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L.A. marijuana dispensary shutdown going smoothly -- so far

June 7, 2010 |  1:58 pm
Officials with the city attorney's office said they believe there will be "substantial compliance" with the ordinance that went into effect Monday shutting down more than 400 medical marijuana dispensaries that opened in Los Angeles over the last 2 1/2 years.

But despite those expectations, Assistant City Atty. Asha Greenberg said her office wouldn't rule out taking "enforcement action" against possible holdouts.

“I don’t think anyone should assume they can remain open and that the city is not going to take any action anytime soon," Greenberg said. "It's a definite possibility. Anyone who is not living in a cave [knows about the ordinance] because it's been so widely publicized."

City prosecutors have declined to detail specifics of their enforcement strategy, which will include reports from police officers, building inspectors and residents to identify possible violators. City prosecutors have set up an e-mail address for the public to report scofflaws: atty.medicalmarijuana@lacity.org.

Offenders face civil penalties of $2,500 a day and six months in jail. Dispensaries that registered with the city in 2007 will have until June 14 to file intent to comply with new location restrictions.

Click to see an interactive map of medical marijuana dispensaries in Los Angeles notified by the city to close. Signs posted on the doors of the city clerk's office Monday made it known that staff members were prepared for an onslaught of medical marijuana operators filing a notice of intent to register on the first available day.

But things seemed to run smoothly with only a handful of people in line by mid-morning and the entire process taking about 20 minutes. By noon Monday, about 50 people had been through the city clerk's office to submit paperwork of their intent to register.

"I thought it was going to be a little crazy," James Catipay, 33, said as he exited the office with his business partner Peter Tejera. The two operate Herbalcure in Los Angeles and although they have a week to file their paperwork, they wanted to do it as soon as possible.

"It demonstrates responsibility," said Tejera, a 41-year-old real estate consultant. 

Catipay and Tejera opened Herbalcure in 2007, wanting others to benefit from what they had used to relieve their own pain left by illnesses. Tejera found that cannabis relieved the pounding headaches that came after an aneurysm. Catipay, an attorney, used marijuana to address the breathing problems left by sarcoidosis.  

Both believe the city's regulation of marijuana collectives is a wise move.  

"There need to be guidelines," Tejera said. "The city has to get control of what's going on from a safety standpoint."

-- Corina Knoll, reporting from City Hall, and Andrew Blankstein

Photo: Mark Boster / L.A. Times

Map: Interactive map of medical marijuana dispensaries in Los Angeles notified by the city to close/LA Times