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Marijuana Deadline: ‘We’re Moving Forward With Enforcement,' Says Huizar

Councilmember José Huizar explains what authorities are expected to do after the Sept. 6 time limit for medical marijuana storefronts to shut down.

As a longstanding proponent of regulating the distribution of medical marijuana, Councilmember José Huizar successfully orchestrated the Los Angeles City Council’s unanimous vote in July to ban as many as 1,000 medical marijuana storefronts. As the Sept. 6 deadline to do that approaches, people on both sides of the medical marijuana debate are understandably apprehensive. In an interview with Eagle Rock Patch editor Ajay Singh, Huizar suggests that although the City Council’s ban is likely to be enforced, the City’s battle to regain control over marijuana distribution is “not finished by far.” Excerpts:

Patch: Everyone’s waiting for Sept. 6. What can we expect?

José Huizar: When the 6th comes around, I don’t think people should expect a whole, big prohibitionist-style era. We go out there and close down dispensaries. The fact of the matter is, given the resources, we have to go in phases, and it’ll be a strategic approach. The Council’s a policymaker—the legislature—and now it’s up to the administrative arm of the city to enforce.

Now, we understand we have this submission of signatures by [medical marijuana] advocates. If the signatures qualify, by our city charter, that means that our “gentle ban” is put on hold until the voters decide. But the intention of the LAPD and our administrative arm of our city, from what I understand, is to continue with some enforcement actions. And they will do it under state law or our “sunset clause” from our previous ordinance [under which medical marijuana dispensaries are not recognized as legitimate business entities]. Right now we have no ordinance, and according to state law all sales of marijuana are illegal. And I would say that a majority of these dispensaries are conducting sales of marijuana.

Absent a ban that has been put on hold, it’s our city attorney’s position that the sunset clause goes into effect, and that only provides for three or fewer people to collectively grown their own [marijuana].

So, whether we have the ban or not, the LAPD will continue with enforcement actions. Now, some people may say, why the need for the gentle ban in the first place? One of the things we needed to do as a Council was to send a clear message to the LAPD what the will of the Council was. They had heard from the Council different messages, different directions, and now it’s very clear. When the majority of us in a Council such as ours, which is fairly liberal-minded, say we want medical marijuana dispensaries banned, that sends a very clear message—that what we have now is simply not working in terms of providing access to patients who need [marijuana]. So, for all intents and purposes, we’re moving forward with enforcement actions. We’ll leave it up to the experts in the LAPD, but some things are under the works.

How will the verification of the signatures on the petition work? Is your office monitoring the count?

The City Clerk’s office verifies the signatures. That’s their job. We trust the city clerk as an objective office that does its job in the interests of the people, and they will verify whether the signatures qualify for the ballot or not.

Do they do a sampling of the signatures or do they verify every signature?

Our understanding—and you have to verify it with them—is that they do a sampling of signatures. But under some rules or conditions, they actually go through and verify all the signatures. Now, I’m not privy to that—I haven’t been briefed and don’t know what the city clerk intends to do in this instance. Whatever answer the city clerk gives us, we will be in a position to think about what we do next.

You’ve taken the lead on this issue and have gotten a lot of pro-marijuana folks angry at you. What motivates you to keep going?

Well, I became at the forefront of this [issue] because I am protecting neighborhoods like Eagle Rock. The reason I got involved in this in the first place is because I had a number of constituents from Eagle Rock stepping forward and saying that they cannot tolerate dispensaries causing problems in our neighborhood. I had mothers talk to me who said, “I’m walking my kid to school, and there are a bunch of teenagers smoking in front of these dispensaries and the smoke is in the air, and my kid shouldn’t be exposed to that.” The same mothers told me, “I voted for the Compassionate Use Act, and that’s not what I intended.”

So, I’m primarily responding to the Eagle Rock community—a portion of my district that has been highly impacted. But the fact remains that, the more I looked into this [issue] the more I realized that we as elected officials have a responsibility to protect the quality of life in neighborhoods. And when we feel that they’re being deteriorated because one interest is superseding the interests of other people, we’ve got to look at the laws and look at what makes sense.

