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City Council Repeals Ban on Medical Marijuana Storefronts

The council action avoids placing the ordinance on the March 2013 ballot as demanded by a petition filed last month.

The Los Angeles City Council voted Tuesday to repeal its ban on medical marijuana storefront dispensaries, ending the suspense over whether it would persist with the law, quash it or let voters decide the issue in a March 2013 referendum.

In a session preceded by impassioned presentations by several Council members, the City Council voted 11-2 to overturn its so-called “Gentle Ban” ordinance aimed at outlawing the sale of medical marijuana in storefronts but preserving the right of cannabis patients to cultivate their own marijuana in collectives of no more than three individuals.

The city’s ordinance, which was signed by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and had the backing of Los Angeles Police Department Chief Charlie Beck and City Attorney Carmen Trutanich, had been put on hold last month after medical marijuana advocates collected enough signatures on a petition calling for an initiative to overturn the ban.

Tuesday’s vote followed a motion by Councilmember Dennis Zine and seconded by Councilmember Bill Rosendahl. The two dissenting votes came from Councilmembers José Huizar and Joe Buscaino. Councilmember Richard Alarcon was absent.

Huizar, who championed the Gentle Ban, told his fellow Council members before the vote that over the past few years Los Angeles has erred on the side of providing access to medical marijuana and hasn’t done enough to protect certain neighborhoods facing a proliferation of pot storefronts.

“In places like Eagle Rock, we continue to have disruptions in our local schools—young people having access to medical marijuana walking down the street openly and blatantly smoking it,” Huizar said. “We need to strike a better balance—we tried that, it didn’t work, then we went to a ban and now we have this challenge.”

In urging his colleagues to repeal the ban, Councilmember Paul Koretz said that since July the city attorney's office has been working on an ordinance that bans most but not all cannabis clinics. The ordinance could be ready for the Council to consider before the beginning of November, he said.

“There aren’t any more good excuses—I know we can have this heard on Oct. 25,” Koretz said. 

Councilmember Mitch Englander told the Council that while he supports repealing the Gentle Ban ordinance, he also favors urging the state legislature “to make it clear how, if at all, we’re going to deal” with the presence of pot storefronts in Los Angeles.

The Council needs to “get to the bottom of this as quickly as possible, and to enforce the current laws we do have on the books to make sure bad operators are driven out of the city once and for all,” Englander said.

Rosendahl, who had been on medical leave recently for cancer treatment and was warmly welcomed back to the Council chambers by his colleagues, said his doctor had prescribed medical marijuana to him years ago after he contracted diabetes.

On July 20, Rosendahl said, he had an MRI scan. “The bottom line is that it didn’t give me much time to live, and I said, No, no, no, I’m not ready to go—I certainly want to live a long time.”

It’s imperative to repeal the Gentle Ban, Rosendahl said, speaking in a voice evidently rendered hoarse by his cancer treatment.

“Where does anybody go—where does a Council member go—to get his medical marijuana?” he said, adding that he had met California Attorney General Kamala Harris recently and that she told him that “the problem is in the details” of the state law. “There are no details,” Rosendahl said. “The state legislature has to come up with details and they’ve got to do it properly.”

During the public comments period, James Shaw, director of the Union of Medical Cannabis Patients, presented to the Council 16 copies of a model resolution that he said was designed to “avoid federal and state pre-emption” of the 1996 Compassionate Use Act law that gives patients the right to cultivate and use marijuana.

Tuesday’s vote will now go for a procedural “second reading” next week—most likely next Tuesday—to determine its eventual outcome. According to City Council rules, any motion that is not approved by 12 or more votes must be voted on again the following week. Eight votes, without debate the second time around, would be needed for the marijuana ordinance to be repealed.

After their vote to rescind the marijuana ordinance, Council members voted 13-0 to adopt a resolution that calls upon the California legislature to address “the inadequacies of state law regarding the cultivation, recommendation and distribution of medical marijuana.”

