Los Angeles

Los Angeles Begins to Screw Up Enforce New Arbitrary Pot Dispensary Cap

Hundreds ordered to shut down


Los Angeles would much rather have its street gangs, it seems.
Credit: jondoeforty1 / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

In May, Los Angeles voters approved a measure that capped the number of medical marijuana dispensaries in the city to the 134 that had opened before 2007 and force the shut-down of the hundreds that followed.

Since then the city has released its list of authorized marijuana dispensaries and is now sending letters to all the others ordering them to close up shop or face arrest and possible criminal charges. Sandy Banks at the Los Angeles Times was on hand for a going-out-of-business sale at one dispensary:

Cannabis-laced brownies, chocolate bars and peanut butter cups were half-price. Sleep-inducing indica buds sold out quickly. And discounted sativa was moving well among patients whose medical needs must have called for a buzz.

I was on hand as Tampa Wellness packed up to shut down, disappointing customers who had trickled in last weekend from as far as Palmdale to get medical marijuana from this small dispensary in a Reseda strip mall.

The closure was sudden and not by choice. A note taped to the shop's blacked-out front window Sunday made that point: "Due to recent elections regarding E, D and F, Tampa Wellness has been forced to shut its doors by the city attorney. We have appreciated the support of our clients and look forward to new beginnings."

If the cap seems weirdly arbitrary, of course it is. Why should it matter when a pot dispensary opened to determine if it's legal? But those early shops are established enough to have employees start unionizing, and so they get special treatment. The protectionism of the new regulations is not referenced in Banks' column. Rather, as with most reporting, the entire conflict has been cast in terms of the evil demon known as "profit." Banks writes, "Los Angeles has a new crop of enlightened officials and support from an electorate that's sensitive to patients' needs, but sick of the proliferation of barely disguised drug dealing." Mind you, at the very beginning of her column she points out a person who drove 50 miles to get medical marijuana from Tampa Wellness, one of the dispensaries ordered to shut down. Nobody in Southern California actually needs to drive 50 miles just to score some weed. And, of course, there is absolutely no evidence to say these initial pot dispensaries are somehow automatically more patient-minded than newer shops. It's pure protectionism.

The city has already shown signs that its bureaucracy can't actually handle this – I'm not going to call it a "problem" because it assumes that one exists. Bluntly put, the city is probably going to screw it up anyway:

Assistant City Atty. Asha Greenberg called it a courtesy letter, notifying businesses that opened after 2007 that "the passage of Prop D [makes] their continued operation illegal."

Another collective owner, Frank Sheftel also got a letter, even though his cozy Toluca Lake Collective (TLC) in North Hollywood has been in business since 2006.

His shop, which has a food pantry and offers hospice care, wound up in the illegal group because of a paperwork glitch, Sheftel said. "One list says I'm [approved]; another list says I'm not."

Other dispensaries are simply going to ignore the letters, figuring the city probably isn't able to actually enforce the rules:

I spent Saturday driving around the west San Fernando Valley, stopping at every green cross I saw. At a few shops, employees told me the letters have scared their landlords into forcing them to move out. But others said they planned to stick around; they have seen these letters before.

"That's the problem," Sheftel said. "The city's never done anything. They just keep sending letters."

But now that the city has passed a ballot measure passed and the state Supreme Court has given municipalities clearance to regulate, there aren't any more questions about what the city can legally do. Even further, now that the city has formal regulations, no doubt the Drug Enforcement Agency will be more than happy to contribute their agents to step up the regular raids they've been doing all along.

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  1. OT: The Egyptian military attempt to depose Morsi in a coup d’etat, Egyptians celebrate in their traditional manner: brutal gang rapes of domestic and foreign women.

    1. Some Egypt blogging is apparently pending.

      1. At this point, I find it highly irresponsible for any news desk to assign a female reporter to cover any protest in Tahir Square. It might rankle with the Western sense of equality, but common sense is common sense.

        1. Of course, your attitude will be seen as ‘victim-blaming’. Which is responsible for ‘rape culture’ in the first place.

          1. You jest, but that was basically Mona Eltahawy’s response to her savage sexual assault in Tahir Square (i.e. I shouldn’t be to blame for exposing myself to the dangers of a frothing at the mouth mob. Blame the Jews.)

            1. I blame colonialism…I blame spying embassies….I blame the American driven faux Arab Spring.

              1. That’s a cop-out. The U.S. has interfered in Latin America for centuries, and yet women participating in the Brazillian World Cup Corruption protests aren’t taking their lives in their hands.

            2. citation?

              NB – I hate eltahaway for her anti-free speech activism.

        2. I agree

  2. I wonder if the dispensary my friend works at made it under the cap.

  3. Liquor stores have a set amount of licenses…so should mmj. Anyone who opened after Sept 2007 knew they were opening contrary to the law. Post-ico(rogue) dispensaries have ushered in a saturated market with junk product and have muddled up the MMJ vision. It is good the City respects the pre-icos as well as the majority.

    1. Less grow competition with more dispensary competition. Growers have less incentive to grow their best when they’re in a saturated market. Yet, at the same time, the competition is higher in regards to the appeal of the dispensary, i.e. ownership choices such as paying for expensive advertising. It is not just about the consumer paying as little as possible for a gram.

  4. Or, you know, just legalize it and stop the medical marijuana fan dance.

    1. Legalization sounds like a good idea, but when Billy Bob has his 3 year old injesting edibles, it doesn’t pan out. You are no Billy Bob, but picture all the Billy Bobs multiplied starting grows with no knowledge and burning down neighborhoods. Legalization is too willy nilly for Billy. Peace.

      1. Doesn’t seem to happen with liquor cabinets, except for the occasional taste tests by sneaky minors.

  5. In May, Los Angeles voters approved a measure that capped

    That’s all you need to know about your neighbors.

  6. Sounds as though LA is hoping to shutter enough dispensaries voluntarily to bludgeon those who remain. It’s like a reverse lemming effect: the few who remain stand the greatest risk of bearing the brunt of the city attorney’s wrath.

    1. Nope. The City is securing its tax revenue stream; why would they do that? Its the post icons who will be bludgeoned by shady vendors who want their money/product back.

      1. Why come down on them at all, then? Why not give dispensaries a relatively easy path to legitimacy with a low enough tax hurdle to make it attractive, and let the industry flourish?

        I realize I stopped talking about the California government at “give”.

        1. Equilibrium cannot exist with saturation.

          1. Neither “equilibrium” nor “saturation” are determinations the government or the voting public should be making. They’re nice terms to throw out when engaging in protectionist, anticompetitive policies, though. I’m sure the corner store by my house would feel the market would be saturated should a competitor move in a couple of storefronts down, too, and would stop it if it could.

            1. When normal commenters just aren’t doing the job, Shackford becomes Shaq-fu.

              1. Seems you haven’t done your job; where is your profound comment cheerleader?

            2. So you discount the voting process; you discount the voter? Who should make the determination? If the competition was voted against, there wouldn’t be a competitor to move in.

              1. The consumers make the determination. If they don’t buy the products or use the services, the business dies.

              2. So you discount the voting process; you discount the voter?

                Yes, just like Egypt is.

  7. Hmmm. If you build it they will come. It is determined by many factors, such that it is also up to the marketing and buying choices of the dispensary manager. However, in this particular legal environment and early stage, it is imperative to focus on equilibrium- not too many dispensaries-there may be future waves of dispensaries. In essence, it is not what the market bears, but what the voter bears.

    1. In essence, it is not what the market bears, but what the voter bears.

      Price, it’s not what you say it is, it’s what the market will bear.

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