A Strip Club Is One Thing, but a Pharmacy Would Ruin the Neighborhood


On Tuesday the Los Angeles City Council finally passed its long-awaited ordinance regulating medical marijuana dispensaries. For something that was in the works for almost five years, it sounds like a surprisingly slapdash effort. In a city that has somewhere between 500 and 1,000 dispensaries (depending on whose estimate you accept), the new ordinance imposes a "cap" of 70, but not really: The Los Angeles Times notes that it "makes an exception for those that registered with the city clerk in 2007 [when the city imposed an unenforced and widely ignored moratorium] and remain in their original locations or moved just once," and "city officials believe there are about 150 such dispensaries."

Then again, the ordinance's highly restrictive location rules, which apply to existing as well as future operations, may ultimately determine the total number of dispensaries. They cannot be within 1,000 feet of each other or of various "sensitive uses," which include schools, parks, libraries, and places of worship. Worse, "in a last-minute addition, the City Council also restricted them from operating adjacent to or across a street or alley from residential properties." That requirement "eliminates most commercial streets, such as Melrose Avenue and Pico and Ventura boulevards, where alleys separate stores from homes." The upshot, according to dispensary operators, is that they will have few location options outside of industrial zones.

It seems the council members, like the legislators who decree drug-free, gun-free, and sex-offender-free zones, could not be bothered to consult a map and figure out the practical implications of these arbitrary rules. Not only are they inviting litigation; they are blithely interfering with the lives of patients who use marijuana to relieve the symptoms of serious illnesses (and who under the new ordinance will have to pick one dispensary and stick with it). Why should they have to trek out to an industrial area to get their medicine? For that matter, why should they have to wait until 10 a.m. or be deprived of a refill because they arrive after 8 p.m., just because those are the opening and closing times arbitrarily dictated by the city? The council would never dream of imposing such restrictions on pharmacies. For that matter, strip clubs and sex shops are more accessible than the dispensaries will be under these rules. Leaving aside the absurd conceit that the city council can somehow determine the "right" number of dispensaries, the burden on patients is hard to justify in light of state laws that recognize their right to use marijuana as a medicine. To the extent that neighbors have legitimate complaints about noise or other spillover effects from dispensaries, they can be addressed without this kind of hamhanded crackdown.

Meanwhile, City Attorney Carmen Trutanich continues to maintain that selling medical marijuana is illegal, which would make all of the dispensaries criminal enterprises. Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley takes a similar view and plans to keep prosecuting dispensary operators.

Brian Doherty noted the imminence of the ordinance last week.

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  1. Sounds like a scam to me.

  2. Fuck zoning laws.

  3. I appreciate the concern for sick people, but if we’ve come to the point in the medical marijuana debate where the big topic is the arbitrariness of zoning laws, doesn’t that mean we win?

    I mean, how realistic is it to expect marijuana dispensaries to be treated better than smut shops and titty bars?

    It’s not enough for the city council to endorse their existence, you want them to respect dispensaries in their heart of hearts too? Darryl Gates was knocking houses down to serve warrants with his own department tank less than 20 years ago…

    You’ve come a long way, baby!

    1. marijuana dispensaries are not smut shops. they give out medicine. A CVS is opening on the corner of a college campus in town. I see no reason why there can’t be a dispensary next to it, marijuana’s a lot less harmful than the drugs found in a standard pharmacy

      1. Okay… How ’bout liquor stores? Do you expect to be treated better than liquor stores?

        God knows the Conditional Use Permit process is a pain in the ass, but everybody else that needs a CUP is in the same boat. They’re approved by the Council (and supported or opposed by planning staff) on a case by case basis. Liquor licenses, stripper bars, porn shops, dog kennels, junk yards…

        The way CUPs are awarded or not is arbitrary! …for all that stuff. If marijuana dispensaries are being given a blanket rule, then they’re actually getting preferential treatment! And if they were being treated like everything else they’re ever likely to be compared to…that’s a victory, not a defeat!

