LA Cracks Down On Medical Marijuana Dispensaries

Los Angeles seems to have a lot of trouble policing commerce-related things. Advertisers put up $100,000 illegal billboards overnight and never have to take them down, and now apparently medical marijuana stores are running rampant. The Los Angeles times says that since the city enacted a moratorium on new dispensaries in 2007, the number has grown from 186 to more than 600.

These aren’t all sketchy insta-storefront places, either. The owner of one dispensary highlighted in the article says he’s spent considerable money recently remodeling his store:

n an interview at his dispensary, Edward Hovnanyan, one of the owners of L.A. Collective, expressed dismay that the council had targeted his store. He said that it was the first to open on Glendale Boulevard and that he has worked closely with city officials on his renovation. The shop has new floors and walls. A display case holds 20 jars filled with dusky green buds.

“I spent so much money, so much time, now I’m facing maybe being shut down,” he said. “If something’s wrong, something’s not right, why did government not stop me?”

The number of dispensaries grew in the past two years due to a loophole in the moratorium that the LA City Council never addressed. If any store filed a hardship request to stay open, the city’s attorney took no further legal action.

“L.A. closes loophole for medical marijuana dispensaries” [LA Times]
“L.A.’s medical pot dispensary moratorium led to a boom instead” [LA Times]
(Photo: TheTruthAboutMortgage.com)

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  1. enthreeoh says:

    I thought I read something about crime also being at a 20 year low in those areas? (might have the number of years wrong, but I know it was something like that)

    • enthreeoh says:

      @enthreeoh: make that 50 years: [cbs2.com]

    • craptastico says:

      @enthreeoh: i read an article a month ago about the legalization of marijuana in Portugal, and although people were fearful that tourists would come for the dope and ruin the place, actual marijuana use declined. when will our government stop wasting money on a failed was on drugs?
      whether you agree with drug use or not, clearly our current strategy is not working

      [www.time.com]

      • craptastico says:

        @craptastico: make that war on drugs, and after rereading the article, Portugal now has the lowest drug use rates of the European Union, down from some of the highest before decriminalization

        • henwy says:

          @craptastico:

          Meanwhile usage has gone up in the scandinavian countries that legalized it. Six of one, half a dozen of the other. All in all, I don’t think there’s any person who really believes drug use will go down after decriminalization. Look at prohibition as an example. What often gets obscured in the haze of the speakeasy is that alcohol consumption dropped like a stone during those years on average. Those who still wanted to drink could find it, but many stopped because it was illegal. If your metric is how many people use, then criminalizing works. If your metric is drug-related crime, that’s a different story.

        • Applekid ‚îÄ‚îÄ‚î¨ Ôªø„Éé( „Çú-„Çú„Éé) says:

          @craptastico:

          The Cato paper reports that between 2001 and 2006 in Portugal, rates of lifetime use of any illegal drug among seventh through ninth graders fell from 14.1% to 10.6%; drug use in older teens also declined.

          So, I think that means we have official numbers. 3.5% of seventh through ninth graders have had lifetime use of illegal drugs did so just to give society the finger and piss off their parents.

          Surprisingly small, in my opinion.

    • jc364 says:

      @enthreeoh: Whether or not the actual pot usage levels drop, I don’t want pot (or potheads) around my kids or my family. Making pot legal would bring it more out in the open, even if the overall usage drops. I don’t want that.

      • enthreeoh says:

        @jc364: unfortunately for you, life isn’t a fairy tale and you can’t control others free will =[

        • jc364 says:

          @enthreeoh: I understand that people have freewill, and I am glad for it. I guess what I’m saying is that there is more to the issue than just “legalize it.”

  2. BacteriaEP says:

    California is stupid… there they are in the middle of a financial meltdown and they have one of the BIGGEST industries in the U.S. ASKING them to allowed to be taxed and yet the politicians squibble away on morals and family values.

