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L.A. City Council Bans Medical Marijuana Storefronts

The ban has the backing of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, the City Attorney's Office, police Chief Charlie Beck and District Attorney Steve Cooley.

The Los Angeles City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to ban medical marijuana storefronts, citing a shifting and uncertain legal landscape that has made it nearly impossible for the city to control the number of pot shops, estimated to be as many as 1,000.

The plan championed by City Council members José Huizar, Mitchell Englander, Bernard Parks and Jan Perry will allow primary caregivers and patients to grow and transport marijuana. Two or three patients would be able to collectively grow and share cannabis in homes or apartments, but not storefronts.

The measure includes exemptions for hospices and licensed clinics, as well as facilities and home health agencies where patients get “medical care or supportive services.'' 

The ban has the backing of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, the City Attorney's Office, police Chief Charlie Beck and District Attorney Steve Cooley.

Initially, the council voted 13-1, with Council member Paul Koretz dissenting. But Koretz, who backed an opposing plan, changed his vote after the Council agreed to advance his plan on a parallel track. If the vote had not been unanimous, the council would have been required to cast a second vote on the issue next week.

The plan by Koretz and Council President Herb Wesson, with strong backing from organized labor, could eventually allow 182 dispensaries that existed prior to 2007—when the Council placed a moratorium on new dispensaries—to operate under tightened regulations and would close all other dispensaries.

Because the Council agreed to advance the Koretz-Wesson proposal, the City Attorney's Office will draft an ordinance that will require an environmental analysis and approval by the city Planning Commission before it comes to the Council. Officials said the plan could be back to the Council in three months.

In the meantime, the ban approved Tuesday will take effect 30 days after it is signed by the mayor. Once the ordinance is in force, the city will send out a letter to 762 dispensaries registered under Measure M (the 2011 ballot measure approved by 59 percent of state voters) to pay taxes to the city. The dispensaries will be notified of the new law and asked to comply with it. The city will then ask a judge for closure orders, starting with the “bad actors''—the dispensaries that have generated the largest volumes of complaints from residents.

Angry Protests

The vote, which came a little less than two hours after Council members went into closed session to consider whether or not to ban marijuana facilities, prompted angry, even abusive, protests from medical marijuana supporters who packed the Council chambers.

Medical cannabis activists shouted in opposition after the ban, sending about a dozen LAPD officers into the council chamber to escort opponents out.

Opponents of the ban said it will prove tragic for patients with terminal illnesses who cannot grow marijuana on their own because it is costly and requires extensive training.

“Forcing us to [grow our own] does not magically grant us the talent, skill and ability to grow marijuana, just as many of us would not be able to grow our own food if we did not have the option of a grocery store tomorrow,'' Raj Jawa told the Council.

Another activist told the Council a low-end growing operation would cost at minimum $5,300.

“This is an outrage that the city council would think a reasonable solution to the distribution of medical marijuana would be to simply outlaw it altogether,” said Don Duncan, California Director with Americans for Safe Access, a medical marijuana advocacy group. "The tens of thousands of patients harmed by this vote will not take it sitting down. We will campaign forcefully to overturn this poor decision by the council.''

Residents of Studio City, Eagle Rock, Boyle Heights and elsewhere expressed support for the ordinance, pointing to a proliferation of dispensaries in recent years that they claim has eroded quality of life, hurt local businesses and led to multiple dispensaries on the same block in some cases.

Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council President Michael Larsen told the council that there are 15 medical marijuana dispensaries within a 1.2-mile radius in Eagle Rock.

"To those who support medical marijuana [storefronts], I would say, Guess who is ensuring that the facilities are clean and safe for patients who arrive with cash and leave with a valuable street drug? Who is ensuring that the [storefront] operators are not cartel-related?"

California voters in 1996 approved Proposition 215, which legalized medical marijuana with 55.6 percent of the vote, but regulating outlets has proved troublesome, prompting some cities to effectively zone them out of existence or ban them outright.

A state appellate court recently ruled that municipalities cannot completely ban medical marijuana outlets without providing an alternative distribution method. The same court also ruled that a ban on storefront dispensaries, while providing for collectives of three or fewer, would not violate state law.

The ban will cost the city tax revenue. The 762 registered dispensaries paid about $2 million in gross receipts taxes during the most recent tax period—$50 for each $1,000 in gross receipts, according to a finance specialist for the City Administrative Office.

After the vote, Huizar said the ban on dispensaries still provides safe access to marijuana for patients who need it, and it will also put the city on solid legal footing and alleviate quality of life issues that constituents complain about.