        What’d you expect? The City of Los Angeles to suddenly give up on the whole concept of zoning?! I don’t like zoning either, but medical marijuana isn’t about being impervious to zoning.

        One of the decisions, I guess, counter-culture proponents have to make when they get to a certain critical mass, they have to decide not to be ridiculous if they’re going to become part of the prevailing culture. And expecting a city to end zoning (which probably represents a full third of what they do for a living) all because of someone’s pet issue? That’s ridiculous.

        We’ll see decriminalization before we seen an end to zoning. So why not focus on that?

        1. While you’re definitely right that zoning laws are never, ever going to go away, I feel like you’re arguing a point that’s not really relevant to the issue at hand.

          It’s obviously unreasonable to assume that a drug which has a rich history of propaganda, demonization and counter-culture worship to suddenly be allowed to flourish, regardless of the popularity said drug receives in the context of recreational or medicinal usage. And it’s absolutely a great step forward that we’ve gone from “are the feds going to bust us for medical marijuana?” to “where the hell am I going to put my pot shop?” However, the zoning laws they’re attempting to put in place are not only unreasonable but they also appear to straddle the fence of an irrational reaction.

          Every time this city counsel has brought up this ordinance, I hear the same thing: “people say crime is going up, people say the marijuana dispensaries are bringing in riff-raff, people say X, people say Y.” I have not once heard any hard evidence that has correlated a rise in crime with the intense surge of marijuana dispensaries. It’s all been heresy. I would love to be proven wrong and see the actual, factual statistics on the issue, but so far the city counsel and all the reporting which has surrounded this issue has failed to detail the hard facts that drive this.

          When this heresy is coupled with how the counsel is acting– reducing over 1000 to 70 is an extremely haphazard approach no matter what numbers your crunching, for example– it seems more likely that the counsel has an agenda to push in regards to their views on marijuana, whether publicly or privately expressed. The thing I feel most poignantly displays this is the fact that they do not want people to advertise the fact that marijuana is sold at a given location. Is it reasonable to ask that a liquor store not advertise that they sell liquor? Is it reasonable to ask that a strip bar not advertise that it is such? Is it reasonable, in fact, to ask -any- legal business– non-profit, not-for-profit, for-profit– to not advertise their wares whatsoever? This is not to say that a smut shop should be allowed to put massive tits and throbbing erections in their display windows, but so long as what they’re displaying is simply an advertisement of what is being sold– a textual representation that says “PORN HERE!” for example– is it fair to say that this business should not be allowed to advertise? Refusing to allow a business to advertise is a clear signal from a government entity that states “I don’t like what you’re doing, so I’m going to do everything in my power to reduce your ability to do what I don’t like.” I feel it’s unreasonable that we restrict cigarette companies as much as we do now, but I would never be caught smoking a cigarette.

          Look also at how they’re approaching the issue– the zoning is some of the strictest put in place comparatively to a lot of other businesses. In fact, it’s to the point where it will quite possibly drive out -even more- than just the 150 or so that will be allowed to operate. By these zoning laws, they will essentially be forced out of the public eye. Doesn’t that seem to jive with the lack of advertising that this seems to be more of a “NIMBY” issue than a criminal issue? The stringency by which the LA counsel has laid down the law for medical marijuana shops makes it obvious that they simply do not like that they exist.

          Our city attorneys have an agenda to push as well– they obviously have no interest in enforcing city or state law and rather have an interest in enforcing federal law. That is not their territory to fight.

          It is clear that the upper echelons of our city government are having an irrational panic over a drug that has gone from being a felony, to medication, to the possibility of outright legalization in the state of California. With the drum-beat of fear and panic our government has put on us with regards to this drug, it’s no wonder that they’re doing everything in their power to reduce the amount of marijuana in their city– it is simply a reaction of fear to what they have been taught for decades.

