Proposed pot ban is rejected
November 15, 2009
Rick Orlov, Los Angeles Daily NewsLikely delaying passage of a new medical marijuana ordinance, two City Council committees on Monday rejected the city attorney's call for an outright ban on over-the- counter cannibis sales. Members of the council's Public Safety and Planning and Land Use committees - clearly frustrated by the process - asked City Attorney Carmen Trutanich to review ordinances in other cities and come back with a revised ordinance when the full City Council meets Wednesday.
"What I have seen is we are going in circles and are not accomplishing a damned thing," Councilman Dennis Zine complained during the four-hour hearing.
"How can cities like West Hollywood and San Francisco and Oakland have guidelines for location and security and we can't? It seems like we are on a merry-go-round."
If the council does adopt an ordinance Wednesday, it would be the sixth version in four years.
Previous ordinances have failed to stop the proliferation of dispensaries - now estimated at 800 or more. Some are located near schools and residential neighborhoods and have become magnets for crime.
Councilman Bill Rosendahl said the city could drastically reduce the number of clinics if it follows the ordinance governing clinics in West Hollywood. That city allows a maximum of four clinics to serve its population of 39,000. With a population of 4 million and spread out over 498 square miles, Los Angeles would have about 400 under the same model.
"I'm not playing politics with this, nor should our city," Rosendahl said. "We should be responsible and get something on the books."
The draft ordinance presented Monday by the City Attorney's Office banned the cash sale of marijuana, a provision that would force many of city's dispensaries to close down immediately. Instead, the law would allow cooperatives that would supply medical marijuana to members, who would contribute services or work to become members.
The two committees amended that version to allow "transactions" among members, so that some could be paid for cultivating the drug for others.
The latest version still would prohibit the sale of marijuana for profit but would allow dispensaries to recoup "out-of-pocket costs of their collective cultivation."
Zine and Councilman Ed Reyes proposed that "cash contributions, reimbursements and compensations" be allowed, provided they comply with state law.
The committees heard from more than 70 people, nearly all opposing the city attorney's plan.
Don Duncan of Americans for Safe Access said the proposal was too limiting and went against the recommendations of an advisory group.
"We urge you to take more time and do this right," Duncan said, saying the city should not try to rush a revised ordinance through on Wednesday. "Taking one more week to get it right is not asking too much."
Voters approved Proposition 215 in 1996 to legalize medical marijuana, but there has been little agreement since about how to regulate dispensaries. Initially, only individuals were allowed to grow pot, but the law was amended in 2003 to allow collectives to grow the plants.
California Attorney General Jerry Brown has said medical marijuana outlets are supposed to operate as nonprofit groups, but few do.
Trutanich and District Attorney Steve Cooley have said most of the pot shops in the Los Angeles area are in violation of state law.