Ordinance Approved; Illegal Weed Shops to Take a Hit

April 15, 2010

Christina Villacorte, NBC TV

The Los Angeles City Council approved Friday the final component of a medical marijuana ordinance that will enable authorities to start closing hundreds of illegal pot shops starting in early June. "I am pleased that this final action will give us the opportunity to begin implementing a medical marijuana ordinance in the city of Los Angeles that we believe is both prudent and fair," Councilman Ed Reyes told City News Service.

The council established the regulatory fees for the 187 or fewer medical marijuana dispensaries that will be allowed to keep operating, and added that component to the overarching ordinance approved in February.

Councilman Jose Huizar said Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is expected to sign the regulations into law on April 27. The ordinance will then be published for a 30-day period starting March 4 and take effect on June 4.

During the publication period, operators of pot shops that opened in spite of a council-imposed moratorium in 2007 will be sent cease-and-desist letters. Their operators will be directed to shut down before the ordinance takes effect.

"The Los Angeles Police Department and our city attorney is focused on this," Huizar said. "They're going to go after those who are not complying."

By some estimates, as many as 1,000 marijuana outlets are operating in and around Los Angeles.

Under the ordinance, if any of the 187 dispensaries now operating with the city's blessing goes out of business, a new one will not be allowed to replace it until the overall number is reduced to 70.

The ordinance requires that dispensaries be at least 1,000 feet away from schools, public parks, public libraries, religious institutions and other so-called "sensitive use" sites.

It also bars dispensaries from being "on a lot abutting, across the street or alley from, or having a common corner with a residentially zoned lot or a lot improved with residential use."

Medical marijuana advocates, who have complained that dispensaries would be effectively zoned out of existence, are expected to challenge the ordinance in court.

Kris Hermes with Americans for Safe Access said lawyers for the group would seek a temporary restraining order to prevent the ordinance from taking effect.

A coalition of pot shop operators led by Daniel Halbert of The Rainforest Collective in Mar Vista failed last month to gather enough voter signatures for a referendum on the ordinance.

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