The Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office lists 128 criminal cases (pdf) it has filed against medical marijuana businesses for allegedly violating Proposition D (pdf), passed last year. Now it can add the city’s first cannabis farmers market to the list.
Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Joanne O’Donnell granted City Attorney Mike Feuer a temporary restraining order Tuesday, shutting down the California Heritage Market, which debuted in an East Side warehouse on Fourth of July weekend. The judge will hold a hearing on August 6 to decide whether to impose permanent restrictions on the operation run by the West Coast Collective.
Around 30 vendors selling more than 50 products attracted thousands of medical marijuana card-carrying patients who lined up around the block for three days, cutting out the middleman and dealing direct with the public. The results were cut-rate prices and very happy customers. The market was also open the following weekend and its operators expressed a desire to have regular daily hours.
Feuer called it a “public nuisance” and a violator of city land use laws, and said, “They couldn’t get a permit if they tried.”
The city attorney argued that the market violated the spirit and letter of the law, Prop. D, which limits the number of dispensaries in the city. He wants the place shut down, but for now has won restrictions limiting the site to a single vendor and its employees, like a typical dispensary that buys its products from multiple vendors.
David R. Welch, an attorney for the dispensary, also known as Progressive Horizons, told LA Weekly that all the vendors selling at the market technically worked for the collective and filled out IRS 1099 forms to that effect. “This is all one business,” he said. “Progressive Horizon maintains control and management over the farmers. I've gone through all the paperwork to make sure that each person is actually a member.”
The court order gives police and fire authorities access to the site and denies the operators permission to set up booths and advertise them.
The city shut down a number of dispensaries after the law passed and continues to joust with pot shops and their landlords. As of March, Feuer said his office had closed 100 shops and prosecuted more than 300 people.
No one knows how many dispensaries there are in the city, but estimates ranged from 700 to 1,000 last year. Prop. D aims to cap that at around 135. The law grandfathers in any shop opened before 2007, when the city tried and failed to establish a moratorium. West Coast Collective is one of the legal dispensaries.
Prop. D makes it clear that it is not meant to conflict with federal law, which bans the sale or possession marijuana for any purpose, recreational or medicinal. California legalized medical marijuana in 1996 and authorized non-profit cooperatives to sell medical marijuana in 2004.
That confusing legal morass is complicated by hundreds of localities passing their own laws, courts at the local, state and federal levels weighing in with their statutory interpretations, and law enforcement agencies adding their spin.