In this instance—the fact that there are over 1,000 dispensaries in the city of LA, many of them causing problems in their neighborhoods, we have a responsibility to stand up and strike a better balance. On the one hand you have access to medical marijuana by patients—or alleged access to medical marijuana by patients—and on the other hand you have [calls for] protecting the quality of life in neighborhoods. I think there were a number of Councilmembers who felt like I did. It is difficult to stand up and be the face of [forces] protecting our neighborhoods when we’re going against a well-financed industry.

What do you say to the argument that has been put forward by a lot of people that it’s really difficult to grow marijuana if you’re a patient?

I agree. I think it is very difficult to grow marijuana if you’re a patient. If I, God forbid, become ill tomorrow and rely on marijuana, I wouldn’t know where to start to grow it. So, it is very difficult—but it is what the state law provides in order for us to give access [to marijuana]. I don’t agree with it. The state law as we have it is so flawed and has so many loopholes that the majority of people who are using these dispensaries are not patients but recreational users. If that’s what it is, let’s call in local government to control for the ill effects of these dispensaries.

I would urge advocates that they should take the same passion and energy that they have put onto the City Council and direct that to the state legislature. They have to fix the law there and find a better model for access to patients who truly need [marijuana].

Presuming things change and medical marijuana storefronts are shut down, do you eventually see LA being held up as a model for marijuana regulation done correctly?

Under the current circumstances, we did what we had to do to take control of an out-of-control situation. However, this was more of a stopgap measure for us. We intend to go back after the state Supreme Court rules on a number of cases that have been brought to its attention. Once the Supreme Court decides on these cases, we will be in a better place to come up with an ordinance to decide what we can and cannot do. This is not finished by far. We just have to get control of the situation.

An organization called Americans for Safe Access has announced a poster campaign against President Obama titled, “Can Broken Promises Lose an Election? 1 Million Medical Marijuana Patients Will Decide.” How do you think a possible ban in LA might affect the presidential election?

I’m not sure at this moment how a ban will affect the presidential election. I don’t think the ban per se will affect the presidential election. I think any further action by the federal government may or may not affect the presidential election. This was more of a localized decision [to shut marijuana storefronts]. And again, as I say, I support patients having access to medical marijuana. All I’m saying is that there’s gotta be a different way of providing marijuana to patients without negatively impacting neighborhoods as much as they have.

Now, in the future, most of what needs to get fixed is at the state level. The proponents who are targeting the federal level should also perhaps target the state level and try to fix this broken system.