    • catskyfire says:

      @BacteriaEP: Because it’s not as easy as it sounds. Yes, the government could legalize marijuana and sell the tax stamps. But the government tends to like to tax on finite amounts. Such as, one bottle 80 proof liquor is taxed for Y amount. How do you handle that for Marijuana? Just a weight amount might not suit, as there are different strengths. Perhaps you ask another industry to help standardize them… (the tobacco industry could handle large scale production).

      Are there age limits? (If you treat it like cigarettes, you must be 18, if alcohol, 21). Are the legislatures prepared to handle those separately? Similarly, what penalties for being ‘under the influence’? Are they to be the same as alcohol?

      And, where could one smoke marijuana? Smoking is being banned in more and more places. Would there be more health problems associated with smoking marijuana? (Whatever you think of the substance, it does tend to involve inhaling smoke into the lungs.) Would there be a rise in terms of second-hand marijuana smoke issues?

      It’s never as easy as ‘just legalize it’.

      • RobertBaron says:

        @catskyfire: Alcohol has different strengths and what not, but the point is that it’s regulated because it’s legal. If pot were fully legal, CA could find a similar way to regulate it. I’m not even sure if alcohol is taxed differently based on proof. It might only be taxed based on volume and type ie hard liquor is taxed differently than beer or wine.

        To keep things simple, make the age limit 21 like alcohol. The penalties for DUI for anything are the same, whether it’s alcohol, pot or PCP. Those laws are already on the books currently.

        You could smoke it like you would normal cigarettes. You can smoke them someplaces and other places you can’t. In addition, I believe CA permits smoking in specialized places like cigar and hookah lounges. CA would be smart to sell permits and licenses for people to start up their own coffeehouses which would in turn create jobs and increase tourism into the state which would in turn raise revenue and increase jobs.

        But regardless of all that… those problems you mentioned still exist right now. Even though it is in the grey area of legal and illegal. Legalizing simply means we actually get to benefit from those “problems.” And I quote because I don’t really see your issues as huge deals.

      • temporaryerror says:

        @catskyfire:
        There are other options when it comes to marijuana ingestion. Many of these places sell both “edibles” as well as vaporizing equipment, neither of which creates second hand hazards. Also, state governments have been taxing marijuana and other illegal drugs for quite some time. It’s based on weight.
        here is a wikipedia link: [en.wikipedia.org]

        • catskyfire says:

          @temporaryerror: There may be other options in terms of marijuana ingestion, but in all honestly, what do most people who want marijuana legalized really want? I’d put more money on the smoking aspect.

          As for taxation: Right now, they’re using a simple weight based method simply because the products are illegal, and the goal isn’t so much proper taxation as ways to help nail those who are selling.
          It’s not unlike how prostitutes must still report their income even if it’s obtained illegally.

          I’m not really on the ‘for’ or ‘against’ side. My main point is just that it’s not as easy as some like to think in terms of ‘just legalize it’. We have enough challenges with items that are legalized (tobacco and alcohol, as well as controlled prescription drugs). I get tired of those who imagine that legalization is a quick fix for both the ‘drug problem’ and ‘revenue problems’.

          • nakedscience says:

            @catskyfire: “what do most people who want marijuana legalized really want? I’d put more money on the smoking aspect.”

            Not necessarily. Vaporizors are awesome, conserve a LOT more pot, and most smokers would prefer it, but marijuana is illegal, and vaporizors tend to be large and hard to conceal. They also tend to be expensive.

          • Darrone says:

            @catskyfire: Alcohol, if you remember comes in drastically different strengths, and is calculated by the manufacturer, same as pot.

            It’s extremely easy to tax because it is SOLD by weight and by concentration. Alcohol is sold by volume and if you can tell me the proof on peach schnapps, then you’re ahead of most people.

            No one is saying its a quick fix (the government IS involved after all), but you fail to look at the RIDICULOUS resources being wasted to stop marijuana, that could be used to stop cocaine, or meth (the biggest drug problem of this and the next decade is Meth Addiction). We waste copious amounts of money on relatively harmless marijuana. Want to stop border imports? Grow it in the USA.

