Drug Law

City of L.A. to Street Dealers and Cartels: ‘Welcome back!’

| by Marijuana Policy Project

Today, the City of Los Angeles will begin enforcing its ordinance regulating storefront medical marijuana dispensing collectives. The ordinance will force most of the city’s collectives to shut down (over 400 establishments), while the remaining 138 or so (those who registered with the city prior to Nov. 13, 2007) will have to comply with new zoning laws that are stricter than those for adult entertainment businesses, retail alcohol vendors, and pharmacies.

I will be the first to acknowledge that thoughtful planning and zoning are important for any community. But the way that Los Angeles has chosen to regulate medical marijuana treats marijuana as if it were far more dangerous than the products sold by pharmacies and liquor stores and willfully thrusts the city into an even worse economic position than it’s already in.

Once their neighborhood dispensaries have been shut down, forced to move, or so overloaded with business that long lines render the experience too inconvenient, I predict that many Angelenos will turn to the traditional unregulated street dealer for marijuana. 

That means sales taxes won’t be paid on those transactions, it will be impossible to monitor the quality or origin of that marijuana, and the typical turf wars and crime associated with black markets will become more prevalent in our communities.

From an economic standpoint, the ordinance will shut down over 400 businesses, putting at least 1,000 people out of work and vacating all of those retail spaces – a sizeable impact on the city’s already shabby economy.

As with many other aspects of our nation’s drug control policies, you really have to abandon common sense to see how this will be better for Los Angeles. And frankly, I’m tired of doing that.