The Planning and Land Use Management Committee of the Los Angeles City Council agreed Tuesday afternoon to a ban on medical marijuana shops, getting another step closer to the full City Council to consider a ban within the city limits. The plan would allow patients to grow their own pot or get it from a licensed caregiver.
The PLUM committee could have considered a less restrictive plan proposed by Paul Koretz, who represents parts of Studio City, but the committee instead approved of a full ban until a decision comes down from the California Supreme Court over pending lawsuits about the legal sale of the drug. A ruling by that court is not expected for at least a year.
Lisa Sarkin, chairperson of the Studio City Land Use Committee, which has an advisory commission hammering out an agreement between business people and medical marijuana shop owners, attended the meeting Tuesday.
Although Sarkin said she sees the need for the shops to help some people, she said the proliferation of shops in Studio City is “ridiculous and unnecessary.” There are 13 medical marijuana dispensaries along Ventura Boulevard.
“I spoke and recommended that they all be banned until they figure out how this whole thing can work,” Sarkin said. “It also bothered me about what police found in some of the other stores in other parts of the city.”
Council member Mitchell Englander talked about large amounts of cash (up to $60,000) and guns at some of the more than 60 shops that were closed in his district.
Sam Humeid, president and CEO of the in Studio City, pointed out the agreements being hammered out between medical marijuana shop owners, business owners and residents by the advisory committee of the Studio City Neighborhood Council’s Land Use committee. The full neighborhood council has yet to take a stand on the issue, but activists on both sides have been closely watching the plans that the committee is working on.
Jose Huizar moved to pass along the proposal and Englander seconded it. It passed unanimously.
The ordinance proposed by Huizar would allow mini-collectives of three or fewer patients to jointly grow their own marijuana at one location and would allow patients to transport cannabis.
Huizar and fellow committee members Ed Reyes and Mitch Englander also disapproved of a separate plan that would have the city refrain from prosecuting a set of about 100 dispensaries that follow strict restrictions on where they could operate, the hours they could be open, and requirements for tight security.
The committee, however, allowed the separate plan by Councilman Koretz to move forward, citing a request by other council members to hear both plans at the same time before the full city council.
City officials have been trying since 2007 to regulate dispensaries and limit their number to close to 100. Early attempts led to an explosion in the number of dispensaries trying to establish before the city placed a cap on the total number of pot shops.
The city's effort to allow some dispensaries was thwarted by a ruling last October by California's 2nd District Court of Appeal, which struck down attempts by Long Beach to require marijuana collectives to register with the city and pay fees.
The court ruled that cities may pass laws restricting the rights of pot shops to operate, but regulations affirming the right for dispensaries to exist violate federal law, under which marijuana is listed as an illegal drug banned for all purposes.
Huizar said his plan, dubbed a "gentle ban" by the City Attorney's Office, is necessary because of poorly written state laws that do not allow dispensaries and provide too broad of a description of who can qualify for a medical marijuana prescription.
"If you don't like the state law, let's change the state law," Huizar told the committee and an audience of about two dozen marijuana advocates.
Attorney Steven Lubell, who represents dispensaries in a lawsuit against the city, said he understands the growth of illegal pot shops is out of control, but disagreed that banning dispensaries is the way forward.
"You're cutting off access to the patients, which is against what Proposition 215 says," Lubell said. "Instead of totally banning and waiting for the supremes to rule, have some form of regulation that works in the interim."
Medical marijuana supporters told the council that growing medical-grade marijuana takes years of practice and expertise that average patients do not have.
The two competing plans will be heard by the public safety committee as early as Friday before heading to the full council.