          The fact that they are clearly irrationally afraid does not make their actions right. The LA counsel should be taken to court over this matter. This is potentially a case of government oppression and as such should be fought vigorously.

  4. Meanwhile, City Attorney Carmen Trutanich continues to maintain that selling medical marijuana is illegal, which would make all of the dispensaries criminal enterprises. Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley takes a similar view and plans to keep prosecuting dispensary operators.

    Will they also prosecute the City Council for conspiracy, and “aiding and abetting”?

  5. Organic medicine, eh? S that’s what the cool kids are calling it now.

    And here I just got used to calling it “interstate commerce”.

  6. “places of worship”?

    For real? Why? Fuck that shit.

  7. Rood riddance

  8. “They cannot be within 1,000 feet of each other or of various “sensitive uses,” which include schools, parks, libraries, and places of worship. Worse, “in a last-minute addition, the City Council also restricted them from operating adjacent to or across a street or alley from residential properties.”

    As far as I know (except for the occasional church bake sale) you can’t get food at any of those locations. The real danger is the stampedes of people after treatment to the nearest Taco Bell – gangway, chalupa run!!!! (I always get two, so I can put the extra in my pocket – for the ladies)

  9. Well there is some honesty in there, they say “sensitive uses”, which is very much honest. People are certainly sensitive when it comes to anything remotely affecting kids.

    1. shut the fuck up about the god damn children, if you cant raise your child well enough then a fucking dispensary is the least of your concerns. people are fucking living a bubble wrapped fishbowl filled with packaging peanuts if they are sensative about protecting thier children from this, I hope everyones kids run away and turn tricks for RX pills at age 13 if they are worried about MMJ. i see your sensitivity and raise you a dose of reality. stop living in a world long forgotten and torn down by the vote of the people who are still in he majority.

      1. Looks like antimorality’s parents didn’t do too good a job, themselves. Angry, angry, nasty creature, this antimorality.

        1. buzzzzzzzz time is up, Grade , You FAIL , dumb fuck.
          I only reflect back the hate and anger back to the source.
          Your ignorance to the situation proves your lack of connection to your fellow human and each having rights which have been trampled on by the likes of you.
          BTW you wont know me nor anything about me or my parents but for sure your assertion falls far from the truth and only proves your ignorance.

      2. Actually I was saying (not clearly enough apparently) that there’s too much sensitivity when it comes to children.

      3. Win

  10. Maybe they’re just trying to be fair: they think these people should have to drive to the ghetto at 1 am to get their pot like everybody else.

  11. So all these “medical marijuana dispensaries” pop up all over the place, like so many Starbucks, over the last few years, and instead of being happy that at least some of them will continue to exist, people are now complaining that a lot of them will have to close. The Starbucks analogy is apt; if these were those ubiquitous coffee places, so many would be applauding the closings. But seriously: c’mon, folks, calling these places “medical marijuana dispensaries” is a joke. They’re stores where you can buy pot. The idea that so much of Los Angeles’s populace is suffering from illness that they truly need to get “medical marijuana” from a “dispensary” is laughable. I’m sure we all know a handful of people who just like to smoke weed, and they can always find a doctor to prescribe it for them. I’d guess of all these pot stores’ customers, maybe ten percent at the very most, have a legitimate medical need for it. So I don’t care how many they closel; the ones who really need it – not just ‘want’ it – can still get it. Hopefully much of all of this will matter less and less once they finally legalize it.

    1. I guess I’ve gotten used to people knocking the medical marijuana movement for being a back door attempt to legalize marijuana, but when I run across those people, it doesn’t usually seem to have occurred to them that…um…yeah, we know.

      I’m not a smoker, but the only reason I find the issue interesting enough to talk about and support is because I thought it was a back door attempt to legalize marijuana for recreational purposes. I think it’s doubly ridiculous that the feds are so loathe to allow testing–I suspect if broad clinical trials were conducted, marijuana wouldn’t be of much benefit for half the ailments it’s alleged to treat, at least compared to alternative treatments, but I don’t really care about the medical benefits of marijuana, other than as a back door attempt to legalize it for recreational purposes.