The resolution was introduced last week by Councilmembers Herb J. Wesson, Huizar and Englander. The resolution had one amendment—that it be taken up with the state legislature in 2013-14, after its current recess and any remaining sessions scheduled until the end of this year.

Among other things, the nine-point resolution asks the legislature to:

• Define conduct stemming from a state law that allows people to “collectively or cooperatively cultivate medical marijuana."

• Confirm that state law does not allow medical marijuana to be sold or distributed in storefront dispensaries.

• Clarify that medical marijuana collectives may not open or operate without authorization from local governments, especially in Charter cities that have the power to adopt ordinances to regulate the distribution of medical marijuana.

• Impose stricter regulations on physicians who provide medical marijuana recommendations to qualified patients, including the quarterly renewal of those recommendations, along with a specified level of ongoing health care to the patients.

Cerro Gordo October 03, 2012 at 05:35 PM
Totally! I keep seeing people say things like: "Sometimes it's a guy smoking a joint on the sidewalk while schoolkids walk by (there's a school within 1000 feet), or the clean-cut guy in a nice car who appears to be re-selling "prescriptions" to kids who drive up." I live here too! How have I NEVER seen anything remotely like this? I go to dispensaries myself. I can't even tell you how many times I've seen the people at the door not let people in because they don't have the right I.D. or paperwork. A couple of times I've forgotten my hard copy certificate and they didn't let me in. But somehow these places are letting in 7th graders in full view of the public? OK. It freaks me out that a movement to shut something down that people enjoy and is more or less harmless can be driven by completely made-up, BS stories.
AFG October 03, 2012 at 05:38 PM
I agree that the voters who voted to have MMJ did not foresee the issues that have arisen from MMDs.
AFG October 03, 2012 at 05:40 PM
It appears that the people who have spoken have something new to say since MMJ?MMDs didn't turn out how expected.
Duff Strong October 03, 2012 at 06:21 PM
Why don't you man up and talk to the guy? Or better yet, get with your neighbors and do it? Oh please! Help me! There's a man in a car in front of my house! Oh please! There is a tiny fire in someone's hand and it's helping them relax! It's obvious the police know there's no issue. So why should you care? Oh no! There's a school 1000 feet away? What will we ever tell these poor children? Oh no! They smell a plant? Goodness, no!! Don't worry. The kids are safe. MJ has never hurt anyone and never will. Chill out and take care of your own issues.
Diana Nguyen October 03, 2012 at 06:26 PM
Amen.
Duff Strong October 03, 2012 at 06:30 PM
Regulate it! Tax it! Even though Mr. Grande and the P&C slate say it's out of their hands, we can demand they talk about it after they get in. After all, they say they're going to listen to "The People". Maybe, we can come up with something here in eagle rock.
Jeff October 03, 2012 at 06:51 PM
Looks like the Council is just making themselves disappear as the Feds roll in. Expect more Fed enforcement while the council members wipe their hands of this mess.
John October 03, 2012 at 07:38 PM
Thank you Councilmember Rosendahl, for your passionate support of the repeal of the city ban on medical marijuana dispensaries. Patients throughout the city and the nation are very grateful for your efforts on our behalf and for your thoughtful, compassionate appeal for safe access. Thank you to the entire city council for voting to repeal the ban. 400,000 cannabis patients in the city thank you also. There are 7500 stores selling alcohol and tobacco right next to the ice cream in the city of Los Angeles. In America, we embrace free enterprise and competition to assure quality, availability, and safety. Marijuana should not be held to a higher standard than alcohol, tobacco, sugar or guns. For many people, cannabis reduces opiate addiction and alcoholism. In states where medical cannabis is available, suicides among young men 18-24 have been reduced more than 10% since 2005. 5,500 fatal accidents in 2009 were related to alcohol, and over 2 million accidents related to failure to use turn signals. I don’t believe marijuana needs any regulation, and I don’t believe state law forbids dispensaries. All cities should be required to allow as many storefront dispensaries as the market will bear. I categorically deny that dispensaries increase crime any more than grocery stores or banks, which are four times as likely to be robbed in this city. Best wishes to Bill Rosendahl. Thank you. Good luck with your personal battles.
