With its medical marijuana ordinance snared in prolonged court proceedings, the Los Angeles City Council is moving to extend the amount of time dispensaries will have to comply with it and to change a controversial provision that would have required all but 41 to close down.
Since the city realized that hundreds of dispensaries had opened despite a moratorium adopted in 2007, it has struggled to regain control. Scores of dispensaries have sued to invalidate the ordinance, and a Superior Court judge is expected to issue a ruling early next month on many of their claims.
The ordinance required medical marijuana dispensaries approved by the city to adhere to its provisions within 180 days after it became law, which is Dec. 4. But city officials still have not determined which dispensaries will be allowed to remain open.
Councilman Paul Koretz recently introduced a motion to extend the deadline by 90 days, but aims to amend it to 180 days. "I think this is pretty much the consensus at this point," he said.
Last week, a dispensary asked the judge to block enforcement of the deadline. "Resolving the issue legislatively makes a lot of sense," said Gary Hiller, an attorney with Fenton Nelson, which represents about 30 dispensaries and filed a motion for a preliminary injunction.
It's unclear when the council will consider the extension, but on Wednesday it will take up another motion Koretz introduced to change a provision that led the city clerk to disqualify most of the dispensaries that filed applications to remain in business.
Only those dispensaries that registered with the city under the moratorium were allowed to apply, and 169 did. But the city clerk's office eliminated most of them, in many cases because they failed to comply with a requirement that their ownership and management must not have changed. That left 41 dispensaries.
"I think that's because it's an overly aggressive misinterpretation of the council's intent," Koretz said.
On Friday, the council approved Koretz's motion to ask the city attorney to draft new language so dispensaries could qualify if at least one owner was the same as in 2007. The councilman said he thought that would allow at least 80 to 90 dispensaries to apply to stay open.
"Still not all of them," he said, "but a more reasonable number."
Under the ordinance, dispensaries must follow many new regulations, such as being at least 1,000 feet from schools, parks and other places where children congregate. The delay in determining which dispensaries will be allowed has caused headaches for operators trying to find new locations.
"We're all waiting," said Yamileth Bolanos, who operates a collective and is president of the Greater Los Angeles Collectives Alliance. "It's so frustrating for all of us."