The Los Angeles City Council voted Tuesday for the second time in a week to repeal its ban on medical marijuana storefronts, ending any uncertainty that the lack of unanimity in last week’s vote might change the Council’s decision on the issue.
Without any discussion, the Council voted 11-1 in a so-called “second reading” vote to overturn a “Gentle Ban” ordinance it had introduced in July to outlaw the sale of medical marijuana in storefronts—without preventing cannabis patients from cultivating their own marijuana in collectives of three or less individuals.
The only dissenting vote came from Council member Joe Buscaino, who had voted against repealing the ban last week as well, along with Council member José Huizar. (Last Tuesday's 11-2 vote forced it into a "second reading," which requires only eight votes for the issue to be settled.)
Huizar, one of the key architects of the Gentle Ban ordinance, was absent during the Oct. 9 vote, according to Rick Coca, the communications director for his office. Council members Bernard Parks and Jan Perry were also reportedly absent.
In a statement issued by his office, Huizar reiterated that medical marijuana storefronts are illegal under state law and that “nothing the City Council did” about the issue changes that reality.
“At this point, I’m more concerned with enforcement on illegal, for-profit dispensaries, which the federal government is currently engaged in,” Huizar said, referring to lawsuits that federal prosecutors filed against three Eagle Rock-based pot clinics on Sept. 25—part of a wider enforcement action against 70 other cannabis storefronts in the city. The federal crackdown came about a week after marijuana advocates submitted enough signatures in a petition to force a referendum on the city's ban on such businesses.
“While I support the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes, the state needs to create a better way of providing access for seriously ill patients while removing the scores of profiteers and recreational users who currently dominate the market,” Huizar said, adding that he was encouraged by the unanimous support for a resolution that he helped introduce in the Council last week, urging the state legislature to streamline state law regarding the cultivation and distribution of marijuana.
The council's vote came the same day Council member Bill Rosendahl, who has been using marijuana as he battles cancer, disseminated a letter informing constituents that he would not seek a third term on the City Council.
Rosendahl attacked President Barack Obama's decision last year to start going after medical marijuana dispensaries.
Marijuana advocates hailed Tuesday’s widely expected decision by the City Council, saying it would allow safe access for critically ill cancer, AIDS and other sick patients.
“The will of this Council, evident by the ban's repeal, is for limited, safe access within our city,'' said Yami Bolanos, president of the Greater Los Angeles Collective Alliance. “We call upon the federal government to respect their position—we urge them to immediately cease and desist from the threats and intimidation tactics directed at Los Angeles operators and their landlords.''
A plan by Council member Paul Koretz that would allow the operation of about 125 dispensaries that were open before Sept. 14, 2007, when the city placed a moratorium on new dispensaries, is expected to come before the City Council in early November. The plan would place strict regulations on dispensaries regarding location, hours of operation and required security.
—City News Service contributed to this article.