“Relief is coming in the form of having a more focused and intense crackdown on these dispensaries that cause problems in our neighborhoods,'' Huizar said.

Koretz said banning dispensaries would not provide safe access and would drive patients to the black market for marijuana.

“I think we're living in a dream world if we think we're providing access to very many people,” Koretz said. “Virtually no one has the ability to grow marijuana. We are shutting down access to patients that desperately need it over the next few months.”

Koretz told the council that over the years he has known hundreds of people who have died of AIDS. "I have friends who are still alive today because of medical marijuana—and that's why this [issue] is so important to me," he said to loud applause from the audience.

Huizar called Koretz's motion false hope until the Supreme Court rules on whether and how cities can regulate dispensaries.

Meanwhile, Council member Ed Reyes raised concerns about the resources it would require to shut down the dispensaries. He asked the LAPD, the City Attorney's Office and other city officials to report back with a plan for closing dispensaries.

David Paul Steiner, an attorney for a group of pre-2007 collectives, would not say whether his clients planned to ask a judge to block the ordinance, but said, “I suspect there will be a number of dispensaries that will take further legal action, because we think this particular ordinance has all sorts of problems.''

The council's action came on the first day it was back in session following a two-week recess. Council members heard public comments and discussed the issue amongst themselves for more than 90 minutes before moving behind closed doors for further deliberations—a step necessary to keep council members and their advisers from saying anything in public that might be used against them in a string of medical marijuana-related lawsuits that the city has been battling for the past several years.

LAPD Chief Supports Ban

The discussions opened a little after 11 a.m., with Reyes referencing a letter that Chief Beck submitted to the council. In the letter, Beck outlined public safety risks that "a steady proliferation" of medical marijuana clinics pose. Los Angeles, Beck wrote, has earned “the unfortunate title of storefront capital of the United States."

The city has an estimated 800 to 1,000 dispensaries, and "the overwhelming majority are for-profit businesses engaged in the sale of recreational marijuana to healthy young adults," Beck wrote in the five-paragraph letter. Not only are such dispensaries unauthorized under state and federal law, but efforts to regulate them have been hampered by "a lack of guidance from California courts," said Beck, adding: "Allowing even a limited number of dispensaries to legally remain open will only add to the confusion."

Since the issue was brought before the council, Koretz pointed out, one appellate court has ruled that municipalities cannot ban medical marijuana facilities, while another appellate court has upheld the City's medical marijuana ordinance, (which has been challenged by dispensary owners and is considered unenforceable by the LAPD.)

"So I think we are in a good position to do the right thing,” said Koretz, adding: “Now, I'm not happy about the hundreds of new dispensaries that have been added [in recent years]—the ones that I believe are the real problem. But I don't want us to completely close off access to people who desperately need medical marijuana. We can't have that happen.”

Flawed State Law: Huizar

After the council’s vote in favor of his plan, Huizar acknowledged that “it’s very difficult for three or less people to grow their own [marijuana].” But that, he added, is the state law that must be complied with, even though it’s a “terrible state law that needs to be fixed.”

As he has argued before, Huizar said that all attempts to deal with the proliferation of marijuana storefronts must recognize that the issue is currently before the state Supreme Court, whose verdict is expected in a year or two.

“At the minimum, we should be honest with the public as to how we’re doing this,” he said of the city’s regulation efforts.

“People are upset with us as if we created this,” Rick Coca, Huizar’s communications director, told Patch after the vote. “But it’s a badly written state law with loopholes in it, and we’re doing the best we can by the majority of the people in Los Angeles who are not medical marijuana users.”

