400 Los Angeles marijuana shops closed, home delivery under fire

Rick Orlov, LA Daily News

City Attorney Mike Feuer Tuesday took stock of campaign to regulate medical marijuana, announcing that more than 400 dispensaries have been shuttered since limits on the clinics were approved last spring and that his office is taking aim at a medical marijuana home-delivery service run by smartphone app.

“The voters made clear with their approval of Proposition D that they wanted to strike a balance,” Feuer said. “Most everyone agrees that people who are sick with cancer or another serious illness should have access to medical marijuana.

“At the same time, they felt there were too many dispensaries — and there are too many, too close together and too close to sensitive sites like schools, playgrounds and child care centers.

“And we’re continuing with this effort to assertively enforce what the voters wanted at the time. We have moved to enjoin a clinic before it opened its doors, and we were able to enjoin a farmers’ market from opening.”

Since voters approved the measure in May 2013, Feuer said his office has worked to close about half of the city’s illegal clinics. About 135 shops would remain, though they would need to have pre-registered with the city. At one point, officials estimated there were anywhere from 800 to 1,000 pot shops in business.

“We are in close partnership with neighborhood councils, homeowners groups and the police at being apprised of closures and, in some cases, of the opening of new businesses. If a new business opens, we target them with the appropriate action,” Feuer said.

And that goes for non-brick-and-mortar businesses as well: Feuer has filed court papers to prevent L.A.-based Nestdrop LLC from operating a medical marijuana delivery service.

The company currently runs an alcohol delivery service and recently announced its intention to expand to pot. “As soon as we heard about their plans to deliver marijuana, we began preparing this complaint to block them,” Feuer said.

Nestdrop is the first of several firms seeking to home-deliver medical mari­juana, and Feuer is hoping the city action against Nestdrop will deter the other businesses. The complaint notes the delivery service is “a flagrant attempt” to get around the limits of Propo­sition D, which requires medical marijuana to be sold at a fixed location.

“As we’ve said from the beginning, Nestdrop is not a dispensary, collective, grower or even a delivery service,” the company said in a statement.

“Nestdrop is the technology platform that connects law-abiding medical marijuana patients with local dispensaries to receive the medication that they need in a safe and secure manner. Our goal is to make access to this legal medicine convenient for patients who truly need it — especially as many of these suffering patients may have limited mobility and may be unable to visit a dispensary unassisted.”

Kris Hermes, spokesman for Americans for Safe Access, echoed Nestdrop’s statement, calling Feuer’s filing a poor response to the issue. “He should be figuring out ways to improve access instead of figuring out how to shut down dispensaries,” Hermes said.

“Delivery services have developed because of local officials who are trying to shut down dispensaries. Also, delivery services are a way that people with mobility problems can get their medicine.”

But Feuer stressed that the service could be dangerous because of the unregulated quality and source of the marijuana, as well as the amount of cash that would be carried by drivers.

Prop. D was prompted by residents’ complaints of loitering and increased crime in the areas surrounding dispensaries.