After a protracted debate the Los Angeles City Council yesterday voted unanimously to ban all medical marijuana dispensaries in the city.
The vote was originally 13-1 with Councilman Paul Koretz dissenting, KPCC reports, but he apparently gave in and flipped his vote to allow the paperwork to get to the mayor’s desk sooner.
Since California first voted to legalize medical marijuana in 1996, Los Angeles has become something like the Amsterdam of the U.S.—medical pot has been a calling card for the city and has made it millions in tax revenue. All 762 registered dispensaries are now scheduled to receive shut-down notices within the 30 days, and the city will work to shut down the additional 100 to 200 unregistered dispensaries believed to be operating within the city.
State-level marijuana legalization has always been a legal mess. Two years ago Los Angeles passed a partial ban on dispensaries. Recently an appeals court struck down the ruling, saying state law trumped city law, but Los Angeles city officials disagree, saying federal law trumps California state law, and federal law is on their side. The federal government agrees apparently, having escalated its own operations to shut down California dispensaries in recent years despite state law.
The whole thing is a tangle of one-upmanship, and which government strata even has the authority to make the law seems up for debate.
Even more confusing, the Los Angeles ban enacted yesterday contains a provision to at some point down the road revisit the idea of allowing 180 pot dispensaries that were operating before 2007 to reopen. The ban also still allows hospice and medical care agencies to prescribe pot to patients.
Part of the argument for banning the dispensaries was the claim that crime has increased in the areas immediately surrounding the dispensaries. AP reports that people making this argument were “a priest, drug counselors and others.”