Los Angeles bans marijuana shops

Originally published in news 24

The Los Angeles City Council has voted to ban marijuana shops outright until it has clearer guidance from the state’s highest court, after being unable to rein in the hundreds of medical marijuana dispensaries that have cropped up across the nation’s second largest city.

Doctors For Life International (DFL), a Christian-based organisation which opposes lobbying by pro-marijuana (dagga) activists for the legalisation of the drug on medical grounds, broadcast a special alert today notifying its susbcribers of the development in LA. The decriminalisation of marijuana in certain US states is often cited by pro-marijuana activists in support of their arguments. But DFL says dagga is medically harmful.

The 13-1 vote in Los Angeles drew an angry, profanity-laced response from some medical marijuana advocates who attended the council meeting. If approved by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, the storefront ban would go into effect after 30 days. In the interim, letters will be sent to as many as 900 dispensaries advising them of the ban. The city has fumbled with its medical marijuana laws for years, trying to provide access to the drug for so-called ‘marijuana patients’ while addressing worries by neighborhood groups that streets were being overrun by dispensaries and marijuana users.

Although marijuana is illegal in the USA, California became the first of about 15 states to decriminalise the use of marijuana in 1996 for medicinal use, with a doctor’s recommendation. Therefore, by banning marijuana dispensaries, Los Angeles is setting a precedent. Many cities have struggled with medical marijuana ordinances, but none has had a bigger problem than Los Angeles, where pot shops have proliferated. At one point, the city ordered closure of the shops — a process that failed amid lawsuits and conflicting rulings by appellate courts. The state Supreme Court has decided to clarify marijuana’s hazy legal status by addressing whether local governments can ban medical marijuana clinics but a hearing has yet to be set by the high court.

“We need to start with a clean slate,” Councilman Mitchell Englander said before the vote. “Los Angeles has experimented with marijuana and has failed.” At least 178 California cities from Calistoga to Camarillo and 20 counties already have banned retail marijuana shops, according to the medical marijuana advocacy group Americans for Safe Access. Reflecting the murky language of the state’s medical marijuana laws, a handful of dispensaries have successfully challenged such local prohibitions in court along with laws that merely sought to regulate dispensaries.

Most recently, an appeals court in Southern California struck down Los Angeles County’s 2-year-old ban on dispensaries, ruling that state law allows co-operatives and collectives to grow, store and distribute marijuana. But in a separate case, an appeals court said federal law pre-empts local municipalities from allowing pot clinics. The hearing came a day after a priest, drug counselors and others decried crime and other social problems they say surround neighborhood marijuana dispensaries. Among those who spoke at that gathering was a woman who complained about having to push her baby’s stroller through clouds of marijuana smoke near dispensaries in her East Hollywood neighborhood.


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