LOS ANGELES (CNS) – Activists trying to overturn a ban on medical
marijuana storefront dispensaries in Los Angeles before it even takes effect
plan to submit petitions signed by some 50,000 people to the City Clerk’s
A minimum of 27,425 signatures — far less than the activists say they
have collected — is required for a referendum on the ban to be held next
March. But in the near term, the petitions, if valid, will have the effect of
preventing the implementation of the recently approved ordinance that provides
for the ban. That ordinance is scheduled to go into effect a week from today.
Once the petitions are submitted, the City Clerk’s Office will verify
the signatures by comparing them to lists of registered voters. If placed on
the ballot in March, the referendum on the ban will take place at the same time
as the mayoral primary election.
The City Council also has the option of rescinding the ban instead of
scheduling a referendum.
Councilman Jose Huizar, who champions the ban, said the submission of
valid signatures does not necessarily mean storefront medical marijuana shops
will be spared legal action, even though the ordinance that provides for the
storefront ban would be put on hold.
According to Huizar, filing petition signatures means the city’s
“Sunset Clause” will kick in, “which outlaws storefront dispensaries and
only allows, per state law, for a qualified patient or their caregiver to grow
their own or collectives consisting of three or fewer qualified patients or
Officials in the office of City Attorney Carmen Trutanich have advanced
similar opinions about the city’s options, but medical marijuana advocates
“State law is clear — selling medical marijuana for profit is
illegal,” Huizar said. The referendum effort “does not change that and
doesn’t protect dispensary owners from prosecution if they engage in illegal
The City Council voted last month to ban the dispensaries, citing
conflicting court opinions about whether the city can legally regulate cannabis
collectives. While banning storefront dispensaries, the city’s action would
allow licensed patients or caregivers to grow and transport their own medical
After the vote, the City Attorney’s Office sent letters to 1,046
suspected dispensary locations warning them to shut down by Sept. 6 or face
court action and a $2,500 fine for every day they remain open past the
Don Duncan, state director for the medical-marijuana-advocacy group
Americans for Safe Access, said the city should back away from efforts to crack
down on dispensaries while the referendum is pending.
“Because of the ban’s questionable future, the city ought to reconsider
its tough stance on enforcing the ban,” he said, pointing to a recent
decision by the city to work with the District Attorney’s Office and federal
Drug Enforcement Administration to enforce the city’s law.
Councilman Paul Koretz, an ally of the medical marijuana community, has
advocated allowing 100 or so of the city’s oldest dispensaries to remain open.
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