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LA medical marijuana shops ban: both sides react

July 25, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
The countdown to the closure of hundreds of medical marijuana shops in Los Angeles is under way after the City Council voted to shut them down. But lots of legal questions are still unanswered.

On Wednesday, Newell Alexander's trip to the dispensary was a tense one, knowing it may well be forced to shut down in the next couple months after the City Council's vote for the so-called "gentle ban."

"They're not going to stop people from smoking it, so the criminals will see all the profits. The city will see nothing from it, and I think it's ridiculous," said Alexander.

Patients and caregivers will be allowed to grow pot together in groups of three or fewer. But many patients say that's unrealistic and that the ban will rob them of safe access. Alexander's daughter died of a prescription drug overdose.

"She didn't smoke marijuana. I wish maybe she had, and maybe she wouldn't have been taking all of those other prescription drugs. So I'm mad at the City Council. I'm really, really very mad," said Alexander.

While the council voted to ban storefront dispensaries on Tuesday, it also agreed to keep Councilman Paul Koretz's proposal on the table, which would allow about 180 dispensaries to stay open with strict regulations.

But there's no telling how long that process could take, so Americans for Safe Access and other organizations are working on a referendum, which would require them to collect signatures and then go before the City Council and, possibly, on the ballot.

"The politicians are doing the best they can to do what's right. We're doing the best that we can to do right by our patients. In the end, it's just a disaster, and people are going to suffer for it," said Sam Humeid, the executive director of Perennial Holistic Wellness Center.

But others expressed relief at news of a ban. They said dispensaries are cropping up everywhere and are out of control.

"I see them as I drive by the street, and they're kind of garish," said Richard Niederberg, a Studio City resident.


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