Nearly a month after LAPD narcotics officers raided and shut down American Eagle Collective, a prominent medical marijuana dispensary in Eagle Rock, the City of Los Angeles came a step closer Tuesday to banning medical marijuana dispensaries outright, while allowing patients to grow their own cannabis or get it from a licensed caregiver.
The City Council's Planning and Land Use Management Committee voted unanimously to approve a proposed ordinance that would ban all dispensaries in the city until the California Supreme Court rules on whether—and how—cities can regulate the distribution of medical marijuana. A ruling by the state's high court is not expected for at least a year.
Huizar Proposed Ordinance
The ordinance proposed by Council Member José Huizar would allow mini-collectives of three or fewer patients to jointly grow their own marijuana at one location and would allow patients to transport cannabis.
Huizar and fellow committee members Ed Reyes and Mitch Englander also
disapproved of a separate plan by Council Member Paul Koretz aimed at preventing the City from prosecuting a set of about 100 dispensaries that follow strict restrictions on where they could operate, the hours they could be open, and requirements for tight security.
The committee, however, allowed the separate plan by Koretz to move forward, citing a request by other Council members to hear both plans at the same time before the full city council.
Flawed Regulation, Legal Hurdles
City officials have been trying since 2007 to regulate dispensaries and limit their number to close to 100. Early attempts led to an explosion in the number of dispensaries trying to establish before the city placed a cap on the total number of pot shops.
The City's effort to allow some dispensaries was thwarted by a ruling last October by California's 2nd District Court of Appeal, which struck down attempts by Long Beach to require marijuana collectives to register with the city and pay fees.
The court ruled that cities may pass laws restricting the rights of pot shops to operate, but regulations affirming the right for dispensaries to exist violate federal law, under which marijuana is listed as an illegal drug banned for all purposes.
Huizar said his plan, dubbed a "gentle ban" by the City Attorney's office, is necessary because of poorly written state laws that do not allow dispensaries and provide too broad of a description of who can qualify for a medical marijuana prescription.
"If you don't like the state law, let's change the state law," Huizar told the committee and an audience of about two dozen marijuana advocates.
Attorney Steven Lubell, who represents dispensaries in a lawsuit against the city, said he understands the growth of illegal pot shops is out of control, but disagreed that banning dispensaries is the way forward.
"You're cutting off access to the patients, which is against what Proposition 215 says," Lubell said. "Instead of totally banning and waiting for the supremes to rule, have some form of regulation that works in the interim."
Medical marijuana supporters told the Council that growing medical-grade
marijuana takes years of practice and expertise that average patients do not have.
The two competing plans will be heard by the public safety committee as early as Friday before heading to the full Council.
Dispensaries in Eagle Rock
Three Eagle Rock-based medical marijuana dispensaries, including American Eagle Collective, are among at least two-dozen facilities in Los Angeles that have been the targets of lawsuits by the City Attorney’s office.
While AEC has been accused of violating City zoning laws (see attached PDFs for details) the City has sued two other Eagle Rock dispensaries on Colorado Boulevard—Organic Healing Center and Colorado Quality Pain—for violating a law that requires such facilities to be located outside a 600-foot radius of schools.
A motion to seek a preliminary injunction against AEC is scheduled for Thursday, May 31, in the court of Superior Court Judge John Wiley, Jr.