Marijuana

Los Angeles Starts Forcing Marijuana Dispensaries Shut and Threatening Landlords

Measure D institutes medical marijuana protectionism for early shops.

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For those who suddenly come down with glaucoma while sitting in the car.
Credit: Fire Monkey Fish / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

Almost a year ago, Los Angeles residents approved Measure D, a ballot initiative to cap the number of medical marijuana dispensaries within the city and introduce a whole host of regulations. The cap was based on a cutoff date several years ago, so hundreds of dispensaries that opened after that date were retroactively made illegal and told to shut down. As I've pointed out, though the measure was sold as a way to halt an alleged glut of dispensaries, it's clearly a tactic to protected older, more established shops.

A year later, the city is now trying to enforce the ordinance and shut down dispensaries. City Attorney Mark Feuer announced this week that the city has managed to shut down more than 100 shops. How they're approaching the "problem" is likely to make your skin crawl. From the Los Angeles Times:

Feuer said he was now stepping up that work, hiring two new attorneys who would exclusively tackle prosecutions under Proposition D, the measure passed by voters last spring. Staffers are also focusing more attention on real estate professionals and landlords renting space to marijuana dispensaries, providing them with a new brochure that warns of steep fines and jail time for breaking the rules.

Wondering how the hell they can get away with that, I went back and looked through the full text (pdf) for Measure D. Sure enough, in the section outlawing the establishment of new medical marijuana dispensaries, it also includes a ban on "renting, leasing, or otherwise permitting a medical marijuana business to occupy or use a location, vehicle, or other mode of transportation."

Even with the closures, Feuer is still trying to stand against the tide. The Times notes that even after the passage of Proposition D, "more than 300 medical marijuana collectives have registered to pay business taxes, including nearly 200 with no previous record in the tax system, according to city finance officials."

To add to the absurdity of the city's attempt to manage this situation it has created, the city finance department is sending out registration certificates to these illegal businesses anyway if they apply.

However, the city attorney said there were no plans to ask the finance department to stop issuing those certificates to new dispensaries. Attorney David Welch, who represents a marijuana dispensary that is challenging its prosecution under the measure, argues that the city is "creating confusion."

The city "should take charge, determine who qualifies" and only allow those who do to get certificates, Welch said.

It's not clear in the story whether the city is collecting fees from these pot dispensaries applying for registration and then being told they cannot operate. The city's finance department has an online registration process that warns that some applying businesses may have to pay a registration fee, but it doesn't state which ones.

Los Angeles put together a list of the pot dispensaries that it believes qualify to remain under the new rules, but they're not even sure about that. The Times notes, "Officials previously released a list of more than 100 shops believed to have met some of the requirements, but Feuer has stressed that being on that list does not afford any legal protection."

To recap: The city of Los Angeles has a list of medical marijuana dispensaries it thinks may legally remain open but it's not sure, and it's accepting registration applications from medical marijuana dispensaries that it pretty much knows aren't legal to open. Thank heavens the city stepped in to "organize" the medical marijuana marketplace.