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Judge clears way for L.A. to begin marijuana dispensary crackdown [Updated]

June 4, 2010 | 10:46 am

A Los Angeles Superior Court judge Friday morning shot down a bid by medical marijuana patients to block the city's ordinance regulating dispensaries from taking effect Monday.

A group of 12 patients with illnesses ranging from anxiety and menopause to lupus and AIDS had sued the city and asked the judge to issue a temporary restraining order preventing the city from enforcing the ordinance, which is expected to shut down more than 400 dispensaries.

They contended the law would unconstitutionally bar patients' access to their medicine.

Judge James Chalfant said because more than 100 dispensaries will be allowed to remain open in the city, patients will continue to have access and there was no reason for him to issue an emergency order stopping the city.

"If the city can ban all dispensaries, which it can, this is not an issue," he said.

The decision clears the way for the city to begin its enforcement effort next week.

[Updated at 1:17 p.m.: Later in the morning, Chalfant also denied requests from lawyers representing dispensaries to stop the ordinance. The lawyers contended their clients’ rights as property owners and their due process rights would be violated once the city’s law took effect.

Chalfant did order attorneys on both sides to file additional papers on whether allowing certain dispensaries to remain open while closing others would be a violation of the equal protection clause of the California Constitution.]

The dispensaries are challenging the City Council’s decision to prohibit all pot shops except those that registered with the City Clerk by Nov. 13, 2007, a procedure that allowed 186 to legally operate despite a moratorium on new dispensaries. City officials believe that 137 are still open. Those dispensaries will have six months to come into compliance with the ordinance.

In an earlier decision, Chalfant ruled that the City Council failed to follow proper procedures when it extended its moratorium, and declared the ban illegal. Dispensaries that opened after the ban have cited his ruling in challenging the ordinance. Chalfant has expressed skepticism about the council’s use of the 2007 cutoff as a way to reduce the number of dispensaries.

-- Victoria Kim

More: Complete coverage of marijuana from the Times.