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L.A. medical marijuana ordinance upheld by judge

October 14, 2011 |  6:56 pm

Photo: Wanda Smith, a diabetic with multiple medical issues, holds a protest sign in front of the courthouse on Ocean Blvd in Long Beach last month. Credit: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times
A local judge had upheld the controversial medical marijuana ordinance enacted by Los Angeles, denying motions from 29 medical marijuana dispensaries for a preliminary injunction.

The decision came after Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Anthony J. Mohr held a series of hearings over many months on a host of challenges raised by the collectives. It represents a major victory for the city attorney’s office, which has invested considerable time and expense in defending the city’s ordinance from a phalanx of lawyers working for dispensaries. 

“It has been a long wait but well worth it,” said Jane Usher, a special assistant city attorney. “It is absolutely gratifying to have the city’s ordinance validated.”

In his 26-page opinion, Mohr dispenses with all of the arguments raised by collectives, including that they have a vested right to continue operating in the city. Usher called this a key ruling for the city. “Had that argument prevailed, we would be addressing the claims of more than 200, perhaps as many as 500 collectives,” she said. “I never felt that argument had a shred of credibility.”

Aaron Lachant, a lawyer whose firm represents 21 of the dispensaries that asked for the preliminary injunction, said he was disappointed with Mohr’s decision. “We believe the ordinance poses a threat to patient safety,” he said. “We’re exploring our options to invalidate the city’s ordinance and one of those options does include an appeal.”

Despite Mohr’s decision, the City Council will start work next week on its third version of the ordinance. A state appellate court ruled earlier this month that cities cannot use lotteries to choose dispensaries because it puts them in the role of authorizing the distribution of a drug that is illegal under federal law.

The City Council had planned to hold a lottery to choose 100 dispensaries.

Usher said Mohr’s decision denying that the collectives have a vested right to operate will help shape the way the council approaches how to limit the number of dispensaries in the city.

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-- John Hoeffel

Photo: Wanda Smith, a diabetic with multiple medical issues, holds a protest sign in front of the courthouse on Ocean Boulevard in Long Beach last month. Credit: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times

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