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L.A. tries to speed up new law on medical marijuana dispensaries

October 22, 2009 |  2:12 pm

Medpot  Left with no law controlling medical marijuana dispensaries in Los Angeles, the City Council now plans to take up its long-awaited ordinance as soon as the first week in November.

Councilman Greig Smith today decided not to hold a hearing in his Public Safety Committee and send the proposal straight to the council to speed it along.

Council President Eric Garcetti’s office indicated that it would not come up next week, but possibly the week after.

On Monday, a Superior Court judge ruled that the city’s moratorium had been illegally extended and issued an injunction that prevented the city from trying to shut down Green Oasis, a dispensary on Jefferson Boulevard west of the 405 Freeway.

City officials acknowledged the decision effectively made it impossible to enforce the ban against other dispensaries.

“I am very disappointed that the judge won't let us do our job,” Smith, the chairman of the Public Safety Committee, said earlier this week, adding that it would force the council to move quickly.

The council’s planning committee has spent years debating how to control dispensaries and just recently sent the proposed ordinance to Smith’s committee.

The measure, drafted by City Atty. Carmen Trutanich’s office, would prohibit sales of medical marijuana. In Smith's view, that means most dispensaries would be forced to close, including the 186 that the city allowed to operate despite adopting a moratorium on dispensaries in 2007.

“I would prefer to stop all sales of medical marijuana in the city, but the ordinance proposed by City Atty. Trutanich comes as close as the law will allow,” he said. Most dispensaries in the city sell marijuana and pay state sales taxes, though operators say the transactions are donations and they are just recouping their operating costs.

Both Trutanich and Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley, however, believe that most, if not all, dispensaries are operated for profit. Under state law, collectives and cooperatives formed by patients and caregivers can cultivate marijuana, but must be nonprofit.

The proposed ordinance would require all the dispensaries that opened after the moratorium to close immediately, and bar them from reopening for six months. The original 186 dispensaries would be allowed to remain open for six months to give them time to comply with the rules.

-- John Hoeffel

Photo: Medical marijuana. Credit: Los Angeles Times archives.

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