Dispensaries ban shakes LA
A major political earthquake shook the City of Los Angeles on Tuesday, when the City Council voted unanimously to ban all pot dispensaries, except any already open as of 2007. Under the ban, 762 dispensaries registered in the city will be sent letters ordering them to shut down immediately. Those that don’t comply may face legal action from the city.
Medical marijuana activists lambasted the decision. Some have already threatened lawsuits, while others are proposing a ballot initiative to overturn the ban. “We’re not going to make this easy for the city of Los Angeles,” Don Duncan, California director of Americans for Safe Access, told the LA Times.
The new ordinance will allow patients and their caregivers to grow and share marijuana in groups of three people or fewer. But activists complain that few patients have the time or skills for that, with one dispensary owner saying it costs at least $5,000 to grow the plant at home.
The ban received a last-minute show of support from Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and LA Police Chief Charlie Beck.
Council also voted to draw up a separate ordinance that would in effect grant immunity to shops that existed before a 2007 moratorium on new dispensaries. Several council members indicated they’ll vote against that motion, not wanting to give the public “false hope” that the ban would not be enforced.
Council members were adamant that something had to be done to reduce the number of dispensaries, which they said outnumber the city’s Starbucks coffee shops two to one. Beck, who appeared before the council, said dispensaries could be hot spots for crime, citing burglaries, armed robberies and killings. In a letter to lawmakers, he said most pot shops are “for-profit businesses engaged in the sale of recreational marijuana to healthy young adults.”
But those who support dispensaries say the ban will simply drive distribution of marijuana underground. Steven Lubell, an attorney who represents several of the city’s original dispensaries, predicted, “It’s going to go to a darker side.”
The Obama administration, at first supportive of the clinics, recently reversed its position, and now takes issue with both dispensaries and any legalization of marijuana. That has led to action by Attorney General Eric Holder and the Department of Justice to shut down some medical marijuana dispensaries in California and Colorado. While feds have raided dispensaries in other California towns, and both county and local governments mull ordinances both for and against allowing dispensaries, Mammoth’s clinics have thus far gone untouched.
Earlier this year, Steve Klassen closed his Green Mammoth medical marijuana operation in what might have been a pre-emptive move in light of the federal crackdown. Robert Calvert’s Mammoth Lakes Wellness dispensary, however, is still in business. Mammoth’s Town Council recently approved permit applications to be filed for the second of two permits allowed under a voter-approved medical marijuana dispensary town ordinance. –Geisel/Huffington Post