LA Finally Votes (But It’s Not Yet Final)

January 20 – LA’s long-debated medical marijuana ordinance is likely to be approved on a final vote next Tuesday.

By an 11-3 preliminary vote, the Los Angeles City Council moved to adopt a medical marijuana ordinance requiring collectives to locate outside a 1000-foot buffer from sensitive use properties (schools, libraries, churches). Collectives can exist in residential areas unless they abut a residence.

View the ordinance (PDF)

Since the vote on first reading was not unanimous, a final vote (where only a majority is needed) will take place on Tuesday, January 26. A few minor motions will be referred to the Planning and Land Use Management (PLUM) Committee for future consideration and insertion into the ordinance, which will sunset in two years.

Asst. City Attorney Jane Usher stated that the ordinance would not take effect until the city council adopts and passes a “registration fee ordinance” for the collectives. She said that it could take weeks or months for that to happen. After that, various city agencies would determine which clubs are operating illegally, and move in nonviolent ways to shut them down.

Impassioned pleas went on all morning from activists asking the council to take a closer look at the measures they are trying to enforce, with one person calling it “an attempt to wipe us out.” Neighborhood council representatives, far outnumbered, were sandwiched between advocates and demanded the 1000-foot buffer.

Don Duncan of Americans for Safe Access called for a “good neighbor exemption” and others questioned testing requirements and threatened litigation. A young attorney mock-urged them to pass the ordinance so that she can make a name and a living filing a lawsuit.

Noting that the Assembly Public Safety Committee voted for the full legalization bill AB390, one commenter asked the council, “Come November, do you want to go the way of the dodo, or do you want to be part of the future and be reelected?

Although the ordinance caps the number of collectives at 70, exemptions are possible for the 137 clubs still remaining that opened under an earlier ordinance, and the city will have to review others on a case-by-case basis.

Bill Leahy, the general manager of The Pharmacy, one of the most established collectives, noted that LA has 15,000 liquor stores, plus 9,000 restaurants that offer beer, wine or more and 7,000 pharmacies. “We work very hard to be a part of the community,” he said, “Our model is good enough that last night I got a call from a Senator in another state saying it was the model he wanted for his state.”

James Shaw of the Union of Medical Marijuana Patients reminded members that the LAPD police chief just stated publicly that there is no spike in crime around patient associations. Dr. Carl Cruz, a pastor from Victory Outreach rehabilitation in the Valley warned that when he visited Australia after it legalized heroin, “The government created monster it couldn’t control.”

Westside Councilmember Bill Rosenthal called for more debate. “That is what Democracy is about is coming here and discussing the issues,” he said. “We need to keep it from getting back into the dark alleys. The laws have destroyed people’s lives and filled our prisons with drug offenders.

“My partner would not have lived the additional 8 years after he got AIDS without medical marijuana,” he added. “It’s been around for thousands of years, and anyone who thinks it’s the worst drug in the world is crazy,” he said to much applause.

Councilmember Cardenas asked whether the city could get in on the action: “Could we bankroll a facility like that?” He was told no, it would violate too many state and federal laws. Another councilman said “with a chuckle – we should put it at all the police stations.”

“I’m sorry I had the munchies,” said Councilmember Alarcon when he took the mike, only to be frustrated in his attempt to see a map of the city’s hospices. He was told it didn’t exist.

“I’m going to vote against it, it’s ridiculous,” said Rosendahl. “I never believed in 70, I thought it should be determined by situation, some hardship ones are fine and should be worked in, but I know I’m a vote of one.”

Immediately after the vote, it was announced that a tornado warning had been issued for South Los Angeles and extended to Downtown. The last time the Council tried to take a vote on the topic, an electrical black out prevented it.

Bruce Margolin, director of LA NORML, told the LA Weekly “he’ll probably end up in court to test the ordinance if any of his clients are shut down under the new law.”

“I’m going to challenge the ordinance as being unconstitutional” under state law, he said. “This law is going to force us back into the black market where we were before.”

If you missed yesterday’s LA City Council meeting the video is archived at – (click
on item #14 to jump directly to medical marijuana ordinance discussion)

Also see: Pot-Shop Advocates Likely To Sue City Over New Law
LA Weekly
January 19, 2010

LAPD chief: Pot clinics not plagued by crime
L.A. Daily News
January 16, 2010

LA DAZE: Los Angeles, with its long history of border wars over the cannabis plant, revisits its long-debated medical marijuana ordinance.
Cannabis Culture
January 11, 2010

L.A. City Council Once More Puts Off Medical Marijuana Ordinance Vote (Dec. 17, 2009)

Bruce Margolin: L.A. should move forward on medical marijuana clinics – not backward
L.A. Daily News
December 13, 2009

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