          • nakedscience says:

            @catskyfire:

            I get tired of those who imagine that legalization is a quick fix for both the ‘drug problem’ and ‘revenue problems’.

            It wouldn’t be a quick fix. Nothing ever is. But do you HONESTLY believe that the current laws are doing any good? No, they aren’t, and in fact they are only harming. Marijuana is less harmful than even alcohol. The only reason it is illegal is because of political and racial issues.

            • catskyfire says:

              @nakedscience: Are you sure that marijuana is less harmful than alcohol? Have there been some good long term scientific studies on it? (My theory: It’s hard to have a good long term scientific study on something that is illegal.) Or, 50 years after legalization, will we be decrying its ill effects?
              (Tobacco was once pitched by doctors as a wonderful thing…)

              Do I think the current laws are doing any good? For the most part, yes. And if people don’t think the laws are right, there are proper ways to change them. For good or ill, most people still view marijuana as a negative drug. This image was started by the propaganda Reefer Madness, but it isn’t exactly helped by the various stoner movies that portray users as clueless idiots. I don’t deny that things have changed in the 70 years since marijuana was outlawed. Even marijuana itself is a lot more potent than the weed that fueled the 60s.

              Could marijuana be legalized? Yes, but only with a lot of thought into how it would be regulated. (And I do know that many parts of Europe has it legalized, but we’re also, as a country, a lot bigger than Europe and with a huge amount of diversity in population which can only add to the challenge.)

              • Munchie says:

                @catskyfire: As much as I agree with what you say there is a sticking point in here I need to point out. The america voter has repeadly voiced their support for decrimilization and legalaztion of marijuanna. All the proper channels have been follow the votes collected. Everything has been done through legal processes for overturning an unpopular law.

                Guess what people are still being arrested and the right to change bad laws by the public is being denied.

            • wallspray says:

              @nakedscience: Agreed. I hate when people say “it’s not that easy.” Of course it’s not easy but that does not mean you don’t do it. Most laws aren’t easy to create, you have to decide on the terms of each. Can you imagine if people said “man it would be great to drive around in cars instead of walking, but gosh it’s sure going to be hard to come up with all the legislation involved and then enforce it.”

              • catskyfire says:

                @wallspray: But with cars, it started with a few, a very few. And they did create laws (some seem silly now, such as putting a fake horse head on the front so as not to scare the horses.) But based on estimates on how many use and how many would use, it would be a dozen, but hundreds of thousands, if not millions.

                It could be done, but it has to be done mindfully…not necessarily legislating every potential problems, but figuring out some of the big ones first. (Age limits would be one, and whether the DUI would be the same as for alcohol…including how to test it.)

                • wallspray says:

                  @catskyfire: I completely agree that it should be done mindfully, but my point is, that just because it’s complicated, does not mean it should not be done. Saying “there are just too many issues to sort out” is not a good enough excuse.

                  • catskyfire says:

                    @wallspray: I would not necessarily disagree. My main point is that it’s not an easy thing, a mere matter of “just making it legal” and everything would be fine. If it should be legalized, it should be done mindfully and utilizing a due process to make sure that is what people want as well. (Every law, no matter how stupid, had a purpose when it was passed. Some time ago, congress and a majority of states thought alcohol was a bad enough idea to ban its sale in the constitution itself. Later, they changed their minds and rescinded the amendment utilizing the same process.)

                    Whether or not marijuana should be legal is not something I’m addressing. Although, I do find some irony in the rising call for legalization of marijuana at the same time there is increased vilification for tobacco use.

          • The Porkchop Express says:

            @catskyfire: wrong. not the smoking. They want the high. it comes from all methods of ingestion most wouldn’t care how it got in there.

      • henwy says:

        @catskyfire:

        Not to mention the lawsuits. What the heck happens after little timmy smokes a bunch of weed on his 18th or 21st birthday and then goes and accidentally offs himself in some manner. There’s be negligence lawsuits like you wouldn’t believe. Knowing selling a dangerous product and whatnot. Look at all the people who have continued to sue tobacco companies for cancer even those who started smoking way after the surgeon general mandated warnings.

