Group sues Los Angeles to block medical marijuana shop ban

August 16, 2012

Alice Walton, KPCC

An alliance of medical marijuana collective owners, vendors and patients sued the city of Los Angeles Friday to block the implementation of a ban on pot shops.

The lawsuit from the Patient Care Alliance-Los Angeles seeks an injunction against the ban, which is scheduled to take effect on Sept. 6. The plaintiffs argue that the city will deny patients access to badly needed medicine and put an entire industry out of business. 

“We’re going to knock the snot off the city council,” said Marc O’Hara, executive director of the Patient Care Alliance.

Attorneys for the Patient Care Alliance argue that patients have a right to associate with one another for the purpose of cultivating and distributing medical marijuana. City officials are also accused of acting “arbitrarily and capriciously in regulating land use and business,” according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit, filed in L.A. County Superior Court, seeks a temporary restraining order and injunction against the ban, though it is unlikely that a ruling will be in place before the ban becomes law.

Last month, the Los Angeles City Council unanimously agreed to shut down hundreds of storefront clinics selling medical marijuana. The ban would allow collectives of no more than three patients or caregivers to grow their own medical marijuana.  

According to the lawsuit, however, allowing three-person collectives is virtually the same as a complete ban. Most people lack the sophisticated skills needed to grow marijuana, said attorney Arthur D. Hodge.  

“It’s physically impractical and tantamount to a total ban to suggest that three seriously ill medical patients can, in their own residence, successfully – alone, without any help – grow medical-grade marijuana,” Hodge said.

“If they could do that, they wouldn’t be buying it.”

Earlier this week, the City Attorney’s Office sent letters to collective owners ordering them to shut their doors next month. Clinic owners who do not comply could be fined $2,500 per day. Employees, volunteers and landlords could face six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Los Angeles City Councilman Jose Huizar was the author of the ban. He believes the law is legally defensible. 

"The Second Appellate Court already upheld the city's Sunset Clause last month from our original ordinance. The court said the city of Los Angeles does not have a ban since our Sunset Clause (and subsequently our Gentle Ban) allows for three qualified patients or their caregivers to grow on their own," Huizar said. "And in fact, our Gentle Ban allows for more access (through clinics and care facilities) than the Sunset Clause. We feel confidant that the court will once again rule in our favor."

At the same time, Americans for Safe Access and the Greater Los Angeles Collectives Alliance are collecting signatures for a referendum to overturn the ban.  

Medical marijuana lawsuit

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