Erykah Grande September 18, 2012 at 08:43 PM
EagleRockMom, why not redirect the energy you have against us and help us convince our neighboring towns to allow 2-3 (or more depending on the city size) regulated dispensaries so that a town like ours can have a little more control of the situation. People like myself and my husband respect the fact that just like not all drink caffeine, not all smoke; just like not everyone partakes in back yard barbeques, not all partake in recreational weed intake. So rather than spending all this energy most of folks on your team seem to be spending trying to shut out all dispensaries and spread Reefer Madness Propaganda, help us bring constructive ideas to the table, legitimately. The ERNC is due for change and whether my husband takes the seat or not, we plan on staying on board as engaged citizens to keep the ERNC from taking the high road and continuing this ignorance that seems to have spread throughout Eagle Rock. And please, I mean 'ignorance' in the true definition of it. So many of my neighbors don't even know there's a dispensary down their street or an ERNC for any case. Those folks complaining about dispensaries down their street should have considered the things that would happen in the future when purchasing a home so close to a Main Street.
Erykah Grande September 18, 2012 at 08:44 PM
I live 3 properties from Eagle Rock Blvd and I can't tell you enough how annoyed I am at the Fire Department, LAPD, Ambulances for zooming past my street, with their loud obnoxious horns in the night while I'm trying to put my 2 year old to sleep. Or the Motor Cyclists and Speed Racers zooming past in the middle of the night with their obnoxious 'rice rockets'. Or the parking people take up because of the 2 medical "plazas" in the corners. But I digress. All these are issues I, as a concerned Eagle Rock Resident have, and hope to bring to the table when we are elected. It just so happens I frequent these particular forums because they're just do damn fun to read! :)
Herb Greene September 18, 2012 at 09:11 PM
But if it remains illegal the kids can't get it.......come one it's for the children (oh well they can always huff some solvent or over cleaners...) Humans drink, they smoke, they smoke pot, they overeat & humans have been getting high since we got up on 2 legs or discovered pot or fermented beverages.....its life & this is a plant for gosh darn sake, not a Quaalude ![
ERHS Moms September 18, 2012 at 09:54 PM
@FTL: Thanks for clarifying that it was supposed to be controversial. We didn't take it as such so we didn't get it. Next time books are ordered yours will be checked out. What's the overview again? What were you doing with pot when they busted you?
Duff Strong September 18, 2012 at 10:00 PM
I always find it amusing that parents blame the stores for selling their kids weed and alcohol. Funny, they never look at themselves as bad parents for not teaching their kids to make better decisions. It's always somebody else's fault. Yeah, real good example you're setting for your kids.
AFG September 18, 2012 at 10:59 PM
@Duff: It's not only bad parents who have kids who make wrong choices. There are really good parents, too, who have really naughty kids, as well as those who are bad examples, etc. However, any store who sells marijuana to a minor, or any adult who resells it to a minor is still very much at fault. Technically they would be the adult in the situation and therefor responsible. Crummy parents and bad kids being at fault does not absolve the store from blame at all. It would only make all parties wrong. It's like wanting to only blame the lousy doctor who writes the bogus RX. While it is very much his fault and he should consequently be held responsible for doing that, it does not absolve the individual who sought out that doctor and scammed him. They, too, should be held accountable.
Duff Strong September 18, 2012 at 11:25 PM
We may as well blame the person that gave said kid the money to buy this stuff. It's the building owner's fault for renting to someone who sells to minors. On the same token, we should blame all of the Walmarts that sell Co2 containers to kids. Or those who sell computer cleaner. How about we just blame the guy who sold the kid the lighter. After all, what else are they for if not to light cigarettes or joints? It's the parent's fault. 'Naughty' kids are still the responsibility of the parent. If you don't want your kid smoking pot or drinking alcohol, teach them. If they don't listen to you, it's on you, not the shop owner. Plain and simple. Come on man. Let's take responsibility for our own kids. They're ours, not the state's.
AFG September 19, 2012 at 12:43 AM
