L.A. warns pot dispensaries to close or pay fines, face jail time
August 14, 2012
The City Attorney's Office announced today it is warning all marijuana dispensaries in Los Angeles to close by Sept. 6, when a new ordinance goes into effect, or face court action and a $2,500 fine for every day they remain open after the deadline.
The office mailed letters to 1,046 suspected dispensary locations and to 728 landlords, warning they are also liable if dispensaries remain open beyond the deadline.
The City Council voted in July to ban storefront marijuana dispensaries, citing a lack of clarity on how the city can legally regulate the distribution of medical cannabis and the potential threat of federal legal action against the city.
The council's vote allows primary caregivers and patients to grow and transport marijuana. Under the new ordinance, two or three patients are allowed to collectively grow and share marijuana in homes or apartments, but not storefronts.
The letter from Chief Deputy City Attorney William Carter warns dispensaries that each day they remain open beyond that date is a separate violation of the law and a misdemeanor subject to a $1,000 fine and six months in jail.
In the letter, Carter recounted the city's attempts to regulate dispensaries in recent years and the dozens of lawsuits by marijuana collectives that followed.
"The city spent nine months in settlement discussions with the dispensary litigants and the court. We are not able to share the content of those confidential discussions, but we can tell you that we did not achieve settlement," Carter wrote.
"The unresolved and continuing legal impasse has been accompanied by a massive proliferation of unregulated dispensaries in the city, leaving the city with only one clear legal option -- to recognize compassionate access, but prohibit medical marijuana businesses within the city."
Medical marijuana supporters, led by Americans for Safe Access, have been collecting signatures in an effort to put a referendum on the March or June citywide election ballot to repeal the law. "The tens of thousands of patients harmed by this vote will not take it sitting down," Americans for Safe Access California Director Don Duncan said last month. "We will campaign forcefully to overturn this poor decision by the council."