Los Angeles Moves To Ban Medical Marijuana Dispensaries
John Neumann for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
The city of Los Angeles has become an unofficial mecca for pot smoking with 762 registered dispensaries for medical marijuana, along with an estimated several hundred other storefronts offering pain relief for ailments of all kinds, Los Angeles Times is reporting.
The city council, however, is attempting to crackdown on the dispensaries after the mayor, the police chief, the city’s attorney office and residents’ groups called for restrictions with letters being sent to the stores, ordering them to close or face legal action, signaling the likely end of a freewheeling era that let pot shops sprout across the city.
Pro-cannibis groups protested the 14-0 vote after gathering in city hall to protest against what they called a callous and misguided prohibition prompting police officers to briefly intervene to quell them.
Many California cities have struggled with medical marijuana ordinances but none has had a bigger problem than Los Angeles with its proliferating pot shops. At one point, the city ordered closure of the shops. However, that failed after lawsuits and conflicting rulings by appellate courts, writes Greg Risling for the Associated Press.
The council action amounts to a “gentle ban,” which will allow primary caregivers and patients to grow and transport marijuana. Groups of two or three patients may grow and share it at home and hospices and licensed clinics may also continue to use marijuana for medical care and pain relief.
That exemption was too narrow, said Tamra Howard, one of several medical cannabis users who lobbied against the ban. Medical cannabis helped treat and alleviate pain from a kidney problem, Howard wrote in a published letter.
“It gives me an appetite and keeps me from being depressed … Cannabis is the only thing that keeps me alive. This morning I was nauseous and sick. After medicating I was able to play with my granddaughter. Please don’t take that away from me.”
Most patients lacked the skills or time to cultivate marijuana, one dispensary owner told the council. Others warned that sweeping restrictions would herald a return to the black market.
Medical marijuana laws have been confounding statewide city and county governments for years. Councils attempt to provide safe and affordable access to the drug for legitimate patients while balancing concerns by neighborhood groups that streets were being overrun by the storefronts and recreational pot users.
Medical marijuana advocates and residents squared off again in front of the Los Angeles city council on Tuesday, with some civic leaders saying efforts made during the past few years haven’t done any good. “We need to start with a clean slate,” said Councilman Mitchell Englander. “Los Angeles has experimented with marijuana and has failed.”
In 1996, state voters approved medicinal use of marijuana with a doctor’s recommendation. The California Supreme Court decided to clarify marijuana’s hazy legal status by addressing whether local governments can ban medical marijuana clinics, but a hearing has yet to be set by the high court.
Federal authorities are still cracking down on pot clinics around the state, saying such operations remain illegal under federal law.
Councilman Paul Koretz, who has in the past supported dispensaries, told reporters he hoped for a more compassionate law in the future. “We have shut off almost every way that a normal person can get access to marijuana,” he said. “It will be a ban until otherwise noted.”
He reportedly voted against the ban on Tuesday before changing his vote, apparently to avoid a second ballot next week.