The crackdown on marijuana dispensaries in California reached a new level on Tuesday when the Los Angeles City Council voted unanimously to ban medical marijuana dispensaries in the city. There's still hope, though. Not all of the pot stores are closing.
The pressure on pot stores in California really started to grow in October. Long thought to be the state where everyone smoked, mostly because that's what TV shows like Entourage told us, federal officials decided to flex their muscles against a "marijuana industry" in California they deemed out of control. Just last week, prosecutors filed court papers to shut down a huge dispensary in Oakland that called itself the biggest in the world. It was not a mom'n'pop pot shop.
On Tuesday, L.A.'s City Council voted to ban pot dispensaries within city limits. There are currently 762 medical marijuana dispensaries in L.A., and technically under the ban they should be each receiving a letter telling them to shut down immediately or face the wrath of the city's lawyers. But the council decided to order an ordinance be drawn up to keep 170 of the original marijuana dispensaries open, so not all hope is lost for Californians. Somewhere, Turtle is quietly weeping.
There are worries the city might not be able to shut down so many pot stores. Councilman Jose Huizar said letting the 170 stores stay open leaves "false hope" for the rest of them. Get rid of them all, he says. Then there's Councilman Paul Koretz, who is just sad people can't buy weed anymore. "We have shut off almost every way that a normal person can get access to marijuana," he said. Poor normal people.
Whether the ban is even legal is a question the California courts have already tackled, to an extent. Earlier this month a California Appeals Court ruled an L.A. County ban on dispensaries wasn't legal because they couldn't overrule state law. The ban would have made dispensaries opened outside of incorporated cities illegal. Joe Elford, an attorney for pro-pot group Americans for Safe Access, was confident the court's decision would do away with bans in certain cities. "The court of appeal could not have been clearer in expressing that medical marijuana dispensaries are legal under state law, and that municipalities have no right to ban them," he said. "This landmark decision should have a considerable impact on how the California Supreme Court rules in the various dispensary cases it's currently reviewing."