@Duff: I agree that the parents need to take responsibility, but I still do not feel that that absolves the shop owner. Selling to a minor is illegal and anyone stupid enough to do it needs to be shut down or fined. They know they are taking that chance when they do it. Why do you think the shop owner should be absolved? Because he is just a greedy bastard trying to make money anyway he can? Why? I don't think it's logical to assign blame to just one party when all parties are wrong. In that instance the shop owner is choosing to break the law, so his choice is on him. While the selling of computer cleaner and lighters can be abused they also have legitimate uses & I could see where it would be difficult for the shop owner to know that, unless they made them sign or something like they do for certain cold medicines. Whereas there is no good legitimate reason for a minor to be trying to buy pot. Remember "it takes a village to raise a child", when someone else's kid is doing something wrong it couldn't hurt for another responsible adult to speak up and try to circumvent harm. If bartenders are supposed to take keys away from adults, or stop serving them, pot shop owners need to be equally accountable. Kind of like how parents can be blamed for alcohol served at their home even when they aren't home.
archie's bunker September 19, 2012 at 01:24 AM
Who said the shop owner should be "absolved"? I don't think anyone is saying that. If they break the law (i.e. Selling to a minor, driving with impaired judgement, littering, etc. ) the law should and Must be enforced. Obviously. Assigning moral blame is a different kettle of complication...
FlyingTooLow September 19, 2012 at 12:41 PM
@ERHS Moms... I was in Federal Prison for 5 years for a marijuana offense. No, it was not for simple possession. I was arrested aboard a Lockheed PV2 in Marianna, Florida...charged and convicted for conspiracy to import and distribute 12,000 pounds of marijuana. At the time, I really had no idea what I had gotten myself into...mine was an offense involving pot...the thought never occurred to me that I may actually spend years in prison for that 'indiscretion.' As those 5 years rolled by, what I did see were armed bank robbers, coming and going...while I still sat there for marijuana. Most of the bank robbers only spent 17 to 24 months. But, I and my fellow 'drug offenders,'...we stayed for years. I wrote about the escapades that led to my incarceration. I admit, I had a great time. No one was injured, no one was killed, firearms were not involved...there were no victims. We were Americans...doing what Americans do best...living free. The book's title is: Shoulda Robbed a Bank I would be honored if you would just take a look...it is available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords. Stay safe and happy in Eagle Rock, Hugh Yonn
Duff Strong September 19, 2012 at 03:58 PM
"it takes a village to raise a child" You're using it out of context. Remember, the word is 'raise', not 'police'. Yes, let's share in the nurturing of kids. But again, ultimate responsibility goes to mom/dad. If my son buys liquor at the store, I'm not going to blame the shop owner. He's not greedy. He's trying to make a living doing what he does. He sells things. Forcing people to police each other is detrimental to a working social system. Everyone is always on watch and not getting along. How about we stop forcing shop owners to be policemen and allow them to concentrate on building a profitable business. Do you think Phillip Morris is ever policed when cigs are sold to kids? After all, they made the damned things. They're guilty of more deaths than I can imagine. I haven't seen the even get their license suspended.
AFG September 19, 2012 at 04:44 PM
@Duff: You're entitled to your opinion. While I agree that the ultimate responsibility goes to the parents, I would also blame the shop owner. Yes he does sell things, but he, too, is obliged to not break the law and if he so chooses to do so he would and should be held accountable. I don't feel that it's exceedingly difficult or policing to simply say, "Can I please see your ID?" To me that's his job. Building a profitable business is one thing, but building it through breaking the law, building it on the backs of minors, to me, is quite another. Supermarkets say they card persons under thirty, so I don't think it's too difficult to card someone who is clearly much younger. How many times in a day can that really happen randomly, anyway? I would think an honest shop owner wouldn't want to get the reputation of selling to minors and then have to deal with being inundated with kids who went there specifically for that purpose. I agree that cig companies are ultimately responsible for making the product, making it more addictive than necessary, etc., but it's not against the law to make or sell cigarettes (free enterprise, non prohibition, and all that), but it is against the law to sell them to the underaged. In the instance you described Phillip Morris didn't sell them the shop owner did. Wouldn't you want the shop owner or another responsible adult to intervene if it were your kids? I would. I feel it benefits kids to see adults behaving like adults.
Duff Strong September 19, 2012 at 05:44 PM
