L.A. Clamps “Gentle Ban” on Pot Shops Days after Bay Area Supporters Vent at Obama

Wednesday, July 25, 2012
Dispensary in Los Angeles. (photo: Associated Press)

The day after medical marijuana supporters in the Bay Area—with President Barack Obama in San Francisco—expressed their frustration over a statewide crackdown by federal authorities on state-approved sale of the drug, the Los Angeles City Council voted unanimously to put pot shops out of business.

The 14-0 vote for a “gentle ban,” supported by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, could mean closure for the city’s 762 dispensaries by September. But, according to the ordinance, the drug could still be legally available to those can grow their own or participate in a group of three or less who are sharing their bounty. One dispensary owner estimated it would cost about $5,000 to do that successfully at home.

The ban culminated years of L.A. attempts to rein in a booming dispensary business through various limited means. Medical marijuana has been legal in California since 1996, and for years peacefully co-existed with federal law that still criminalized the drug. Efforts at municipal containment and control in 2007 and 2010 were largely ineffectual.

A federal crackdown, led by the U.S. Attorneys, began in earnest last October. It was about the same time the Disney Channel began airing “Weed Wars,” a reality-TV show about the nation’s largest dispensary, which the feds told last week they were closing. Hundreds of protesters, including medical marijuana advocates and patients, marched Monday in Oakland, where the dispensary is located, calling for the President to freeze federal actions against pot shops.

The White House and Attorney General Eric Holder have been relatively quiet on the issue even as each of the 11 states that have authorized legal dispensaries attempt to address it.

The conflict over medical marijuana extends beyond local v. state. v. nation. The courts at every level are hashing out cases streaming through the judiciary toward some sort of resolution from a higher source. At least two different state Courts of Appeals have reached different conclusions about the legality of dispensaries.

–Ken Broder


To Learn More:   

L.A. City Council Bans Medical Marijuana Dispensaries (by Kate Linthicum, Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles Council Bans Medical Marijuana Dispensaries (by Rory Carroll, The Guardian)

Oakland Protesters Call on Obama to Freeze Pot Clinic Crackdowns (by Lee Romney, Los Angeles Times)

LA Marijuana Dispensary Ban Approved by Council, Expected to Go Into Effect in 30 Days (by Kathleen Miles, Huffington Post)

State Lawmaker Vows to Push Ahead on Medical Marijuana Bill (by Michael J. Mishak, Los Angeles Times)

California Appeals Court Strikes Down Medical Marijuana Dispensary Bans (by Chris Roberts, SF Weekly)

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