Judge Rejects LA Ordinance Limiting Pot Dispensaries

December 09, 2010

, City News Service

A judge issued an injunction today blocking major portions of Los Angeles' medical marijuana ordinance, but a councilman vowed to enact "emergency legislation" that would prevent the ruling from opening the door to new dispensaries. The ordinance, which took effect in June, limited the number of dispensaries to the 187 that had registered with the city and opened before a 2007 moratorium.

It also prohibited new dispensaries from opening if any of them closed, with the goal of reducing the number of marijuana outlets in the city to 70.

However, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Anthony Mohr ruled today the city had improperly extended its moratorium, creating confusion over the deadline for dispensaries to register with the city and violating the rights of other dispensary operators.

Mohr said the city could amend the ordinance to make it enforceable, but issued an injunction blocking enforcement of the existing restriction on more dispensaries.

Mohr acknowledged his ruling could lead to a proliferation of dispensaries in the city.

Councilman Ed Reyes said he would meet with his City Council colleagues on Monday to discuss "emergency legislation" to stop new dispensaries from opening while the City Attorney's Office tweaks the ordinance to address the judge's concerns.

"I'll be working, along with my colleagues, to protect our city," said Reyes, who spent years working on the ordinance that was partially struck down.

"We're going to be considering emergency legislation, looking at different ways to implement any type of planning (and) police power tools we have, any type of enforcement tools that we have to make sure that the people who choose to abuse this environment will find that the city is going to protect our neighborhoods to the extent possible."

Mohr did not invalidate other parts of the ordinance that restricts where the dispensaries can be located.

The chief counsel for Americans for Safe Access, which supports medical marijuana, said he was "delighted by the ruling."

"The ruling states localities cannot ban medical marijuana dispensaries, or as the court puts it, regulate them out of existence," Joe Elford told City News Service.

"The decision also protects the privacy rights of medical marijuana patients by making it clear that law enforcement cannot simply by whim obtain patient records from dispensaries."

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