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Medical pot shops must post $350,000 to get injunction

A judge ruled in their favor last month, finding several parts of Los Angeles' ordinance unconstitutional. The injunction will take effect if they post the bond within 10 days.

January 11, 2011|By John Hoeffel, Los Angeles Times

The Los Angeles medical marijuana dispensaries that won an injunction blocking enforcement of key parts of the city's pot ordinance must post a nearly $350,000 bond within 10 days for the court order to take effect, a judge ruled Monday.

David Welch, an attorney who represents many dispensaries, said he was confident the bond would be posted. "It's a sizable bond, but it's not insurmountable," he said. "It's our intent to go forward."

Almost 50 dispensaries and operators asked for the injunction, which Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Anthony J. Mohr issued last month. Mohr ruled that several parts of the law are unconstitutional, including the complex process the city intended to use to decide which dispensaries would be allowed.

City lawyers are now working with the City Council to develop an alternative method for culling the number of dispensaries, but also plan to appeal Mohr's ruling.

Lawyers for the dispensaries had urged the judge at a hearing Friday to set no bond, saying the city would not suffer any harm from the injunction. But the city's attorneys pressed for a $1-million bond, saying that closed pot stores are now returning to business and new ones are popping up.

"Dispensaries are opening with abandon," said Jane Usher, a special assistant city attorney. "I can tell you from the volume and intensity of the phone calls that we're receiving and e-mails from the neighborhoods that the court has far underestimated the damage."

The judge set the bond at $348,102.30, based partly on the city's estimates of the cost of police investigations and attorneys' fees. He indicated that he would consider increasing the amount if the city can show that his injunction led to higher costs, or if more plaintiffs are added.

Attorneys for the dispensaries differed over how easy it would be to come up with the bond money. They had pressed the judge Friday and in letters sent Monday to set separate bonds for each plaintiff, but Mohr sided with city attorneys and ordered a single bond.

Stewart Richlin, who represents eight dispensaries, likened it to splitting up a bar tab. "It's going to be tricky, and it might be the death knell of the injunction as it is," he said. But he said that even without an injunction in place, the city would still be stuck with Mohr's conclusions. "They can enforce their unconstitutional ordinance, but what luck will they have in front of any judge doing so?" he asked.

john.hoeffel@latimes.com

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