Elford, Chief Counsel, Americans for Safe Access