Richard Niederberg July 30, 2012 at 01:07 AM
It is NEVER time to end the argument and persuasion, until all the stakeholders of a community are served. The First Amendment protects unpopular ideas, not popular ones. A person should not have to travel out of their community to buy a pharmicutical, nor have others come into their community to buy a pharmacutical.
EagleRockMom July 30, 2012 at 01:08 AM
@Tim Tritch You make laugh. You are a funny guy. I love how you grossly misinterpret everything. I have not made any threat against your store. I suggested you consider your clientele when making pro-pot posts. Not all of your patrons are stoners like you are. In all actuality, my husband recently purchased a few items in your store and he felt uncomfortable shopping there because of your views on MMDs. And you waited on him yourself. Now, you can fling insults all you like because I refuse to stoop to your level. A community businessman who insults potential customers on these boards does not reflect favorably on you or your family. Tsk tsk.
bbkong July 30, 2012 at 01:10 AM
Drama drama drama. Sup, kids? I come back after a month in the redwoods and this is the big drama? Pretty pathetic. Here's some clues to digest. 1) Pharmacies aren't going to dispense the weed. Probably ever. There's this little issue of it still being irrationally tagged as a class 1 narcotic and pharmacies like to deal in absolutes when it comes to medicine. There's no measurable standard for the strength or quality of weed besides actually trying some and it wouldn't look too good for a drug store to be giving out samples to try out at the counter. Nope. Also, consumers wouldn't be happy with the results either. It's a flowering weed that is competitively cultivated and no one wants a mediocre bland bud, which is what the government would produce.
bbkong July 30, 2012 at 01:18 AM
2) The idea of organized crime running the pot shops is a non starter. There's just not enough profit in a legit storefront and who would open one up that wasn't legit with all the rules and cops snooping around looking for something to trip you up? Not a smart criminal, that's for sure. Also, they aren't just selling to anybody off the street. That's a one way ticket out of business and a felony to boot. Duh. You have to be a registered member to even go into one. Checking your ID is part of the security guard's job.
bbkong July 30, 2012 at 01:27 AM
And finally, 3) EagleRockMom, you seem to have a tendency to type things right out of your poop chute. Go wiki the definition of the word "citation" and learn how to provide them for your preposterous claims. We get it, you don't like weed or anything associated with it and we're all going to hell. Check. Now I'm going back to LMAO because the bikinistas think they're going to get 20 feet of bike lanes on Colorado Blvd. When I'm done laughing about that I'm going to ponder how important any of this will seem when the country's bread basket dries up in the changing climate and food prices go through the roof. Not very important I imagine.
EagleRockMom July 30, 2012 at 01:33 AM
@Tim Tritch If you feel the need to complain specifically about my comments, which I welcome, then remember I am EagleRockMom. ERMom and ERHSMom are totally different posters.
Tim Tritch July 30, 2012 at 01:53 AM
Eaglerockmom, you are not only a cowad but a LIAR. In a post above you said that your husbadn felt uncomfortable while shopping at Tritch Hardware recently because of my view on MMD's. And then you stated as a fact that "I",me, Tim Tritch personally waited on him. You lying little *****. I have not worked at Tritch Hardware since I was in high school. over thirty years ago, and I havent set foot inside the store in over a month. YOU Eaglerockmom, are a coward and a liar, a great example you set for your children. You have been caught redhanded lying, now lets see you backpedal your way out of this one.
Tim Tritch July 30, 2012 at 02:04 AM
Eaglerockmom said she wouldnt stoop to my level. But I guess telling outright lies is not beneath her. She claimed I personally helped her husband, and he felt uncomfortable being waited on by me. I DONT WORK AT THE HARDWARE STORE, AND HAVENT FOR OVER THIRTY YEARS. And I dont suppose your husband had the balls to say anything either now did he mom? you lying coward. People like you think it is ok to lie if it suits your agenda. You are liar, and I would love to say it to your face and your husband, but you will just continue to hide under your rock, and then try to back out of your lies again. YOU ARE A LIAR AND A COWARD, same goes for your husband.
Tim Tritch July 30, 2012 at 02:36 AM
eaglerockmom,,you were the only person to try to tie my view to my family's business, and when that didnt intimidate me you made up a completely false story to try to jutify your comment. I will agree that the vast majority of the customers at the hardware store are not "Stoners like me," I would also say that the vast majority of them are not "LIARS LIKE YOU." The fact that you felt the need to make up a story, a lie, like the one you printed here, to try to justify your veiled threats against my family's business, truely shows your true colors, and they are every shade of yellow you can imagine. And you even used your husband in the lie you made up, what a pair you two must be. What next, your kids are afraid of hammers and nails because i dont oppose MMD's? Cowards and liars, like peas in a pod. My mom was an Eagle Rock Mom, raised eleven kids, was a volunteer coach, a staple at St. Dominics church and school, never missed a little league game, and had scores of other neghborhood kids who thought of her as a second mom, YOU as an eaglerockmom arent fit to scrape the scum off the bottom of her shoes, you lying coward. How dare you take the name of Eagle Rock, and then spout outright lies using that name. A new definition for cowardly liars=eaglerockmom. My apologies to all the fine people of Eagle Rock for hijacking this debate, but when someone intentionally tells lies about me or my family it upsets me
