City Council Extends Compliance Deadline for Medical Marijuana Facilities

November 16, 2010

Ajay Singh, Eagle Rock Patch

The Los Angeles City Council approved an amendment to an interim ordinance on the regulation of medical marijuana, effectively giving marijuana dispensaries six more months to comply with a set of regulations aimed at capping the number of such facilities in Los Angeles at 70. The amendment, which was approved by an 8-3 vote, will return to the City Council next week for a final vote before it becomes law. Among those who voted for the amendment was Los Angeles District 14 Councilmember José Huizar, who helped introduce the November 2007 ordinance. Huizar has publicly stated his resolve to shut down medical marijuana facilities operating illegally in Eagle Rock, where, according to him, a disproportionately high number of medical marijuana facilities are based, about half of them illegally.

The amendment has three key components. First, it seeks to give medical marijuana dispensaries an additional six months—beyond the original Dec. 4 deadline— to be on the right side of the law. Second, the amendment clarifies that all employees of any given dispensary—not just the owner or manager—shall be responsible for complying with the law.

And finally, the amendment allows medical marijuana facilities to remain open if they either have the same ownership or management that was in place in November 2007, the cut-off date to register the dispensaries with the city and the state, or if the facilities were registered as a California nonprofit corporation before November 2007, according to a report issued by the Los Angeles City Attorney.

The failure to prove the continuity of a dispensary's ownership or management was one of the major reasons why many marijuana facilities were disqualified or shut down after the interim ordinance was introduced in January 2010. In August, the Los Angeles City Council's clerk devised a number of ways for facilities to establish their proprietary and managerial continuity, including original documents filed with the city clerk before the 2007 ordinance.

"They disqualified the dispensaries but they never really closed them down because I think they realized the process was a little odd," said Don Duncan, California director of Americans For Safe Access, an Oakland-based medical marijuana research advocacy group. Duncan was among about two-dozen supporters and patients of medical marijuana who were present in City Hall during the vote.

Wednesday's vote came a day after the City Council approved a measure to tax medical marijuana facilities. However, four council members, including Huizar, voted against the measure. That's not surprising, given that Huizar has said that the  ordinance he helped create does not allow for the sale of marijuana—only for its tightly controlled distribution by a collective or for the direct cultivation of marijuana by patients.

Huizar didn't seem too worried about the Nov. 17 vote to give marijuana dispensaries more time to comply with the law. "It's not going to impact on legislation," he told Eagle Rock Patch shortly after the vote. "It's just helping us clarify the legislation—and that happens with every legislation."

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