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L.A. notifies 141 medical marijuana dispensaries they must close immediately

The city attorney's office steps up its drive to close illegal pot shops, warning that violators may be sued and face financial penalties.

March 10, 2011|By John Hoeffel, Los Angeles Times

The Los Angeles city attorney's office has stepped up its drive to close illegal medical marijuana dispensaries, notifying operators and landlords of 141 pot shops that they must close immediately.

In a letter sent this week, the office targeted dispensaries that did not file applications to participate in a lottery to choose 100 that will operate in the city. The city clerk received 228 applications from dispensaries and is reviewing them to make sure they meet the qualifications for the drawing, which include having been in business since Sept. 14, 2007.

Asha Greenberg, the assistant city attorney who has overseen the enforcement efforts, warned in the letter that the city could sue violators and seek financial penalties, as well as pursue administrative actions "to discontinue the use and padlock the property."

"The next step for us is to wait and see if these places close, and if they don't close, LAPD will investigate them, and we will take legal action against the ones that remain," she said.

The move restarts a process that began 10 months ago when the city sent warning letters to 439 dispensaries. That effort was disrupted when scores of dispensaries sued to challenge the city's restrictive medical marijuana ordinance. A judge declared parts of the law unconstitutional in December and the City Council adopted a new ordinance in January.

Greenberg said the 141 dispensaries were identified from the earlier list.

"We basically whittled it down to these that are currently open and operating, which doesn't mean that there aren't more out there," she said. "We keep getting information that places have reopened or new ones have opened up."

john.hoeffel@latimes.com

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