In the latest attempt to regulate what many say is an out-of-control proliferation of medical marijuana dispensaries in Los Angeles, the City Counted voted 14-0 Tuesday to ban pot shops.
Under the ban, each of the 762 dispensaries that have registered with the city will be sent a letter ordering them to shut down immediately. Those that don’t comply may face legal action from the city.
Medical marijuana activists who had packed the council chambers jeered when the vote came down. More than a dozen Los Angeles Police Department officers were called in to quell them.
Under the ban, medical patients and their caregivers will be able to grow and share the drug in small groups of three people or less.
But the activists say most patients don’t have the time or skills to cultivate marijuana. One dispensary owner told the council that it would cost patients a minimum of $5,000 to grow marijuana at home.
In a seemingly contradictory move, the council also voted to instruct city staff to draw up an ordinance that would allow a group of about 170 dispensaries that registered with the city several years ago to remain open.
Councilman Jose Huizar, who voted against that motion, said it might give the public “false hope” that the ban wound not be enforced.
He said the ban would be enforced, especially against problem dispensaries that have drawn complaints from neighbors. “Relief is on its way,” he said.
But he acknowledged that the city may not have the resources to shut down every dispensary in the city.
Councilman Paul Koretz, who initially voted against the ban, and who supported the motion to allow the oldest dispensaries to stay open, said he hoped the city would come up with a more compassionate law in the future. “We have shut off almost every way that a normal person can get access to marijuana,” he said. “It will be a ban until otherwise noted,” he said.