Councilman Jose Huizar: Marijuana Dispensary Ban Faces Los Angeles City Council Vote
November 22, 2011
Kathleen Miles, Huffington Post
Los Angeles Councilman Jose Huizar introduced a motion Wednesday to ban all marijuana dispensaries in the city.
Huizar told the Huffington Post that the city has failed to enforce its ordinance restricting dispensaries, resulting in a proliferation of "pot shops" operating without a permit or without following ordinance rules. Furthermore, Huizar pointed to the November District Court of Appeal "Pack" case in Long Beach, which ruled that Long Beach's marijuana dispensary ordinance was invalid because federal law considers cannabis an illegal drug. Huizar explained, "Because Long Beach's ordinance is very similar to LA's ordinance, the Long Beach ruling deems our ordinance unenforceable."
The dispensary ordinance that the city passed in January 2010 mandates how many dispensaries can exist; how far they should be from one another and "sensitive use" areas such as libraries and churches; safety measures such as money drop offs and security guards; and other restrictions. Huizar told HuffPost that the ordinance brought the number of dispensaries in Los Angeles from 800 to 300. He said, "I'm concerned that without an enforceable ordinance and with the thousands of dollars these dispensaries make, we will see pot shops pop up again everywhere if we do nothing. Neighborhoods are already complaining about nearby dispensaries, and it will only get worse."
Huizar's solution is to ban dispensaries until the California Supreme Court rules on the legality of the city's ordinance. "Assuming the Court takes up the ruling in January," Huizar stated, "It will take six months to two years for a ruling. We can't sit, wait and do nothing in the interim."
The Councilman was clear that he supports the state's Compassionate Use Act of 1996 (or Proposition 215), which ensures access to medical marijuana for patients who need it. "Once dispensaries are closed, patients will be able to cultivate their own marijuana or have a caregiver cultivate it," Huizar stated.
The measure, however, faces strong opposition from marijuana activists. Don Duncan, California director of Americans for Safe Access, called the proposal a "disaster," Patch North Hollywood reports. He told Patch, "It's a worst-case scenario. This is just going to force patients to buy medical cannabis from gangsters or other black-market sources." Referring to the council's previous protection of cannabis dispensaries, Duncan commented, "This seems like an about face and a betrayal."
The measure is expected to reach City Council for a vote within a month. As the Los Angeles Times reports, it is unclear if the council will approve the ban, since council members have generally supported dispensary-access to marijuana. If it does pass, the ban could go into affect in about two months.