Los Angeles Medical Marijuana Rules Might be Amended

California Marijuana

The Los Angeles City Council will consider amending its medical marijuana ordinance on Wednesday because one of its provisions unexpectedly disqualified dozens of dispensaries from continuing operations.

When the council approved the ordinance last spring, it allowed up to 180 dispensaries to stay open -- specifically, those that registered with the city before a moratorium in 2007 -- if their operators kept a certain distance from homes, schools, religious institutions and other dispensaries.

The ordinance, however, ended up disqualifying 140 dispensaries because of a little-known provision that barred a management change in the past three years. The City Attorney's Office promptly sued some of them to force them to shut down.

Wedneday's proposed amendment -- introduced by Councilman Paul Koretz -- would allow dispensaries to remain open as long as they have "substantially'' the same ownership and management in their registration papers.

Some council members have expressed hesitation about amending the ordinance, but others warn that keeping only about 40 dispensaries open would reduce patients' access to the drug.

The council passed the medical marijuana ordinance after the number of dispensaries across the city rose to several hundred when operators took advantag of a legal loophole.

The ordinance set a cap of 70 dispensaries in Los Angeles but temporarily allowed the 180 dispensaries registered before the moratorium to stay open. If any of the 180 dispensaries goes out of business, it would not be replaced until the number drops to 70.

The ordinance requires dispensaries to be at least 1,000 feet away from schools, public parks, public libraries and religious institutions, as well as each other. It also bars dispensaries from being ``on a lot abutting, across the street or alley from, or having a common corner with a residentially zoned lot or a lot improved with residential use.''

If two dispensaries are within 1,000 feet of each other, the city clerk will establish a priority list to determine which one can stay in its current location, and which one must move.