L.A. City Attorney is Shutting Down Medical Marijuana Dispensaries

On Friday, October 11, 2013, Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer announced that 38 medical marijuana dispensaries will be shut down following a voter-approved crackdown.

The dispensaries do not comply with Measure D, a municipal ballot measure passed this May that garnered 63 percent of the vote. Measure D restricts the number of dispensaries in the city to 135, a significant decrease from the estimated 1,000 nonprofit dispensaries in the city a few years ago. The measure also applies a tax of $60 for every $1,000 in sales, and restricts dispensaries from operating within 600 feet of a park, school, or child-care facility.

The city has struggled for a number of years to regulate the medical marijuana industry. In 2010 an ordinance to restrict the number of shops from about 1,000 to 70 was passed by the city council, but the ordinance was allowed to expire last year after a number of dispensaries filed lawsuits against the city. In 2012 the city approved a ban, but repealed it after enough signatures were gathered to get a measure repealing the ban on the ballot.

Since the Measure D regulations have come into effect on June 20th, over 40 medical marijuana clinics have voluntarily closed. Clinic property owners and operators face a $1,000 fine and six months in jail for each misdemeanor offense. As of October 2013, however, no landlords or dispensary operators have been fined or jailed. The City Attorney’s office sent about 850 letters to dispensaries believed to be still in business, a preliminary step that will likely lead to prosecutions.

“We’re going to see a major difference in the way that operators and property owners perceive the city,” said Attorney Feuer. “They are going to accurately perceive us as moving effectively and systematically to assure that the will of the voters is, in fact, effectuated.”

State and local laws that regulate dispensaries conflict with federal laws that classify marijuana as an illegal drug that cannot be sold, even for medicinal purposes. Feuer said that his office has been “in contact” with federal authorities, but did not specify if any coordination has taken place between agencies.

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