State Supreme Court Oks Local Limits on ‘Pot Shops’

Ruling makes Prop. D More critical, say medical marijuana supporters.

By City News Service

Reacting to the state Supreme Court’s ruling Monday that said municipalities can ban medical marijuana dispensaries, an attorney backing Los Angeles’ Proposition D ballot said its approval May 21 would mean the city would likely tolerate about 130 pot shops.

Even though the ruling – it came in response to the city of Riverside banning pot shops – could prompt other cities, including Los Angeles, to enact bans.

About 200 California municipalities have enacted bans on pot shops in recent years, despite state legislation that allows for them dating back to 1996.

But attorney Brad Hertz of the “Yes on D, No on F” campaign said that if Los Angeles voters approve Proposition D, the City Council would need approval from voters to ban about 130 pot dispensaries that were in operation before the City Council enacted a 2007 ban that was later overturned.

City Councilman Bill Rosendahl, a medical marijuana user who recently announced that his cancer was in remission, and colleague Paul Koretz support city-sponsored Proposition D. It would impose a roughly 5 percent tax on the sale of pot and limit the number of dispensaries citywide to about 135.

City officials have estimated that there were as many 1,000 pot shops in operation at times over the past few years.

Rosendahl denounced Monday’s 7-0 ruling by the California Supreme Court, saying it could make it more difficult for people suffering from serious medical conditions to get marijuana for pain relief.

“I wouldn’t be alive right now if it wasn’t for medical marijuana. I will not let no judge kill me or other people,” he said.

Koretz said Proposition D serves a dual purpose of regulating dispensaries so that they do not become a “public nuisance,” while providing “adequate access” to those who need marijuana.

Koretz, a former West Hollywood City Councilman, said it was clear to him that Californians wanted people to have access to medical marijuana.

Hertz said Monday’s ruling could prompt the Los Angeles City Council to enact a new ban. Several City Council members voted against putting Proposition D on the ballot.

Councilman Jose Huizar, who represents parts of the city’s east and northeast communities as well as downtown Los Angeles, said many of his constituents have complained about pot shops, voted against letting putting Proposition D on the ballot. Residents of Eagle Rock were particularly vocal, complaining that a disproportionate number of the marijuana dispensaries in the city had set up in their neighborhood.

Huizar said Monday’s ruling validated the city’s “gentle ban” on dispensaries last year.

“This court ruling tells us that if chaos ensues once again and there is rampant abuse of whatever ordinance voters approve on May 21st, we as a city have the authority to outright ban medical marijuana dispensaries,” Huizar said.

Two other petition-driven measures on the ballot could also affect medical marijuana dispensaries in Los Angeles if approved.

Proposition F calls for a tax on dispensaries but does not set limits on the number of shops. Proposition E is similar to Proposition D, without some of the regulatory provisions of the latter.

City Attorney Carmen Trutanich said the state Supreme Court decision “affirmed that local governments have the authority and obligation to protect public safety and regulate land uses, including the distribution of safe and readily accessible medical marijuana to patients and their caregivers.”

“A city’s decision whether to ban, regulate or limit the number of medical marijuana collectives must be made in an open, public and transparent manner, so that the needs and concerns of all in the community are heard,” he said.

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May 9, 2013  Copyright © 2012 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.


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