L.A. Pot Ban Blocked for Now

Sep 6, 2012

A ban on store­front pot dis­pen­saries here won’t go into effect Thurs­day after advo­cates for med­ical mar­i­juana suc­cess­fully peti­tioned to block it, the lat­est skir­mish in the bat­tle over how local gov­ern­ments around the nation should reg­u­late pot busi­nesses. After years of failed attempts to con­trol the num­ber of pot shops and their oper­a­tions here, the Los Ange­les City Coun­cil unan­i­mously passed an ordi­nance in late July that made store­front dis­pen­saries ille­gal by mod­i­fy­ing lan­guage in the city’s munic­i­pal code. Last week, medical-marijuana advo­cates sub­mit­ted about 50,000 sig­na­tures to over­turn the ban, nearly twice the num­ber needed, accord­ing to the Los Ange­les City Clerk’s office. Once the city clerk ver­i­fies the sig­na­tures, the coun­cil will have to decide whether to repeal the ordi­nance or place the issue on the bal­lot next year. This city’s unsuc­cess­ful efforts to reg­u­late mar­i­juana busi­nesses have taken cen­ter stage in a statewide and national debate. Even as the fed­eral gov­ern­ment steps up efforts to crack down on dis­pen­sary sales of the drug, ille­gal under U.S. law, 17 states and the Dis­trict of Colum­bia now allow mar­i­juana use for med­i­c­i­nal pur­poses, accord­ing to Amer­i­cans for Safe Access, an advo­cacy group. An ASA spokesman said Cal­i­for­nia was the first state to pop­u­lar­ize brick-and-mortar pot shops, typ­i­cally denoted with a leaf or cross sym­bol, and the nation’s largest state still counts the most pot shops. A 1996 voter-approved ini­tia­tive allows peo­ple with a doctor’s rec­om­men­da­tion to grow and use mar­i­juana for med­ical rea­sons in Cal­i­for­nia. Accord­ing to an attor­ney for the city of Los Ange­les, there is no men­tion of dis­pen­saries in that law. “The state voter ini­tia­tive envi­sioned a kib­butz model,” said Deputy City Attor­ney Bill Carter. “It’s mor­phed into a Star­bucks model.” Com­pli­cat­ing the issue for Cal­i­for­nia cities is a tan­gle of com­pet­ing law­suits. Last year, the Cal­i­for­nia Court of Appeals ruled that the city of Long Beach, just south of Los Ange­les, couldn’t use a lot­tery sys­tem to limit the num­ber of pot shops, because con­trol­ling the dis­tri­b­u­tion of med­ical mar­i­juana vio­lates fed­eral law. The state Supreme Court recently dis­missed the case. The state Supreme Court is expected to take up other cases address­ing the issue of whether munic­i­pal­i­ties can ban pot shops, but not for sev­eral months. Although many Cal­i­for­nia munic­i­pal­i­ties ban pot sales, about 50 juris­dic­tions allow sales, while reg­u­lat­ing things like the num­ber of dis­pen­saries, their loca­tions and hours of oper­a­tion, accord­ing to Don Dun­can, Cal­i­for­nia direc­tor of ASA. In 2007, when fewer than 200 dis­pen­saries were oper­at­ing in Los Ange­les, city offi­cials passed a mora­to­rium to block new ones from open­ing. But hun­dreds more opened any­way, exploit­ing an exemp­tion for dis­pen­saries that could show they faced “hard­ship.” There are cur­rently about 1,000 dis­pen­saries in the city, accord­ing to Coun­cil­man Paul Koretz, who rep­re­sents parts of the city’s west side. On the same day the City Coun­cil passed the ban, Mr. Koretz pro­posed that city attor­neys pre­pare a sep­a­rate ordi­nance allow­ing dis­pen­saries that were open before 2008 to remain in busi­ness. Mr. Koretz said he hoped the new ordi­nance, once it pro­ceeds through a clear­ance process, would be approved by the City Coun­cil before the ban comes up for a city­wide vote. For now, the pro­lif­er­a­tion con­tin­ues. In the east side neigh­bor­hood of Eagle Rock, about 15 dis­pen­saries have sprouted up recently, attract­ing cus­tomers from the nearby com­mu­ni­ties of Pasadena and Glen­dale, where dis­pen­saries are banned. Michael Larsen, pres­i­dent of the Eagle Rock Neigh­bor­hood Coun­cil, said he isn’t opposed to med­i­c­i­nal mar­i­juana but said the shops are a “nui­sance” in the com­mu­nity. Loi­ter­ing, lit­ter­ing and reselling are seri­ous prob­lems around the dis­pen­saries, Mr. Larsen said. “It’s eas­ier to open a pot shop than a yogurt shop in Eagle Rock,” Mr. Larsen said. “They just do it and start rak­ing in the cash.” Annie Lam, a man­ager at Hype­r­ion Heal­ing in the nearby neigh­bor­hood of Sil­ver Lake, said a city­wide ban would be “harsh” for many of her shop’s clients who use mar­i­juana to cur­tail side effects from AIDS, can­cer drugs and other con­di­tions. State law allows peo­ple with a pre­scrip­tion to grow their own cannabis, she said, but for many that isn’t a viable option. “They’re frus­trated,” she said. “Every­one still needs their med­ica­tion.” A ver­sion of this arti­cle appeared Sep­tem­ber 6, 2012, on page A3 in the U.S. edi­tion of The Wall Street Jour­nal, with the head­line: L.A. Pot Ban Is Blocked. Source: Wall Street Jour­nal (US) Author: Erica E. Phillips Pub­lished: Sep­tem­ber 5, 2012 Copy­right: 2012 Dow Jones & Com­pany, Inc. Con­tact: wsj.​ltrs@​wsj.​com Web­site: http://​www​.wsj​.com/

73c0d9be6cjuana2.jpg 150x111 L.A. Pot Ban Blocked for Now

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L.A. Pot Ban Blocked for Now

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