A day before the Los Angeles City Council is scheduled to consider whether to ban medical marijuana facilities, a coalition of neighborhood councils, community organizations and concerned residents appealed to Council members to support a proposal to repeal the city’s medical marijuana ordinance and ban marijuana dispensaries until the state Supreme Court decides whether cities can regulate the distribution of medical marijuana.
At a City Hall news conference on Monday, several members of the Community Rights First Coalition urged the City Council to support an alternative “gentle ban” ordinance proposed by Council members José Huizar and Mitch Englander. The ordinance, which has the support of the Los Angeles Police Department, would allow mini-collectives of three or fewer patients to grow their own marijuana at one location.
The coalition members also sought support for a motion introduced in October 2011 by Council members Bernard C. Parks and Jan Perry, which asks city officials to recommend ways to shut down some 300 medical marijuana dispensaries currently operating in Los Angeles.
“For years we’ve been trying to get some sort of regulation—some consistent action—on dealing with the proliferation of illegal marijuana clinics,” said Eric Moore, vice president of the East Hollywood Neighborhood Council and the co-chair of its public safety committee.
“In my neighborhood in East Hollywood, near Edgemont and Lily Crest, by Heliotrope and Melrose, if you go three to four blocks radius around that area, where I live, there are five to nine pot clinics at any given time,” Moore said.
The East Hollywood Neighborhood Council has received multiple complaints from business owners and residents that empty storefronts are being “taken over” by marijuana dispensaries, Moore said. The dispensaries' clientele can often be seen smoking pot in the area, which discourages residents from patronizing nearby businesses, he added.
“We’ve worked with the LAPD, the [federal Drug Enforcement Administration], the City Attorney’s office, the Council,” Moore said. “What consistently we’re told is that ‘We’re waiting on somebody else to say go ahead’ or that ‘There’s this law in place.’ Everybody points fingers. There’s no way to regulate.”
The proliferation of marijuana dispensaries in his neighborhood has also led to an increase in crime, Moore claimed, although “statistically that’s not necessarily showing up because people are afraid to report these sorts of things.”
Susan Blauner, director of operations for the Saving Lives San Fernando Valley Drug and Alcohol Coalition, a White House-funded nonprofit organization, said the growth of dispensaries has made marijuana much more available to youths, who smoke it on school campuses throughout the Valley.
The proliferation of medical marijuana clinics is also a concern in Boyle Heights, the home of Councilman Huizar.
“Just within the last three months, three clinics have opened in my parish,” said John Moretta, pastor of the Resurrection Church in Boyle Heights and dean of 23 parishes that represent East Los Angeles, Boyle Heights and El Sereno. (See video).
Moretta pointed to an aerial map of Boyle Heights containing six stars, each depicting a location of a medical marijuana facility. “Some of them are within the same block,” he said, adding: “Now, that’s overkill—oversaturation, wouldn’t you agree?”
Moretta appealed to the public to support the regulation of marijuana dispensaries by turning up for Tuesday’s Council meeting.
“I think it’s one of the most important decisions in the history of the City Council,” he said.
Tuesday's meeting will also decide the fate of a separate proposal by Councilman Paul Koretz, which Huizar and Englander have disapproved of. Koretz's plan calls for preventing the City from prosecuting a set of about 100 dispensaries that follow strict requirements on location, hours of operation and security.
After the news conference, members of the coalition distributed a letter to the offices of each of the 15 City Council members.
“We ask that you please put the rights of the communities and the constituents you represent over any special interest groups,” stated the five-paragraph letter. “We as a City continue to helplessly watch as hundreds upon hundreds of illegal dispensaries open up throughout the 15 council districts—shutting them down needs to be the City Council’s No. 1 priority.”
The “Repeal and Ban” proposal—as the coalition called the motions by Huizar, Englander, Parks and Perry—has been endorsed by the Eagle Rock Association, the Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council, the East Hollywood Neighborhood Council, the Greater Griffith Park Neighborhood Council, the Hollywood Studio District Neighborhood Council and the Sunland-Tujunga Neighborhood Council.
Looming against the background of Tuesday’s City Council meeting is a July 2 decision by a three-justice panel of California's 2nd District Court of Appeal, which affirmed the legality of medical marijuana dispensaries and rejected bans on the facilities by municipalities.