Two years ago, L.A. Weekly took on the unenviable task of counting all the medical marijuana centers in Los Angeles. Until that point, getting an accurate number proved to be an elusive task given the lack of MMJ regulations and industry oversight by the city. With no official registry, local officials and observers had to offer a wild guess, and “more than 1,000” became the de facto estimate.
The alternative weekly newspaper, however, found that there were roughly 545 dispensaries in L.A. at the time. It even compiled a list of them all.
Fast-forward two years, and the medical pot industry in L.A. appears to be in shambles. U.S. District attorneys in the state have directly and indirectly forced hundreds of dispensaries to close, Los Angeles initiated a plan to lower the number of MMCs in the city to 100 and a City Council member recently proposed banning pot centers all together.
One would think that the number of dispensaries fell precipitously since then. But it hasn’t.
The city, which now has its own tally, says there are 500 MMCs still operating in Los Angeles today, representing an 8 percent decline. It’s a relatively small contraction given the circumstances. Most dispensaries, it seems, have ignored the threats by local, state and federal officials and are waiting to see how everything plays out before making any long-term decisions.
Some of these dispensaries are violating state and local laws, however. Roughly 25 percent of the dispensaries reportedly haven’t registered to pay a 5 percent tax on gross sales, a measure voters approved last spring. And that’s a big problem: The prevalence of L.A. cannabis centers breaking MMJ laws is one of the reason lawmakers want to crack down on the industry.
While the dip in dispensary numbers has been modest so far, that could change quickly. Pressure on the industry is mounting, and other large cities and towns in California have recently enacted bans and moratoriums on medical pot shops. Some observers say it’s only a matter of time before the same happens in Los Angeles.