bbkong October 03, 2012 at 07:40 PM
@Jerry Sorry about your luck there Jerry. This may come as a shock to you but the police have to prioritize their assets in the field and they are usually preoccupied with shootings, injury accidents and gang activities. Someone smoking some pot on the sidewalk isn't quite as urgent as someone bleeding out in the middle of the street or a gun wielding wife beater. Maybe you should consider voting for increasing police and fire budgets so there will be plenty of cops to come listen to your concerns. Try listening to a police scanner for a few nights. It might help with your perspective.
AFG October 03, 2012 at 07:43 PM
I had thought that the 12 year age referred only to birth control, etc. not that it was absolutely anything. Is that the same in every state?
John October 03, 2012 at 08:07 PM
Pending Approval? Que Esta?
Laura October 03, 2012 at 08:11 PM
Sell it through pharmacies and let the insurance companies get into the act and next thing you know, if you're lucky enough to have insurance, you'll have a co-pay and the actual "cost" of the drug will quadruple.
Elliot S! Maggin October 03, 2012 at 08:33 PM
Yes. Federal HIPAA law.
AFG October 03, 2012 at 09:37 PM
@Elliot: I have been reading that many states require a parental signature along with a doctor for medial marijuana for a child under 18 years old. Oregon is one of these states, particularly that has terrible youth drug problems. It says the parents must agree to procure the RX for their child. That's better than being 12, at least.
Paco Verde October 03, 2012 at 10:00 PM
Well, just in time for the Eagle Rock Music festival. Uninterrupted party! Last year it was like walking through a cloud of cannabis haze. There is no way that could happen again right? Just got to have your "meds" available though.
Duff Strong October 03, 2012 at 10:35 PM
That's true! Oh man, do you remember those potheads fighting each other? There were these other stoners that were just falling over on top of kids. They were so high. There was this other dude that was just about to beat his wife right there on the street. Oh wait. That's alcohol. Never mind. The potheads were just chillin' listening to music. Peace.
Jerome Courshon October 03, 2012 at 11:07 PM
Indeed. The "war on drugs" this country has been fighting for decades is a joke. The billions of dollars spent fighting it is an entire waste of money and resources. Legalize, tax, legislate. I seem to recall in the '80s or '90s some agreement (law?) that tobacco companies could not advertise on billboards within 500 or 1000 feet of schools. Well, if having a pot dispensary near a school is a real issue and not a made-up one, legislate that to be one of the parameters. There really are simple solutions to almost any problem; as a city, as a nation, we just lack the best leadership that's available.
John October 03, 2012 at 11:34 PM
I have never found mmj containers in the gutter. I have found cigarette butts and plastic bags. I'm not saying nobody else has problems, but I never have in 27 years. I also want to restate that I live within 300 feet of the freeway, on a nice quiet cul-de-sac, just two or three blocks off the Blvd. I am within a few blocks of several dispensaries, but I have never had a problem with loitering, littering, or underage drinking. The neighbors all keep up their yards and many have gardeners. Everyone can see everything that is going on. There are occassional random and daring burglaries, like every four years. An Asian guy was robbed in his driveway by another Asian who followed him from work. That was, oh 15 years ago. The same homeless people have been wandering around on the Blvd. for years, but it has been 20 years since anybody was peeing my bushes. (I trimmed the hedge, solved the problem). I encourage homeless people to get help, but none of them want to give up their freedom. I try to talk to them when they are lucid, and tell them about mental health services and county assistance that is available. I report the homeless who look like they are about to die to the LAPD Senior Lead Officer for my neighborhood (311). One thing worse than litter, is a dead, urine soaked body on the street. I believe any litter and loitering problems are limited and can be solved without limiting safe access.
Jerome Courshon October 03, 2012 at 11:42 PM