Michael Larsen July 30, 2012 at 02:42 AM
@Tim, You're out of line. I suggest you delete your comments and apologize.
Tim Tritch July 30, 2012 at 02:49 AM
With all due lack of respect Michael, miss eaglerockmomn just told blatant outright lies aimed at me and my family/. Funny that you dont suggest that eaglerockcoward remove the absolute 100% intentional lie she just wrote here. But htne again, she supports your position so I guess you wont do that weill ya mikee. Why should I apologize to someone who tells outright, intentional lies? Or do you also think it is ok to lie, if it suits your agenda>
bbkong July 30, 2012 at 02:50 AM
Nah. He's got a right to vent his spleen on the intertoob. I'd be pretty sore too if she started talking smack about my family. Let's not lose sight of who is the troll here.
EagleRockMom July 30, 2012 at 02:50 AM
@MLarsen Thanks, but I got this one.
Tim Tritch July 30, 2012 at 02:52 AM
Michael, do you think telling outright lies is out of line? Why dont you suggest that she a;ologize for the cowardly lies she just wrote in order to try to justify her thinly veiled threats against my families business. Or do you agree that it is ok to lie if it suits your agenda?
Tim Tritch July 30, 2012 at 03:00 AM
But I do give you credit for not postin anonymously Micheal. But I will never apologise to an anonymous liar, and that is EXACTLY what she,or he, who knows, is. ow do we even know if this poster is an eagle rock mom, even AFG agrees that you cant know for sure who anybody is, even those who ost under their real names. Eaglerockcoward told complete lies to try to justify her veiled threat, and she got caught redhanded, and I am supposed to apologize to her? Is it April 1? Sicne when is calling a cowardly liar a cowardly liar out of line. Funny you didnt mention that her ourtight lies were out of line did you Mike? Mike, why did you not call her outright lies out of line, is it becuase her lies suit your agenda? Please explain this bit of hypocrisy for me.
EagleRockMom July 30, 2012 at 03:01 AM
@Tim Tritch I invite you to cut and paste what I said about your family verbatim. My opinions stated on this site have been specifically about you. My comment that spark all of this banter from you happened to come from the mere suggestion that you should consider changing your username because it might not be good for your family business. No where in that previous post did it say anything negative about your family. I invite you to return and read the post. If you took insult in being faced with the possibility that your customers may not appreciate your comments, then that's on you. Also, my comment in regards to you getting your family store in order simply refers to the need for Tritch Hardware stock to be organized. The store is haphazard at best. And if you took offense to that, again that is on you. The fact that my husband shopped your store, and not me has also been lost on you. He must've mistaken one of your relatives for you OR you're lying. On one breath you say you you hadn't worked there in several years and in the next breath you say you were there approximately one month ago. So which story is it? Anyway, I enjoy this exchange of words with you but it has nothing to do with the topic at hand. Your posts do go a long way in accurately portraying your character and I thank you for that. You did more damage to yourself than anyone else could.
EagleRockMom July 30, 2012 at 03:06 AM
@bkong Go back and read the posts instead of taking this Tritch guy's word for it. You will see he has grossly misinterpreted the post.
EagleRockMom July 30, 2012 at 03:11 AM
@Tim Tritch Again, I never said anything negative about your family. It is sad that you would resort to such childish antics in a futile attempt to get the attention off of what you've been saying in regards to MMDs and the company you keep. You are damaging your credibility every time someone sees your name.
Tim Tritch July 30, 2012 at 03:18 AM
eaglerockliar, do you feel that your credibility was damaged by the blatant andoutright lie of a story you just printed here. Will you please address this outright lie that you have been caught redhanded telling here, or will you just pretend you dont see this post, becuase you are a coward. Like I have said before, I and other memebers of my family have take much more controversial stands than this, and our business is still here after 75 years. Dont try to intimidate me by saying that by voicing my opinion publicly I bring some kind of shame to my family. The only thing my family would consider shameful is if I did this ANONYMOUSLY, like you, and if I intentiionally made up lying stories ;like YOU!!! Dont worry about mine or my families requtation, worry about your own requtation as a cowardly liar. So are you going to stick to that lie that I helped your husband in the store a little while ago, you LIAR? Please address this specific allegation of YOU being a liar, or was your husband lying to you?
EagleRockMom July 30, 2012 at 03:23 AM
@Tim Tritch Again, I invite you to revisit my previous posts. The words are there and I graciously await your retort. There was no threat, not was anything negative said about your family. And if I was mistaken about your identity, I apologize and reiterate I wasn't there. However, you are so unsettled about my opinion of you that you choose to attack my character and my children. I would never say such mean-spirited things about your family. I thought this debate was about MMDs?
