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Los Angeles City Council votes to ban marijuana shops

July 24, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
The Los Angeles City Council has voted to ban hundreds of medical marijuana dispensaries that have cropped up across the city.

The council on Tuesday voted to rid the city of pot clinics that some residents say have been a blight on neighborhoods. City officials estimate there could be more than 900 collectives open currently.

The 14-0 vote drew an angry, profanity-laced response from some medical marijuana advocates who attended the council meeting.

The ban will take effect in about 45 days, pending the mayor's signature. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa was prepared to sign the ordinance, according to his spokeswoman Vicki Curry.

The ban will force more than 700 pot shops to close their doors.

The City Council plans to get more guidance from a pending California Supreme Court case on the issue. This ordinance will require a second vote in one week.

The so-called "gentle ban" eliminates storefronts but allow patients and caregivers to grow medical marijuana.

"This is the one that will allow for the least amount of litigation. It will allow for quicker enforcement for the number of rogue dispensaries," said L.A. City Councilman Jose Huizar Tuesday.

"Do you honestly think that people who are suffering from debilitating disease can start any sort of growing operation or farming operation?" asked one speaker during public comment Tuesday.

Those in favor of the ban argue that pot shops are popping up everywhere, driving away businesses and bringing in criminal activity.

"What we do have issue with is large for-profit businesses that operate outside what we think is state law and not only cause a nuisance to the community, but cause a public danger," said LAPD Chief Charlie Beck.

People against the proposal say banning dispensaries will cut off access to medicine and force patients to purchase marijuana on the black market.

"This is not a ban on dispensaries, this is a ban on life. If I don't access medicine, I will die," said one opponent of the ban.

There are upwards of 800 dispensaries in Los Angeles.

L.A. City Councilman Paul Koretz supports a counter-proposal, granting limited immunity to 182 marijuana dispensaries in the city with strict regulations.

"I have friends that are still alive today because of medical marijuana, and that's why this is so important to me," said Koretz.

Opponents of an outright blanket ban on dispensaries are asking the council to consider limited immunity for some pot shops. The council is scheduled to consider the plan, which would shut down most dispensaries but allow about 100 businesses that were established before September 2007 to stay open with strict regulations.

Many cities have struggled with medical marijuana ordinances but none has had a bigger problem than Los Angeles, where pot shops have proliferated. At one point, the city ordered closure of the shops - a process that failed amid lawsuits and conflicting rulings by appellate courts.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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