After struggling for years to regulate storefront pot shops, the Los Angeles City Council retreated Tuesday, voting to repeal the carefully crafted ban on medical marijuana dispensaries it approved a few months ago.
The move shows the political savvy of the increasingly organized and well-funded network of marijuana activists who sought to place a referendum overturning the ban on the March ballot, when the mayor and eight council seats will be up for grabs.
It also leaves Los Angeles, once again, without any law regulating an estimated 1,000 pot shops, which some describe as magnets for crime and others call a source of relief for those who are desperately ill.
The Times accepts the city's figures at face value and makes no mention of a recent UCLA report that says that actually there's less than half as many pot dispensaries in Los Angeles than what the city claims.
But even if there's one pot shop for every 3,800 residents of Los Angeles, City Council certainly knows full well there's a demand. One of their own members, Bill Rosendahl, depends on them:
The council's 11-2 vote came after an impassioned plea from Councilman Bill Rosendahl, a medical marijuana patient who is fighting a rare form of cancer. Looking gaunt and speaking in a faint voice, Rosendahl asked his colleagues how sick patients like him would be able to acquire the drug if the ban remained in place.
"Where does anybody go, even a councilman go, to get his medical marijuana?" he said.
Of course, the struggle is far from over. As Mike Riggs noted last week, the Drug Enforcement Administration just targeted another 71 medical marijuana dispensaries in Southern California for shut down. Indeed, City Council member Jose Huizar said outright that the federal raids will solve the regulation problem for them.
And then of course, there's the reminder that typically government officials believe that anything that is not authorized is forbidden and that anything that is authorized must be regulated so that it can be forbidden if need be:
Immediately after the vote, Councilman Mitchell Englander called on the city to prosecute medical marijuana businesses for violating zoning laws because they are not on the city's list of approved land uses.
That they're on the public's list of approved land uses is apparently not relevant to Englander.