Drug Law

Rules to Purge L.A.’s Medical Marijuana Dispensaries Take Effect

| by NORML

By Paul Armentano

Los Angeles’ controversial municipal ordinance capping the total number of medical marijuana dispensaries that may legally operate in the city, regulating how operators must conduct their business, and restricting where such facilities may be located takes effect today.

Los Angeles ordinance No. 181069 seeks to limit the number of legally zoned dispensaries within city limits to fewer than 100 in total. The ordinance will allow for at least some additional facilities to maintain in operation if they opened prior to the passage of city’s 2007 moratorium prohibiting new dispensaries, and if they comply with the newly enacted guidelines.

Under the new rules, city officials would require dispensaries to be at least 1,000 feet from certain ‘sensitive’ public locations, such as schools, parks and other gathering sites – restrictions that would compel many existing outlets to either close their doors or change locations.

It is estimated that some 400 facilities will likely be forced to close if the measure is stringently enforced.

Commenting on the new L.A. law, NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said: “Medical cannabis dispensaries can be safely and positively integrated into the community in a way that addresses the legitimate concerns of law enforcement while at the same time maintaining the spirit of the law and properly meeting the needs of the patient population. Unfortunately, L.A.’s arbitrary and overly restrictive ordinance will do neither.”

He continued: “Ideally, oversight regulations must acknowledge that a majority of the public support these operations, that these facilities serve an unmet community need, that they create jobs and spur economic growth, and that they dispense a product that is objectively safer than commonly prescribed pharmaceuticals. It is unfortunate that Los Angeles ordinance No. 181069 fails in large part to reflect these realities.”

To date, over 20 lawsuits have been filed against the city arguing that the ordinance is unconstitutional because it prohibits patients’ access and infringes upon state law.

Under the ordinance, unlicensed facilities determined to be dispensing medical marijuana could face daily fines, a $1,000 penalty, and six months in jail.

Local law enforcement authorities told the Associated Press that they “won’t take any action against medical marijuana collectives in Los Angeles until they tally how many of the shops have defied a new ordinance,” a process that could take several months.

NORML will have additional details on this story in this week’s media advisory.