Los Angeles council members overwhelmingly approved a ban on medical cannabis dispensaries today, a move that will lead to the closure of all or most of the estimated 900-1,000 marijuana centers currently operating in the city.
In a 13-1 vote favoring the ban, city leaders expressed their concern that the area’s unregulated medical marijuana industry has grown out of control. The council must vote on the ban again next week because the initial decision wasn’t unanimous, but in this case it’s more of a formality. Once officially approved and signed by the mayor (who supports the ban), dispensaries would likely be given a few weeks or months to shut down.
The development will shake the nation’s MMJ industry at its very core. Los Angeles is the biggest medical marijuana market in the country, employing more than 10,000 dispensary workers, growers, lawyers and others who work at businesses involved in cannabis. The ban will cause a significant contraction in the industry and decimate the MMJ industry in California.
On the bright side, there might not be a complete ban on storefront operations: City officials also advanced a measure that could allow as many as 182 dispensaries that opened before 2007 to continue operating under a new regulatory structure.
And the overall impact will be blunted by the fact that a fair share of the dispensaries currently operating in Los Angeles are questionable at best. Some are violating state laws and selling out the back door, while others are engaging in shady business practices. They have created a stain on the entire industry, and their closure is necessary for the health of MMJ in the long run.
Medical marijuana groups vowed to fight the city council’s decision.
“This is an outrage that the city council would think a reasonable solution to the distribution of medical marijuana would be to simply outlaw it altogether,” Don Duncan, California director of MMJ advocacy group Americans for Safe Access, said in a press release. “The tens of thousands of patients harmed by this vote will not take it sitting down. We will campaign forcefully to overturn this poor decision by the council.”