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Judge grants injunction against city's medical marijuana dispensary ban

A Superior Court judge concluded today that Los Angeles' moratorium on new medical marijuana dispensaries is invalid and granted a preliminary injunction against enforcement of the ban sought by a dispensary that had sued the city.

Judge James C. Chalfant determined that the city failed to follow state law when it extended its initial moratorium. "The city cannot rely on an expired ordinance," he said.

Green Oasis and a number of other medical marijuana collectives sued the city last month, challenging its efforts to control the dispensaries. The lawsuit argued that the City Council violated state law when it extended the ban until mid-March and that it is unconstitutionally vague.

Although the injunction applies only to Green Oasis, the judge's ruling calls into question the city's power to enforce the moratorium against hundreds of dispensaries that have opened in the last two years. The ruling could inspire other dispensaries to join the lawsuit or file similar actions.

Despite the moratorium, the city has seen explosive growth in the number of dispensaries. Under the ban, the city allowed 186 outlets to remain open. Many more – the exact number is unknown – are operating in neighborhoods across the city, and more continue to open.

In its answer to the lawsuit, the city argued that the moratorium is not subject to the conditions and limitations of state law because it is not an ordinance dealing with zoning, but with public safety. Zoning ordinances cannot be extended beyond 24 months. The city adopted the first of two moratoriums on Aug. 1, 2007.

The judge rejected that argument.

The city also argued that a decision to issue an injunction would cause "grave irreparable harm." "This lawsuit is not just about one 'bad apple.' It is about illegally dealing marijuana," the city's answer said. "Hundreds of unlawful marijuana stores have cropped up throughout the City and will likely attempt to bootstrap their illegal operation on the outcome of this action."

Jeri Burge, an assistant city attorney, told the judge this morning that granting the injunction would "reward illegal conduct."

"You're going to open the floodgates," she said.

Robert A. Kahn, an attorney for Green Oasis, argued that the dispensary did nothing wrong, noting that, under state law, the moratorium expired 45 days after it was first enacted. "The did not believe they were violating the law," he said.

The L.A. City Council has struggled for more than two years to write a permanent ordinance to replace the temporary ban.

Dan Lutz, a co-owner of Green Oasis and president of the collective association, filed the lawsuit after the council voted to shut down his dispensary, which opened in May.

Lutz, like hundreds of other dispensary owners in Los Angeles, had filed a request with the council for an exemption from the moratorium so he could operate, but opened without permission. The council failed to act on these requests until June, an oversight that prevented city officials from taking legal steps to close the dispensaries.

-- John Hoeffel at L.A. Superior Court

Where's the weed? Times medical marijuana interactive map.

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Comments () | Archives (86)

It is about time level headed people begin to show the hypocrisy in our marijuana laws. Lets legalize it, tax it, and let free enterprise have its fill. I thought we learned our lesson with the prohibition of alcohol, who by the way kills more people in a day with its health side effects than marijuana has killed in the world's entire history. Read up on the issue and open your eyes, or you can rent "the union" from your local dvd rental place and see for yourself. Lets stop living in fear and be proactive. Read both sides of any debate and make a level headed decision.

I do not use medical or recreational marijuana, however, I cannot name one problem in my neighborhood as a result of medical marijuana dispensaries increasing their presence in the city. As far as I am concerned this is a zoning issue and not a public safety one, and it is good to see a judge take that position as well. In fact, a legal pathway to prescription marijuana use with easy access citywide seems to be reducing the presence of certain gangs and dealers in the area. I honestly wish the state could collect taxes on recreational use and sale as well; it's time to stop equating marijuana with a problem drug just because of which politically unpopular groups have historically enjoyed it.

Happy days are here again, the sun is going to shine again!
It's legal over the counter, under the counter, over a bush, under a duck.

I'm glad, because I HATE watching police act like G.I Joe's when trying to enforce drug laws. i am beside myself as I watch so many people struggle to make it financially right now only to see our tax dollars go toward something like this that is not an issue compared to the other crime that goes on around here.

Question: Why is it that police seem to spend so much time and effort on marijuana when there are more serious and potentially fatal crimes that actually affect other people going on with little to no resistance?

When people that work laborious jobs for little pay and appreciation pay taxes that support the salaries of our police officers, maybe they should have a little say in what they themselves can consume?

i am a 31 year old man who has smoked from time to time throughout my life and to be honest with you i think i have only met 1 person who has not smoked it. it does not do the things that i was taught it would do, it does not make you want to try other drugs, it does not make you do things you would normally not do. it makes me laugh, eat junk food, watch cartoons then take a nap. when i wake up, its out of my system and i can be a productive part of society. why not deregulate it sell it for profit and tax it? i can by a pack of cigaretts that can give me cancer without a problem . i can also buy a bottle of whiskey and drink it to the point of death and thats no problem at all. id rather eat, laugh and take a nap than drink drive and take a dirt nap.

it should be legal anyway, its safer than alcohol and most know this, the laws against using marijuana are laughable, no one tells you what you can and cant consume, and the day our government figures this out well once again have room for violent criminals in our prisons, well have prosperous times again, well have respect for law enforcement again, well have gangs and cartels broke and unable to persuade so many politicians and law enforcement agents, well have more Americans working and paying taxes and less prisoners to pay $45,000.00 per year to house.

Should be legal and will cause problems until it is legal.

