L.A. Medical Pot Scene: Still the "Wild, Wild West" at Least 'Til Next Week


Attended an L.A. City Council meeting today in which it was rumored they would actually vote on a proposed ordinance to finalize a set regulatory structure for a situation that both enemies of medical pot and even many of its friends consider an out-of-control free-for-all of allegedly 800-1,000 medi-pot emporiums in the city. (The phrase "wild west" to apply to L.A. and its interestingly, and accidentally, free-wheeling regulatory approach, so far, to medical dispensaries becomes a tired cliche quickly when you listen to enough people complain about it.)

The whole story of L.A. and medical pot is long and complicated--and will be told at appropriate length in an upcoming Reason magazine feature--and for now it is continuing.

Today, after many hours of public comment and councilperson jousting with William Carter from the City Attorney's office--who says, although the councilpeople don't wanna hear it, that any sort of sale of pot in a medical dispensary is inherently illegal--the Council decided to put off a vote on the currently proposed ordinance.

They punted until at least early next week while they hash over various proposed amendments and try to get a consensus. Issues brought up by various councilpeople about ways they want to think about adjusting the ordinance include: figuring out ways to squeeze more money out of the dispensaries; how or whether to grandfather in the 186 dispensaries that already registered under a previous regulatory regime; demands regarding how much cash the dispensaries can have on hand; how accessible patient records will be to cops; and whether they will need to be 500 feet away from any other medical or pharmaceutical location.

It seems clear to me that the council intends to ignore the advice of their attorney and authorize sales in some respect, though not for profit sales. They also seem certain to cap the total number of legal dispensaries, though whether it will be approximately 70 (a number many of them liked, from a city planner) or as many as 400 (argued for by some medical pot activists) remains to be seen. Developing, as they say.

For some background on L.A. and its contentious relationship with medical pot, see Jacob Sullum from yesterday on the council's willingness to defy their city attorney, and on their D.A.'s concomitant willingness to defy them. See also me from my California news and politics blog "City of Angles" here (focused on the current legal wranglings) and here (explaining how a past attempt at a pot shop "moratorium" in fact more than tripled the number in operation in L.A.).