Police officers were called into chambers of the Los Angeles City Council to calm the angry medical marijuana activists crying out after the council voted to close 762 marijuana dispensaries in the county, the Los Angeles Times reported.
LA City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to impose a ban all pot dispensaries. Soon all of the 762 dispensaries registered in the city will be sent letters ordering them to shut down immediately or face legal action from the city.
The new ordinance does however allow patients and caregiving the option of growing the pot in their own home and sharing it with three or fewer people.
But activists complain that few patients have the time or skills for that, with one dispensary owner saying it costs at least $5,000 to grow the plant at home.
The ban was proposed last November by Councilman Jose Huizar. Huizar was concerned that the city had failed to take action against dispensaries that violated restrictions. The concerns he addressed in front of the council included pot shops operating without permits and in forbidden areas near schools.
He argued in the debate preceding the vote that the current regulations haven’t worked to alleviate these fears. “We failed to [regulate] for the past five years.” Huizar said.
Although medical marijuana is still illegal under federal law, dispensaries have popped up around LA since California voters passed an initiative legalizing the drug in 1996. Since then, the shops have been a hot button issue for Californians.
As soon as the ban was passed, pro medical marijuana groups vowed they would not go quietly into the night. A director for one such group, Don Duncan said, “We’re not going to make this easy for the city of Los Angeles.” Duncan is the California director of Americans for Safe Access.
Jacob Sullum, senior editor at Reason magazine questions the legality of the ban considering it is in direct conflict with California’s 2nd District Court of Appeal. The court ruled earlier this month that L.A. County’s ordinance conflicted with state law, which allows local regulation of dispensaries but not complete bans.
Sullum writes, “Instead of reformulating its regulatory plan to comply with last year’s appeals court ruling, the city council opted for a ban that violates this month’s appeals court ruling.”
However the 4th District Court of Appeal has taking an opposing view of the 2nd District Court and has upheld bans in other parts of southern California. The California Supreme Court is reviewing the decisions of both appellate courts.
Despite the concerns over legality the ban appears to be on its way to taking effect.
LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa says he favors the ban and will sign it into law sometime next week. The law will go into effect 30 days after Villaraigosa signs it.
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