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169 seek to run medical marijuana establishments in L.A.

June 14, 2010 |  6:13 pm

When the deadline passed Monday afternoon, Los Angeles city officials counted 169 notifications from people who intend to continue running medical marijuana dispensaries.

Dispensary operators crowded the city clerk’s office to beat the 4 p.m. deadline that ended the weeklong notification period. Burdened by the paperwork-intensive process, relieved staffers cheered when the last form was filled out.

“The majority came in on the Mondays and then it was steady in between,” said Holly L. Wolcott, the executive officer for the city clerk. The ordinance, which took effect June 7, limits dispensaries to those that had registered by Nov. 13, 2007, have the same operator and have moved no more than once.

Those dispensaries have six months to comply with the ordinance, which puts tight restrictions on their locations. City officials, conducting an informal survey, estimated there were about 137.

The higher application number, at least in part, reflects competing claims filed for the same dispensaries. A few operators, who asked not to be identified, said some original operators who are no longer involved have tried to reassert control over the stores.

If the city succeeds in closing more than 400 other dispensaries, the remaining shops could be extremely lucrative. Wolcott said this is the main complication the clerk’s office discovered in the last week.

“We’re going to have to seek legal advice,” she said. The city attorney’s office, which drafted the ordinance, will probably become involved. “I’m sure we’ll do it as a collaborative thing,” said Jane Usher, a special assistant city attorney.

-- John Hoeffel at Los Angeles City Hall