LA may shut medical pot dispensaries
A Los Angeles City Council committee Tuesday began considering a proposed permanent ordinance to require the immediate closure of hundreds of medical marijuana dispensaries that operate for profit.
The City Council's Planning and Land Use Committee heard presentations from the Los Angeles City Attorney's Office, L.A. County District Attorney's Office and Los Angeles Police Department, but decided to hold more hearings.
The proposed ordinance allows the operation of medical marijuana collectives, which are groups of qualified patients, and primary caregivers who cultivate medical marijuana solely for the qualified patients.
Under the proposed ordinance, collectives must be at least 1,000 feet from other collectives, schools, playgrounds, child care facilities, religious institutions, public libraries, public parks, hospitals and rehab centers.
Collectives would also be limited to giving their members medical marijuana only between 10 a.m. and 8 p.m. They cannot have more than five pounds of dried marijuana nor have more than 100 plants on their property at any time.
Before collectives can begin operating, their location will be inspected by Department of Building and Safety officials to ensure compliance with the ordinance.
Once the collectives are in place, they are required to document each member's participation in the medical marijuana cultivation, and provide an accounting of their expenses.
Collectives that began operating before Sept. 14, 2007, and registered with the City Clerk's Office before Nov. 12, 2007, will be given 90 days to comply once the ordinance takes effect.
Collectives that began operating after that time frame are required to comply immediately, or be shut down.
"We are not talking about a dispensing model," Deputy City Attorney Heather Aubry said. "We are talking about a collective cultivation model whereby patients, their caregivers, can come together and cultivate medical marijuana for provision to their patients, which is in compliance with state law."
Joseph Esposito, head deputy district attorney for major narcotics at the L.A. County District Attorney's Office, stressed "it is our position that over-the-counter sales of marijuana in exchange for money and the profitability - the tremendous profitability that's attached to those sales - are illegal under California law."
Esposito said California allows "very specific conduct: qualified patients and their caregivers can cultivate and can use. That is it. There is no additional language that says you can sell over-the-counter."
Several owners and customers of medical marijuana dispensaries, as well as members of collectives, packed the hearing to protest the proposed regulations.
Among them was Umberto Martinez, Jr., who is paralyzed from his navel to his feet, and said he needs medical marijuana to help him cope with back spasms.
Martinez said he owns a collective that sells medical marijuana to more than 1,000 other people.
"We do have to make some sort of profits," Martinez said. "Not a lot of profits but a little bit, because we do have bills to pay, we do have mortgages and rents to pay, and we do have car payments as well."
A legal loophole in a temporary ordinance had led to the uncontrolled proliferation of medical marijuana dispensaries. It is believed that as many as 600 of them opened across the city within a span of months.
From wire service reports
Posted: 09/22/2009 10:23:52 PM PDT