Marijuana was the first drug I ever took. After that I became an addict and alcoholic for more than a decade. Marijuana was always part of my regimen of substances to get intoxicated and escape the realities of the world.

I am now sober for more than a decade and want nothing to do with any drug or intoxicating substance because I have faced some of the harsh consequences resulting from addiction.

The other day new folks moved in next door. Their unit has a balcony right next to mine. The neighbor was having a housewarming party and one of the guests went on the balcony to smoke pot. Several people joined the man and the smoke from the Marijuana came into my home. I was sick for two days, with feelings nausea, itching eyes and headache.

Other neighbors complained about the Marijuana smoke and after several hours of on-going noise and smoke I called the authorities and was told there was nothing I could do about the smoke, only the noise.

I have spent many years getting sober and learning to appreciate life on life’s terms. I am no longer being shamed for smoking pot, shamed for being an alcoholic and an addict have worked on myself to get sober and live life right. How is it that the same government which told me drugs are bad for me and that I am not in good standing as a citizen for using drugs, now tells me they don’t care so long as Government can profit?

There is something seriously wrong with all this.

There is an enormous amount of crime connected to these dispensaries - that's the problem. There have been three violent armed robberies of dispensaries in my neighborhood just so far this year. Not to mention the teenagers hanging out at the dispensaries, and the sleazy looking people carrying large bags in and out of them. Many of these places are connected to gangs and drug cartels - that's what we are concerend about. Wake up, people. We don't care if you smoke pot at home - we just don't want drug dealers taking over the stores in our neighborhood.

If marijuana was legalized and taxed and treated as the business it is, without the "reefer madness" hysteria, that would make sense. It seems like this is the last fight that these phony city officials have in which they can sound as pompous and ridiculous as they are. Apparently, all the gangs are gone and the streets are crime free since they have made pot their big issue. Priorities, people, priorities! Enough already, legalize it.

This is not an issue of whether marijuana should be legal (for what it's worth, I totally agree we should legalize and tax it). But this is about public safety, and zoning, in our communities.

We regulate liquor licenses and liquor store locations. Why should marijuana be any different?

The previous commenter says: "I cannot name one problem in my neighborhood as a result of medical marijuana dispensaries increasing their presence in the city."

Let me help you name it: robberies. These stores have valuable drugs and an unusual amount of cash. They are being robbed. They are increasing security as a result. Unsavory characters are hanging around them. Etc.

This is not a puritanical complaint, but instead a desire that communities be able to regulate what goes in and around them. Also known as common sense, normal state of affairs -- why should marijuana get any special treatment?

It is time we decriminalize marijuana.

Judge James C. Chalfant is a hero. People have died from not having safe access to their medicine. Support states rights,support Medical Marijuana, and recall steve cooley.


"You're going to open the floodgates," she said. (Jeri Burge, an assistant city attorney).
A little late with that. Where has she been?
With more than 800 dispensaries, i think the flood gates are already wide open.
Time to tax it and be responsible. Be progressive. Allow the collectives to grow and sell it.
Since the Mexican cartels are using the enormous profits from their marijuana sales to cause violent havoc then allowing Americans to sell it is a great solution.
Yes go after the Mexican Cartels who are illegally growing it in our National Forests but leave the mom and pops alone.

Does the city make any money on all this pot?

theres gotta be a catch here? a judge that sides with the voters? cant be?

Yaaayyy - and to Carmen Trutanich - just remember, the voters have long memories. Stop wasting the tax payers dollars on this nonsense. We already voted to allow access.

Oh and one more thing - Trutanich stated he wants to force patients who legally use medical marijuana to REGISTER WITH THE POLICE! This is so despicable and reprehensible - to make criminals of sick people; to behave like some tin-horn dictator running a police-state, and to not understand that it's against the LAW! Federal HIPAA privacy regulations about medical records prohibits this!!!

Come election time the voters will decide they want someone who understands the law.

The real issue is not marijuana, but the total incompetence of the LA City Council. Of course they couldn't follow state law; that would require reading skills they don't possess. Which is why the City Council should have taken the District Attorney's advice. They did? Oops, never mind. So they are both incompetent, Councils past and present and District Attorneys past and present.

"Marijuana distribution in the United States remains the single largest source of revenue for the Mexican cartels.”

If people could just go into a store and buy it here then wouldn't this help our economy and keep the money here?

I also do not use marijuana but I am not wholly against it being legal. I would like it to be taxed like any other business and everyone of them should be audited by the IRS. They should also be a state agency to inspect for quality/strength of their products. Also how are these dispensaries being supplied? Do home growers sell to them? I would like these places to operate like a pharmacy rather than a liquor store.

Dear Rudy,

If marijuana were legalized, regulated and taxed we would have access to organically grown, American farmed weed. The skeezy characters would disappear along with the pesticide sprayed pot from Mexico.

where the budd at?????

these dispenseries DO help cut back marijuana related crimes... i myself am "legal" and these banks sure beat having to go down some alley to find some shady fellow with some weed in the hopes of not getting set up or worse. the bank i frequent has bouncers. the types of people that utilize these banks are from ALL kind of walks of life. i dont think walking into one is more dangerous then walking into any other store or public place. how about we go after the real criminals on wallstreet, maybe those in government, how about keep better tabs on the sexual offenders in the neighborhoods? more weed banks== less street transactions== less crime boda boom boda bing

I think it is time that our city council and Steve Cooley stop aiding and abetting
the Mexican Mafia.

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