The City Council's Public Safety Committee on Friday advanced two competing plans over how to regulate the distribution of medical marijuana to the full City Council, which will have the final say on the issue.
The committee debated the two plans and voted 3-1 in favor of a proposal
by Councilman Jose Huizar that would ban all dispensaries in the city, but
It would also allow mini-collectives of three or fewer people to jointly grow
and share marijuana.
The committee also voted 3-1 to advance, without support, a plan by
Councilman Paul Koretz to shut down most dispensaries, but provide immunity for an estimated 100 dispensaries that existed prior to 2007 and that abide by a
strict set of regulations on location, hours of operation and security
The advancement of both proposals set up what is expected to be a
dramatic final hearing and debate by a divided City Council, after five years
of attempting to regulate medical marijuana distribution in the city.
Councilman Dennis Zine voted against both proposals during the committee
meeting, which was held in Van Nuys.
Recent court cases have called into question the ability of municipalities to regulate dispensaries. . The California Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case.
Public Safety Committee Chairman Councilman Mitchell Englander cited
crime as a main reason for supporting a ban on dispensaries. He narrated a
litany of serious crimes committed at or near dispensaries, including murder,
rape, robbery and assaults.
"It's not about the few bad apples that have spoiled it ... it's about
the many that have spoiled it for the few (good apples),'' Englander said.
Councilman Paul Krekorian told the committee and an audience of medical
marijuana patients and supporters that he was conflicted about how to vote.
Krekorian said he wants to preserve the intent of 1996's Proposition 215, which
authorized medical marijuana use by legitimate patients.
He added, however, "We are left right now in the worst of all possible
worlds. We have an out-of-control proliferation of dispensaries through this
city which is flooding our communities, causing adverse impacts and bringing a
bad name to those who want to legitimately do what the voters thought we were
doing when we voted for (medical marijuana), which is to provide safe access to
cancer patients and others who want to legitimately use marijuana as a drug.''
Krekorian disagreed that public safety is a reason to ban dispensaries.
"We have crime around liquor stores, too ... We have crimes around
every kind of business, and yet, we aren't banning that entire line of
business,'' Krekorian said.
The committee heard testimony from about a dozen medical marijuana
supporters and patients, who urged the council to keep dispensaries open.
Supporters disputed the idea that dispensaries breed crime and argued that
banning them would create more public safety hazards by forcing patients to buy marijuana on the black market from drug cartels.
Sarah Armstrong, a legal adviser to the Greater Los Angeles Collective
Alliance, told the committee that banning dispensaries would bring an
"enormous tsunami'' of lawsuits.