Following this weeks Public Safety Committee’s recommendation to the Los Angeles City Council to adopt Councilmen Jose Huizar and Mitch Englander’s “gentle ban” closing down ALL medical marijuana dispensaries in the City of Los Angeles until the state Supreme Court decides on the legality of permitting dispensaries, I ponder what they are thinking, because obviously they are not. They are currently using the California Supreme Court’s granting a review of the Pack v City of Long Beach case as an excuse to avoid creating any legitimate regulations regarding dispensaries within the city of Los Angeles. In fact, the Los Angeles City Council has failed to draft an ordinance in over five years that would establish any level of governance for medical marijuana dispensaries. Each of their failed attempts has resulted in dozens of lawsuits and the continued proliferation of dispensaries in the city. Onerous ordinances and outright bans have not and will not work.
Following the Planning and Land Use Management committees vote over a week ago to adopt the “gentle” ban, it is now in the hands of the Los Angeles City Council. (As of the writing of this article, no hearing date has been set) The mere thought that allowing those in need of medical marijuana to either grow it or go to a caregiver that can take care of up to three patients is ludicrous. The city council will be turning their back on the 10s of thousands of patients in Los Angeles who depend on medical marijuana to assist them with critical illnesses that they suffer from. Instead these patients will resort to the black market or underground delivery services that will be providing medicine to patients. If the City Council truly believes that the demand will subside if the dispensaries close down, they are clearly mistaken. Councilman Paul Koretz’s measure suggests that 100 dispensaries be allowed to operate under strict regulations. Both the PLUM and Public Safety Committee have dismissed Koretz’s measure in favor of the Huizar/Englander onerous ban measure.
According to Councilman Paul Krekorian, "I think the bottom line, the reason this has been an essentially failed policy, is the state law was miserably ineffective in defining what we should be doing to provide safe access for legal marijuana."
A number of medical marijuana patients urged the panel to back the Koretz proposal, saying they feared for their safety if they had to turn to the black market for marijuana. They also suggested the ban would bolster organized crime similar to what occurred during Prohibition. Councilman Dennis Zine voted against the Huizar proposal to ban the clinics, saying he believes Koretz's approach is better and would give the city some leeway in regulating the dispensaries while providing access for those patients who need it. "Our intention was to have legislation so people who needed to obtain marijuana could do so in a fair and safe fashion and not have a negative impact on neighborhoods," Zine said.
While I agree that having over 1,000 dispensaries in Los Angeles is not desirable, believing that closing down all of the dispensaries will solve the problem is clearly not the answer.
The fiscal impact alone is going to be staggering. Anticipated enforcement will cost millions in taxpayer dollars, including the loss of sales tax and Measure M revenue for the city, potential lawsuits that will be filed and manpower needed to enforce the ban.
While the Pack case is pending with the California Supreme Court, so is the City of Lake Forest v Evergreen Holistic Collective, a published opinion from the Fourth Appellate District that clearly sees the right to have storefront dispensaries to insure a medical marijuana patient’s rights to have access to medicine. It is apparent that the committees from the Los Angeles City Council are picking and choosing what court opinions to base their untenable decisions on.
Perhaps they should follow the lead of the City of San Jose, who voted to repeal their ordinance that would verify zoning or allow dispensaries to register, pending the decision in Pack,but also stated that dispensaries in San Jose who create a nuisance, fail to pay the Marijuana Business Tax (their version of Measure M) or abide by state law would be subject to enforcement action. Evidently other cities are dealing with similar issues to Los Angeles, but putting our city council’s heads in the sand is not the answer. A ban will be a disaster, with far worse consequences than the proliferation of medical marijuana dispensaries citywide.