Legitimate Medical Marijuana Dispensaries in Los Angeles Being Forced to Close?

Los Angeles Medical Marijuana

The Los Angeles City Attorney’s office is stepping up efforts to close dispensaries it deems to be in violation of Proposition D, a set of rules aimed at curbing the city’s rapidly growing marijuana industry.

But some centers targeted by the city say they are legitimate operations and meet the criteria to stay open.

Attorney Arthur Hodge has threatened the LA City Council with litigation over Proposition D. Hodge represents two dispensaries – Downtown Patients Group Dispensary and the Timothy Leary Memorial Dispensary – and the latter is not on the official list of 134 centers the city says can remain open.

Hodge claims both of his clients adhere to the regulations established by Proposition D. The list of dispensaries, he adds, was compiled using arbitrary information that shuts out many dispensaries that follow the rules.

The city has refused to consider appeals from dispensaries that say they should be on the list.

“There are plenty of dispensaries not on that list that pay their taxes, registered before 2007 and are more legitimate than the businesses that opened up later, and the city is refusing to add them to the list,” Hodge said. “It’s not fair to the businesses that have been around and have complied with everything, because they are getting lumped in with the new businesses that are breaking the rules .”

Hodge said both of his clients registered under Los Angeles’ original Interim Control Ordinance of 2007, then registered again under follow-up legislation in 2010 and also registered under Measure M, the 2011 tax on medical marijuana dispensaries.

The suit gives hope to other dispensaries that feel they’re in a similar situation. It also underscores the challenges Los Angeles will have in shutting down the hundreds of dispensaries that are defying the new regulations. The city will likely face a slew of similar legal challenges as it begins trying to force these centers to close.

Hodge said a major goal of his lawsuit is to find out the methodology the City Attorney’s office used when compiling the list of 134 dispensaries. The list has been published on the City Clerk’s website, and Hodge believes police officials rely on the list when targeting dispensaries. So far, he said, he has not been given information about why some dispensaries were included and others were shut out.

“[My clients] have stamped documents saying they made these filings on time and paid their taxes,” Hodge said. “They need to be reasonable in adding other people to the list.”

The City recently began targeting business partners of dispensaries that are not on the list. On Monday, an official said the City Attorney’s office has issued a $500 penalty to Donald Curtis Andrews, a landlord who housed the Universal Holistic Collective in South Los Angeles.

Andrews can have his case dismissed if he pays the $500 fine and complies with terms of the court order, which includes not renting to any marijuana businesses. If he violates the terms, he faces 36 months of summary probation, an additional $1,000 fine and 45 days in county jail or 30 days of community service.

Rob Wilcox, a spokesperson for the city attorney, said summonses are being issued based on community complaints and collaboration with the police departments and the Building and Safety Department.

Voters approved Proposition D in May, and shortly thereafter the city began shutting down dispensaries it deemed to be in violation of the measure. In June, the city sent out 1,716 letters to landlords and dispensary owners ordering them to cease operation. In early October, the city said it shuttered 38 dispensaries. An additional 42 dispensaries voluntarily closed since the spring, the city said.

But hundreds of illegal dispensaries are still operating, causing unexpected challenges for centers that have the go-ahead from the city to remain open.

According to the proposition, all medical marijuana businesses within the city are banned, with immunity given to dispensaries that “operated since September 2007, previously registered with the City, and continue to meet other requirements and operational standards.”

 

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