Despite a runaway city budget crisis and the potential for massive tax revenue collection, the Los Angeles City Council voted Tuesday 14-0 to ban medicinal marijuana dispensaries, reports the Los Angeles Times. A total of 762 pot dispensaries registered with the city will be issued notice that they must cease all operations. If they do not comply, they will face harsh legal action.
To live and die without pot in L.A.
Activists who support the growing medicinal marijuana movement assembled inside and outside Los Angeles City Council chambers, awaiting the council vote. The overwhelmingly negative response prompted legislators to call in Los Angeles Police to handle the non-violent assembly.
The new medicinal marijuana ban will shut down city dispensaries, but still allow patients and caregivers to grow and share marijuana in “small groups of three people or less,” according to the Associated Press. Medicinal marijuana activists argue that most people don’t have the time, skill or facilities to grow marijuana plants effectively.
An unnamed Los Angeles marijuana dispensary owner remarked to the Los Angeles City Council before the final vote that the estimated cost for an individual to effectively grow the plants at home exceeds $5,000, which many people cannot afford.
Another 170 dispensaries are OK
Critics expressed wonder at the Los Angeles City Counsil’s decision to draft additional ordinance that would allow 170 separate, already registered pot dispensaries to remain in business. That part of the judgment was not as universal among council members. Councilman Jose Huizar claimed it would give the public “false hope,” considering that the ban of the other 762 registered dispensaries would be rigorously enforced.
“Relief is on its way,” Huizar exclaimed.
Councilman Paul Koretz seconded the opinion of the Los Angeles City Council.
“We have shut off almost every way that a normal person can get access to marijuana,” he said. “It will be a ban until otherwise noted.”
In violation of state law
In light of a recent overturn of a medicinal marijuana ban by California’s 2nd District Court of Appeal, critics note that the Los Angeles City Council’s vote appears to be in violation of California state law. The Medical Marijuana Program Act of 2003 “enhances the access of patients and caregivers to medical marijuana through collective, cooperative cultivation projects,” according to the law. It has been understood that the act exempted individuals responsible for marijuana cultivation who intend to sell, furnish or otherwise give away marijuana through legal dispensaries. Plus, the act spells out that medicinal marijuana storefronts are legal.
Reason.com points out that Los Angeles has the power to regulate local dispensaries, but not the power of outright ban, as state law supersedes. A court battle will no doubt ensue here.