Unfortunately, I don't think Americans really understand the issue(s). The thousands of people killed each year in Mexico (due to the fights between the drug cartels over pipelines into the U.S.) are not on their radar. Nor the gang/territorial fights & killings here in the U.S. Nor is the understanding that illegal drugs can be gotten by anyone, at any time, even at school from fellow students. And given it's been this way for DECADES, being able to get drugs anywhere, anytime, it's amazing we're still so backward on these issues. It's like as each new generation grows up, they have amnesia over how easy it was to get whatever they wanted as kids. And then "fall in line" with the thinking that the "war on drugs" is the right approach. The movie "Traffic" from, what, a decade ago... Great movie, great treatment of the subject matter, and how our approach on this "war" doesn't work. But that film had no impact on this country's consciousness over these issues. So... I don't see that "Americans are now beginning to understand," unfortunately.
AFG October 04, 2012 at 01:45 AM
Perhaps the neighbors surrounding each dispensary could be heard on their experiences with the MMD near to them. Perhaps different MMDs work things out differently and they might have advice for their fellow MMD owners as to how to accomplish their goals.
Frank Mihelcic October 04, 2012 at 01:49 AM
As a North Hollywood resident it seems odd why we need so many Medical marijuana storefronts. They must be making money since more keep opening. I am 100%positive there are not enough patients in the area or that come to the area to support the profits of all these storefronts. I do feel sorry for the patents. It seems many of them have no place to live other than their cars yet they are very giving people. They huddle in their cars sharing their medical marijuana with other patients and recycle their plastic prescription containers in every ones yard. Well councilmen what is the spin this time. Oh yes yes yes we are against storefronts. It is just too soon to a 180. This is retail selling of marijuana.
EagleRockMom October 04, 2012 at 12:58 PM
Thank you for sharing your story, Mr. Langford.
Jennifer N October 04, 2012 at 03:16 PM
This is the dispensaries' and customers' job to work towards legalization, unfortunately they have little financial incentive to fight for their rights. Why burden your self with licensing and taxation when currently dispensaries and their customers enjoy zero responsibility towards the community they operate in?
Duff Strong October 04, 2012 at 04:58 PM
Good! Let the free market thrive!
MoJoMoon October 04, 2012 at 10:25 PM
".... adding that he had met California Attorney General Kamala Harris recently and that she told him that “the problem is in the details” of the state law. “There are no details,” Rosendahl said. “The state legislature has to come up with details and they’ve got to do it properly.” Yup! That what I'm waiting for.....as both a MM patient AND concerned voter. ;)
EagleRockMom October 05, 2012 at 02:08 AM
Well stated.
EagleRockMom October 05, 2012 at 02:23 AM
@Duff I actually agree with you. Marijuana should be regulated and its profits taxed.
EagleRockMom October 05, 2012 at 02:24 AM
Great ideas!
John October 06, 2012 at 07:02 PM
Good morning marijuana fans. Welcome to the dead horse derby. Toda the Wall Street journal published a story: 15,000 died in 2009 from prescription pain medication overdose. That is more than heroin, cocaine and al other drug overdoses combined. Opiates, xanax, methamphetamine and methadone make up almost 50% of prescriptions filled in 6lorida and (exas. They were enough Oxycontin and Vicodin prescriptions filled in West Virginia in June to provide 68 pills to every resident of the state. There has never been one death from.a marijuana overdose. Tobacco causes lung cancer; marijuana doesn't. 5500 driving fatalities in 2009 related to alcohol; 1750 related to drugs of any kind, most included alcohol. Diabetes is a growing health concer, and kills tens of thousands of people each year but sugar is not regulated. It is time to end the arbitrary, hypocritical random regulation of marijuana. Please support complete legalization and commercialization of marijuana to help end opiate abuse.
Rob October 06, 2012 at 07:32 PM
LEGALIZE AND KEEP IT LEGAL! Why??? Because it keeps occasional pot smokers from having to going to DEALERS who tempt them with other drugs (i.e. Coke, Heroin and Meth). Pot is just like beer and its legal. It keeps the police free to protect people from gangs, murders, rapers, etc. Someone smokes pot is laid back and easy going and friendly - These are not criminals. Everything in moderation, of course.

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