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New legislation could ban pot dispensaries in LA

November 23, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
A Los Angeles city councilman introduced new legislation on Wednesday that would ban medical marijuana dispensaries from Los Angeles, presenting a new twist in the ongoing battle.

There are more than 300 medical marijuana clinics in Los Angeles. Because of recent court decisions the city attorney says L.A. has an unenforceable ordinance to regulate them and control their locations.

"When you do not control who has access, how they have access, whether they can use the substance on premises in the community," said Councilmember Jose Huizar. "We saw that we had not only a proliferation but a decline in the quality of life in many of our communities."

Huizar and community activists announced his plans to ban the operation of all medical marijuana dispensaries in the city until the California Supreme Court makes a ruling to settle recent confusion on the legality of dispensaries.

Michael Larson is president of the Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council. There are 27 dispensaries in Eagle Rock.

"It's easier to open a pot shop in L.A. and sell marijuana than it is to open a frozen yogurt or a grocery store in Los Angeles," said Larson.

Supporters of medical use of marijuana are promising legal action if the city council passes the ban when it votes in a few weeks.

"It's going to drive patient associations, and patients underground, behind closed doors and away from public accessibility," said James Shaw from Union of Medical Marijuana Patients.

Huizar's proposed ban comes in light of a recent ruling by the court of appeals against Long Beach's medical marijuana ordinance. The ordinance is similar to the one implemented in L.A. The court found that it violated federal law, which prohibits dispensaries to exist.

If that ruling holds up, L.A. will effectively lose its ability to cap the number of dispensaries and regulate their locations.

Considering the potential loss and limitation, Huizar feels it is better to ban the operation of pot shops altogether until there is clarity on whether they can be lawfully regulated.

Huizar represents nine L.A. cities including Eagle Rock, which is an area with a high concentration of dispensaries.

The medical marijuana ordinance has been an ongoing battle for the L.A. City Council, but this latest proposed ban is a change in direction after the last four years have been spent trying to craft regulations that limit but still allow dispensaries to exist.


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