LA city council will vote to ban medical marijuana dispensaries
The Los Angeles City council will vote this month for a ban on all L.A. county medical marijuana dispensaries and collectives until they are legalized by the Supreme Court.
Dozens of illegal pot shops are opening on a consistent basis and have lead to crime in the community such as robberies and underage use, according to Rick Coca, director of communications for councilman Jose Huizar.
“One of the biggest problems we’re facing is secondary sales where they’re selling it outside. Police are telling us the marijuana is finding its way into high schools and that directly affects the quality of life for people,” Coca said.
Some medical marijuana advocates, such as Sarah Armstrong, the legal liaison for the Greater Los Angeles Collective Alliance, believe Huizar has ulterior motives for pushing a ban.
“Huizar is very anxious for a ban because he’s running for district attorney and would like to be able to say to law enforcement that he was tough on crime and put an end to the California cannabis debate,” Armstrong said. “That sort of adds to his plan to be the next district attorney.”
According to Coca, Huizar supports California Proposition 215, or the Compassionate Use Act of 1996, which lists strict rules dispensaries must abide by in order to operate legally.
The proposition states collectives must have registered with the state by Sept. 14, 2007 and must have an armed guard on the premises during open hours to meet the state-regulated standard.
Since 2007, hundreds of illegal “rogue” dispensaries have taken the opportunity to open shop due to loopholes in the proposition, Armstrong said.
“The city can’t manage the problems all these extra dispensaries have brought. If the city tries to shut them down, the illegal dispensaries have a lot of money to sue because they weren’t spending $6,000 a month on a guard, they weren’t paying taxes, they weren’t a corporate entity,” Armstrong said. “They were just a storefront providing marijuana to whoever walked in.”
Half of all Americans are in favor of legalizing marijuana on a federal basis, according to a poll in October 2011 taken by the Huffington Post.
“The rogue’s have refused to close down under two separate ordinances that the city gave them – one in 2010 and one in 2011. The city really doesn’t have the money it takes to do that,“ Armstrong said. “To come in and raid somebody costs $10,000 to $15,000 per dispensary. And all they do is open up the next morning. So that’s really not a solution either.”
According to Coca, more than 250,000 California residents have been evaluated by doctors and issued medical marijuana licenses, and a ban may anger those who have purchased the right to responsibly use cannabis as prescribed.
“I spent $150 for a license that’s valid for a whole year,” said Joe Siminson, a medical biller who uses marijuana to cope with depression and anxiety. “There’s no doubt I’ll be in the voting booth to fight for my rights if the city goes through with this ban.”
Coca said the ordinance is aimed directly at shutting down storefronts but patients would still be allowed to grow their own marijuana or have a caregiver provide it to them.
“If people want to legalize marijuana, that’s fine. They’re free to try and do that. But as a city government, we have do deal with the laws in front of us,” Coca said. “The city has 3.8 million residents and we have to protect their rights as well — the majority of which are not medical marijuana patients.”