      So, anyway, yeah, I support letting people use it for recreational purposes, and I see medical use as a gateway to that. …but allowing its use for anything other than medical reasons or recreation, well that’s just crazy!

      1. If the Starbucks analogy is so apt, perhaps coffee shops should be subject to the same restrictions. After all, they’re just pushing an addictive drug. They’re even allowed to push their addictive drug onto children legally. The real solution is to standardize the zoning for anyone selling drugs: pharmacies, coffee shops, liquor stores and cannabis dispensaries. But that won’t happen because these zoning restrictions are really just a backdoor attempt to undo the medical marijuana law. You just have to read the statements made by the people involved to see that.

      2. Ken Schultz’s response is the best I’ve seen on here.

    2. And the ones that just want to smoke it can continue to buy it on the street fueling street crime. Vote to legalize, tax it, and be done with it. We should make money on this stuff instead of spending money to make it go away. It does less harm than liquor and how many stores sell that poisen around LA?

      1. wow compassion aside you lack what is by far more important , empathy , I hope you get into an accident and require a blood transfusion and later discover you got blood tainted with lyme disease. and when you can’t get any relief from RX meds that your DR says do you want to try MMJ, you have to be carried by a smell homeless man whome you pay to spoon feed you applesauce into your withering body due to no medical coverage for the illness. Fucking cunt

        1. You begin with “wow compassion aside you lack what is by far more important , empathy” and then you go on to wish illness (me? another poster?) some terrible harm. It would seem you, my friend, are the fucking cunt. =)

  12. My pet hate is people smoking dope in public. If having a “dispensary” encourages this then good on the neighbours for getting rid of it.

    First person to give a “compassion for the ill” argument gets a wanker of the day award.

    1. Gotta love you people and your opinions based on… air. ” ten percent at the very most, have a legitimate medical need for it”? Starbucks? smoking in public? Have you actually sat outside a dispensary and observed this? Oh well, you know what they say about opinions.

      1. Did you see the “if” I started the sentence with? If people smoke in the dispensary or at home then I couldn’t care less.

      2. Naw, GWB, I stand by my asshole-stinking opinion. I don’t doubt there are many people who live in Los Angeles who have a legitimate medical need for marijuana. I’d just be very surprised if the demand is so strong that we need so many pot stores. I’m curious who my comments pissed off more – the legitimate medical-need users, or the “my friend got me hooked up with a doctor who will write you a prescription for anything” crowd. I can see how my argument would piss off both. But as I believe there to be a lot more of the latter, I’m guessing that’s who’s more annoyed.

  13. Do you think that the prop 8 crowd will let this happen without a fight? If it passes, they will immediately challenge it. Keep this conversation going at

  14. I’ll try to approach this a different way.

    This action in Los Angeles benefits many groups.

    Teenagers in Los Angeles often find themselves without work. There are few after school jobs and often no lawns to mow on weekends. From 13-18, kids are going to need many expensive pairs of shoes, hats, and cellular phones. With the legal dispensaries scaled back leaving the remaining ones with long lines, corner kids can make money again.

    There are many old folks whose bottom line is hurting from the proliferation of dispensaries. Most live on a fixed income of corner kid tribute money. These seniors are very likely to invest in American banks to launder money for use by their relatives. With the dispensaries out of the way, cannabis sales extortion profits can pick back up for incarcerated gang leaders.

    The police are also happy about this for the same reasons as mentioned above. Everyone is happy… I don’t know why people complain about this.

  15. OK so they want to be picky. Well then the dispensary should just hire a cab driver and pay him per ride to go pick the customer and give the people door to door service. Is this illegal for the store to do? You wanted to help people with jobs so here is the first door to door delivery.

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