City Council Panels OK Medical Marijuana Sales In L.A.
Hundreds of pot dispensary supporters voiced their approval when two City
Council committees approved removing a ban on marijuana sales from a
proposed ordinance. (Photo by John Guenther.)
UPDATE: 1:30 p.m.
Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley told the L.A. Times that he will prosecute medical marijuana dispensaries even if the City Council passes an ordinance allowing them.
Cooley said the ordinance the public safety and planning committees approved yesterday goes against state law and existing state court decisions.
Using unusually harsh language, Cooley told the Times, "What the City Council is doing is beyond meaningless and irrelevant."
Original story appears below:
Going against the advice of the city attorney, two City Council panels Monday voted to allow the sale of medical marijuana at Los Angeles pot dispensaries.
In a combined meeting, the public safety and planning committees discussed a proposed ordinance drafted by City Attorney Carmen Trutanich, who is attempting to rein in the proliferation of dispensaries. Estimates of the number of dispensaries in L.A. range from several hundred to a thousand.
Under his version of the ordinance, dispensaries wouldn't be allowed to sell marijuana to cover the costs of running a collective. Primary caregivers and users may enter into a cooperative agreement to collectively grow marijuana. The caregivers may be paid, but the collectives may not.
But after almost four hours of public comment and debate Monday, the committees approved an amendment that would permit dispensaries to accept "cash contributions, reimbursements, and compensation." The dispensaries would still be required to operate as not-for-profit collectives.
Hundreds of people who packed the council chamber to oppose the proposed sales ban cheered after Councilman Paul Koretz summed up Monday's vote.
"I think we have to recognize that we're going against the city attorney's interpretation of state laws," said Koretz. "And probably no matter how we say it, we're going to have to put sales into this ordinance and take our chances."
The ordinance now moves to the full City Council for debate at a meeting on Wednesday.
Chief Deputy City Attorney William Carter said public opinion may favor sales at marijuana dispensaries but that doesn't mean the law allows it.
"The law may catch up someday," he said. "But until that time, we believe the collective model is the best model as per the law today."
Councilman Ed Reyes, who has been driving the creation of dispensary legislation for the past two years, released some pent up frustration with the city attorney's office.
"For two years, we have reached points of disagreement," Reyes said. "We have a hearing here on Monday. And again it's the same posturing that I've been enduring for the past two years in office and I find that very disconcerting."
After the meeting had adjourned, Oliver Summers of the Greater Los Angeles Collective Alliance expressed some hope for regulations more favorable to dispensaries.
"Today was a more hopeful situation," said Summers. "I'm 50 percent more positive than when I got here this morning."