I understand your point. But you and I disagree on a fundamental level. If selling to minors (as defined by the state, not by you or me) were completely legal, would you be okay with it? I've said it many other times here on this page, just because it's illegal, doesn't mean it's just (e.g. MMJ ban). When someone turns 21, do they become mature overnight? Believe me, I know some 30 year olds who are less mature than some 18 year olds. It's a faulty law based on age rather than maturity. You, yourself, state that you don't agree with the tobacco companies, but you're giving them a pass because it's legal. Really? So, because it's legal they're allowed to make a product that deadly to humans and because it's illegal a shop owner can't sell said product? It's a double standard geared to benefit the corporation and punish the small business owner. Look outside the box, man.
Duff Strong September 19, 2012 at 05:45 PM
As far as selling to kids, you're not looking past your own hand. How many businesses are making money hand over fist selling to minors and the new tween goldmine? Disney Hasbro Nintendo Apple Nickelodeon on and on and on and on.... They're kids and they're being manipulated into wanting to buy things. They are being molded into tomorrow's consumers. You don't see this as a threat? You see the corner shop owner as a bigger threat than Hannah Banana selling little girls make-up and other shit they don't need? Leave the shop owners alone. They just want to make a living. Police your own kids. Keep an eye on them if you don't want them buying booze or cigs or the scary weed. They're your kids, not the shop owner's. The problem is that Americans are shortsighted and cling onto the moral subject of the day while ignoring the vast tragedy that is the American Consumer Culture.
UPinSmoke September 19, 2012 at 05:57 PM
How do you know shop owners are selling to minors? Have you personally seen it. And if so, have you reported it. For crissakes. No sane adult wants marijuana to be sold to minors. Period. STOP WITH THE WEDGE ISSUE. The ploy of DISTRACTION.
AFG September 19, 2012 at 06:50 PM
@Duff: I didn't mean that I have no problem with the death & destruction that cigarette companies have sown. What I meant to answer was your question as to why they aren't held accountable. They can hide behind the legality and free enterprise, basically saying that adults can make up their own minds & if they want to die from cigarettes it is their choice. A stupid choice, but a free choice nonetheless. My sympathy for the shop owner would go straight out the window were he to be selling to minors. Yes parents are supposed to be taking care of their own kids, but no parent can be with their child, especially a teenager, every minute of everyday. Therefor the shop owner is obligated to not break the law, as are all citizens. To me if you see a kid doing something wrong whether it be bullying another kids, harassing an elderly person, stealing, or trying to buy drugs or alcohol you are obliged to do what you can if you are a responsible adult. Just look at what teachers get blamed for and they aren't the parents of the kids in question. The same should be required of the shop keeper. Obviously age doesn't equal maturity, but the hope is that once you can make good rational decisions you won't do anything stupid. You're right about what society/consumerism does to kids, but wanting or buying the latest doesn't kill you like driving after alcohol or drugs. I am trying to do what I can. I can't make cigs go away as they are too big to fight, but I can not let one kid buy drugs.
Duff Strong September 19, 2012 at 07:01 PM
You mean well and I can't fault you for that. But I'm a firm believer of letting things sort themselves out. If a parent keeps a kid in a bubble for most of their lives, they won't have life experiences from which to learn. If two kids are fighting, let them sort it out. If one kid is getting his head bashed in, level the playing field in whatever way you can. But if you come to that kid's rescue, what's going to happen the next time, when you're not there? Give a man a fish, he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish, he eats for a lifetime. We must allow our kids to learn the hard way sometimes. It's just how they become stronger people. Callouses, scars, and a robust immune system are all results of the body getting its ass kicked. They are our bodies' way of strengthening the armor from everyday life. That's why they, 'think about the children' argument is ridiculous to me. Kids will get hurt. They have a natural sense of curiosity that will lead them to be in bad situations. But remember, what doesn't kill you only makes you stronger. Let's not bubble up our kids and let them find out the hard way sometimes. It will help them in the long run. While I vehemently disagree with you on how to do things, I respect your reasoning.
AFG September 19, 2012 at 07:12 PM
@Duff: What if instead of what didn't kill you making you stronger just ended up killing you? What if you don't come to the rescue of the kid being beaten and he/she dies? I think you can do both - you can be safe and teach your kids well. I don't feel that intervening on the side of right, or doing right yourself will hinder kids learning their lessons. Rather I think it provides a good and needed example to so many kids with s****y home lives.
Duff Strong September 19, 2012 at 07:19 PM