Tim Tritch July 30, 2012 at 03:28 AM
"And the company that I keep" Who do you think you are lady, besides a cowardly liar. The company I keep includes Eagle rock families like the Calvillos, Carpers, Tunzi's,Costellos, Graces,Nardis, and too many others to mention. Your over inflated opinion of yourself is showing through loud and clear. Who is the company that you keep you coward, too bad I cant take pot shots at them like you did to me becuase you are too much of a coward to identify yourself. taking anonymous pot shots at "The company I keep" I will say it again, a lying coward is a piss poor role model for any child. SO what about that lie of a story you made up eaglerockCOWARD,,would you care to adress that, or just deep hiding in your own little world of cowardice. Where do you get off insulting 'the company that I keep.' You said you wouldnt stoop to my level and then you insult 'the company I keep" You coward. Cowards dont like fair fights. You know who I am, take shots at me and my friends and family, but dont have the balls(and niether does your husband) to identify yourself. So how do you justify the outright LIE YOU TOLD HERE?
Tim Tritch July 30, 2012 at 03:30 AM
Its sad that you would resort to telling outright lies to try to justify your cowardly behavior, wouldnt you agree eaglerockcoward?
Tim Tritch July 30, 2012 at 03:36 AM
eaglerockcoward, EXACTLY as I said you would you try to backpedal from what I called a 'thinly veiled threat against my families business" You made the suggestion that I sould post anonymously if i didnt want it to affect our business, and then you made up a sotry about ME helpinng your husband, who felt uncomfortable because of my opinions. You thinly veiled threat was that made even more clear by this lie of a story you told. You were suggesting that our business would suffer, and then you intentionally lied to try to back up this veiled threat that others in the community, who felt like you, would not patronoze our store. It was clearly meant to imtimidate me to keep my opinions to myself, and the fact that you made up a lie of a story to try to justify it even proves that more. Now will you have the courage to admit that the story you made up was a lie, or will you continue to ignore the fact that you were caught redhanded in this lie?
Tim Tritch July 30, 2012 at 03:37 AM
Why did you make up that story about your husband in our store? It is a 100% lie and you know it.
Tim Tritch July 30, 2012 at 03:39 AM
I;ll make you a deal eaglerockcoward, You tell us all here why you intentionally made up that lie of a story and I will neverr post here again. ANd as most of ER has known for generations, the word of a Tritch is as good as gold. SO,k will you tell us why you intentionally lied to everyone on this forum?
EagleRockMom July 30, 2012 at 03:43 AM
@bkong Your conjecture is slightly refreshing, but falls flat. Pharmacies will sell marijuana if it is profitable and becomes legit through regulation. Pot shops are profitable otherwise Eagle Rock wouldn't boast 15 of them, why wouldn't crime lords be interested in selling their wares via a store front?
Tim Tritch July 30, 2012 at 03:46 AM
@eAGLEROCKCOWARD, I invite you to explain the lie that you shared with everybody on this forum the lie about your husband in my family's store, that you made up to try to justify your thinly veiled threat that my opinions would have adverse effects on my family's business. YOU lied to everyone on this forum, and got caught redhanded, and you talk about other peoples credibility? A hypocrite, liar, and a coward. So, will you aplogize for LYING to everyone on this forum?
bbkong July 30, 2012 at 03:49 AM
@EagleRockMom I did read it sweetheart. The whole page and a few other pages where you wax painfully on about how butt hurt you are that the times are passing you by, and believe me when I say I truly understand how you feel. Having said that, I wonder why you keep chewing the same stale bones in a yard where no decisions will be made and no decision makers will consult. You don't appear to be convincing anyone of anything besides your meager and overly dramatic communication skills and you are most definitely not moving the topic forward. Have another donut, go here-> www.reddit.com and hone your chops a little. You can thank me later.
EagleRockMom July 30, 2012 at 04:07 AM
@Tim Tritch This is clearly harrassment. Your argument fell short some twenty posts ago because you still cannot be bothered to scroll upwards and read previous posts. By attempting to inundate me with insults and attacks on my family, you are really only making you and your family look bad. I stated several posts ago thatit is possible my husband was mistaken but that does not make us liars. And if I were a coward, I would've folded on this banter long ago. There is no reason to fear you. You are harmless and have very little constructive to say. If anything, you are attempting to bully me into saying the most ridiculous things and I know why. When I said you ought to carefully choose your words,they struck you and made you think. For you to go out of your way to get my attentions means that I got yours. Sadly, you didn't take my advice but at least you heard wht I said. That's quite a compliment and I thank you for it. Now if you will excuse me, I'd prefer to debate with people who have something constructive to say.
EagleRockMom July 30, 2012 at 04:11 AM
@bbkong Thanks for reading!

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