Marijuana moratorium would be invalidated under ordinance
October 19, 2009
Rick Orlov, Los Angeles Daily NewsA day after a judge invalidated Los Angeles' ban on new medical marijuana collectives, City Attorney Carmen Trutanich unveiled a new ordinance that would better spell out how the facilities can operate and create safety standards for their product. Trutanich also vowed to continue a crackdown on illegal operators of dispensaries.
"If you are illegally selling marijuana or supplying it in the city of Los Angeles, you should get out of business," Trutanich warned. "I don't need a new ordinance to go after you."
On Monday, Superior Court Judge James C. Chalfant ruled that the city's decision to extend a temporary ban on new collectives violated state law. Although the case applied to only one clinic, officials said they believe the ban would not stand up if other lawsuits are filed.
Trutanich said the decision will not affect enforcement of existing city laws dealing with the clinics, but City Council members said they felt a need to get a new ordinance on the books quickly. The moratorium overturned by the judge had been intended as a temporary measure while city officials spent two years debating and drafting a permanent ordinance.
The new draft ordinance, the fourth considered by the City Council since 2008, is the toughest version brought before the panel and seeks to strictly control the dispensaries.
Under the measure, the shops would be open only from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., would be allowed to have only five pounds of marijuana on hand and no more than 100 plants. Also, all the marijuana provided must have been grown by the collective.
It also requires any dispensary not meeting the city guidelines to shut down immediately.
"As soon as we get this, I hope to get this on the council agenda and put on the books," Councilman Dennis Zine said, adding that he would ask that an urgency clause be placed on it to take effect as soon as it is signed by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. "We have waited too long already."
Kris Hermes, a spokesman for the pro-medical marijuana group Americans for Safe Access, said he hasn't seen the ordinance yet but hopes it will resolve the issue.
"Los Angeles has been grappling with this issue for a long time and we hope they aren't trying to use land use laws to ban the dispensaries altogether," Hermes said.
"We are willing to negotiate with the city on a compromise and, hopefully, patients will not be sold out with regulations that are too onerous to comply with."
Some officials estimate the city has some 800 medical marijuana facilities, most of which operated under an exception to the temporary moratorium of the last two years.
Trutanich said the ordinance deals with limitations on where the stores can be located, and contains a public safety element.
"We have got to make sure it is in the proper location and being done legally," Trutanich said. "The law spells out what a collective is and who can acquire it. It has to be a patient prescribed for medical marijuana or a caregiver."
Also, as he has argued frequently in recent weeks, there has to be some concern as to the quality of the marijuana.
"We have marijuana being sold out there with hundreds the times of allowable pesticides," Trutanich said. "When you go into a store and buy a can of peaches, you want to make sure it doesn't hurt you.
"Right now, the marijuana out there is not controlled. We don't know what's in it."