I'm not heartless. But I'm a realist. "What if instead of what didn't kill you making you stronger just ended up killing you?" We are overpopulated and can't feed most of the people in this world. If we really wanted to be humanitarian, we should go to the African countries and stop the mass murder of thousands of people daily. People die. It's a fact of life. Stupid people die. I'm okay with that. It keeps them from reproducing and making more little stupid people. If kids are put into a situation because of their shitty home lives, don't fix the symptom, fix the ailment. Work to fix the home life.
AFG September 19, 2012 at 07:33 PM
@Duff: that is true that the problem needs to be dealt with, but in the meantime I feel it's important to do whatever small thing that I can. I taught school for far too many years to ever let preventable harm come to a child. I'd want some kind stranger to step into the fray for my kids, so I willingly step there for others.
Duff Strong September 19, 2012 at 07:38 PM
Okay man. You mean well. That's all that matters in my book. But we can talk about the best way to avoid spending all our time putting out small fires and getting to the real problems. Maybe at one of Mr. Grande's forums he's always talking about.
AFG September 19, 2012 at 10:35 PM
@Duff: That'd be a good idea! Maybe I'll see you there.
Brash Brazen October 01, 2012 at 08:15 PM
If Jose Huizar wants to commit political suicide I think we should do all we can to put an end to any future political ambitions he or any of his co-conspirators may have ! Obstructing state law concerning medical marijuana dispensaries is certainly grounds for charges of malfeasance in office & to do so in light of the recent Appellate Court decision which said that cities are "pre-empted" from banning them will expose the city to millions & millions in civil damages ! Don't ever forget which politicians were willing to put their personal bias before the will of California voters,the needs of their constituents & the law of the state of California ! There's a special place in hell for these callous cretins & let's hope their journey there is slow & excruciatingly painful due to the lack of their doctor recommended medication !!! Never forget & never forgive these self-righteous simpletons who defy state law to further their own reprehensible agenda in the City of Angels !!!
Frank Mockery October 04, 2012 at 04:26 PM
The incompetent boobs on the LA City Council voted to rescind their July ban in the face of overwhelming public support for a referendum to overturn the ban. Apparently more worried about their own political careers than the needs of their constituents they'll now enlist federal authorities to conspire with them to undermine California law in their continued efforts to shutter legally operated dispensaries ! What a bunch of a**holes !!!
Michael Larsen October 04, 2012 at 04:33 PM
I agree that those councilmembers that voted to rescind the ban are incompetent boobs. I'm proud to say that Eagle Rock's Councilmember Huizar was not one of them. Federal help is needed and appreciated by many Angelenos. None of the dispensaries in LA are operating legally. Not one.
bbkong October 04, 2012 at 05:20 PM
@Michael "Federal help is needed and appreciated by many Angelenos. None of the dispensaries in LA are operating legally. Not one." Really? Do you not see how your own words display your bias on this issue? I would expect a community leader to work toward a solution that accommodates every one in the community, not just one group of people with an agenda. I am disappoint.
Michael Larsen October 04, 2012 at 09:35 PM
bbkong, I've worked for 4 years towards a solution. The only obstacle to that solution has been the stores that don't want to be regulated or closed as a result of regulation. As the Chief Deputy City Attorney said, " If you don't want to be regulated by the locals, you will be regulated by the federal government." We gave it our best shot, now it's "out of our hands" as Mark Haskell Smith likes to say. Although I doubt that he or the store owners ever thought it would be handed off to the Feds. Btw, the only person who has ever showed up to an ERNC meeting where MMD policy has been discussed is Tim Ryder, who won't even admit to having a recommendation. Where has "every one in the community" been as the ERNC has been working on this issue?
Ajay Singh (Editor) October 05, 2012 at 07:17 PM
@ Frank Mockery—your Thursday comment regarding Councilmember Josè Huizar has been deleted because it violates Patch's terms of agreement. Please keep your discourse civil—or take your comments to another forum.
Eric October 05, 2012 at 11:54 PM
@ Ron... Dr. Kevin A. Sabet has his Ph.D. in Social Policy. The article in the link you've provided is his "official view", which by definition is an opinion piece and shouldn't be confused with "fact".
Bong Sativa October 22, 2012 at 03:02 AM
Councilman Jose Huizar wrong about marijuana,wrong about seeking federal intervention & wrong for Los Angeles !!! And Frank don't let the Patch censorship Nazis discourage you from telling the truth about those who put their personal bias & ambition before the needs & desires of their constituents !!!

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