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A dope scenario for L.A.'s medical-pot aficionados

July 24, 2012|By Dan Turner
  • Michael Oliveri, who has cerebral palsy, smokes medical marijuana before the start of a rally and news conference outside Los Angeles City Hall.
Michael Oliveri, who has cerebral palsy, smokes medical marijuana before… (Los Angeles Times )

My post Monday about L.A.'s effort to ban medical marijuana dispensaries prompted an interesting reply from Special Assistant City Atty. Jane Usher, who spelled out the city's legal justification for its ordinance -- and why the ban, despite my assertions to the contrary, would stand up in court.

Usher points out that there's a key difference between the city of Los Angeles' ban -- which the City Council is slated to vote on today -- and the one enacted earlier by the county of Los Angeles, which was overturned earlier this month by the 2nd District Court of Appeal.

The county's ban was total: It forbade all distribution of medical marijuana. L.A.'s ban would eliminate those storefront dispensaries whose green crosses or neon cannabis leaves grace mini-malls all over town, but would still allow collectives with three or fewer members to operate.

Usher cited another 2nd District opinion, written by Justice Douglas Sortino, that might keep the door open for the City Council's ban.

"Keep in mind that state law expressly delegates to local government the right to regulate the establishment, operation and location of collectives," Usher wrote. "The appellate justices are not of one mind on whether the regulation of 'establishment' includes the right to completely ban all collectives, but Judge Sortino confirmed that this right is not violated by limiting collectives to three or fewer members. The county did not benefit from this type of line drawing because it banned all distribution, even by a collective of any size."

PHOTOS: L.A.'s marijuana dispensaries by type

Does this mean that if the city proceeds with its pot-shop ban today, it will hold up in court? With all the apparent disagreement among judges, there's no telling. But I suspect this is a battle that, if left to the courts, will take years to decide -- during which L.A. medical-pot aficionados will still be free to pick up a six-pack of bud at their corner herbarium.

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