        • nakedscience says:

          @henwy: Yes, because those lawsuits totally happen with alcohol now.

        • coren says:

          @henwy: But then they sue the person who sold it, not the government. I mean, do people sue the government now if someone gets drunk and kills or harms aloved one?

          • henwy says:

            @coren:

            No crap. Which means even if it were legal and taxed, it would be either 1) prohibitively expensive or 2) no one would choose to sell it legally at all. If you had a choice of buying what is currently a dime bag for $10 from your illegal dealer or $200 from the government taxed private company, which would it be?

            I think most potheads would make the same choice.

            • coren says:

              @henwy: I’m not sure how what you’re saying there is a response to my point about suing the government…

              • The Porkchop Express says:

                @coren: Why would they sue the government for pot related stuff and not booze or tabacco?

                So, there you go. the only people who would be sued would be the people who sold it.

                • coren says:

                  @Lo-Pan: Bingo, that’s where I was going with it too – and that’s a risk that the seller (not the government) would assume, so it’s really a moot point.

            • Trai_Dep says:

              @henwy: You realize that “dime bag” is a colloquial term that doesn’t really refer to its dollar value, right?
              (cough) So I’ve read.

        • CharlieInSeattle says:

          @henwy: You must live in a box, because alcohol is much worse. Alcohol little timmy got in a car and not only killed himself but an entire family.

      • zonk7ate9 says:

        @catskyfire: I’m not sure if it could lead to cancer or something in the future, but it doesn’t affect your lungs the way cigarettes do (maybe because you don’t inhale as much smoke?). I run between 30-40 miles a week and I used to be an avid smoker, once I quit I did not notice a change with my lungs as far as being less winded. I know for a fact if I smoked cigarettes and stopped I would notice an improvement. I’m also farily positive that if I staretd again I would not nitce an affect.

        • zonk7ate9 says:

          @zonk7ate9: What I mean by as much smoke, is that people who smoke cigarretes end up with a lot more smoke in their lungs on a daily basis than people who smoke marijuana.

        • nakedscience says:

          @zonk7ate9: Isn’t there some evidince that marijuana smoke helps with asthma? I can’t google it right now because I’m at work, but I’m pretty sure that in some cases, marijuana smoke actually helps.

          • eb0nyknight says:

            @nakedscience: Well, as one who has asthma and one who did smoke it back in the day…I would say that I would feel less congested after smoking it, but I think it’s moreso the effect of the drug on the mind rather than the lungs.

            Although I stopped with pot a very long time ago, I still did smoke and nothing made my asthma go away as quitting smoking.

      • nakedscience says:

        @catskyfire: “And, where could one smoke marijuana?”

        In your home? In cigar shops? (Where you can still legally smoke.) Or use vaporizors. Or eat it.

    • Mary Marsala with Fries says:

      @BacteriaEP: Agreed…you’d think it wouldn’t be so hard to get them to think about money, would it? I mean, usually politicians will tolerate a certain amount of endangerment of the public if it makes them a dollar (cigarettes, alcohol, refusing to govern cars to limit their speed, etc.) — but in this one case, where absolutely no lives are in danger, now they care so much they’re willing to take a financial hit? What the hell??

  3. mannyv says:

    This just goes to show: stoners don’t commit crimes…or at least those kinds of crimes that show up in the statistics.

    • Mary Marsala with Fries says:

      @mannyv: Instead they…what? Commit the crime of watching too much TV? You insinuate a statisticless crime here that stoners are guilty of, but I smell bullshit.

      • Trai_Dep says:

        @Mary Marsala with Fries: If criminals would commit more of the crimes that don’t show up in the statistics, the world would be a better place.
        Wait. What “crimes” would those be: using too much melted “cheese” sauce from the dispenser?!

  4. dbshaw says:

    “since the city enacted a moratorium on new dispensaries in 2007, the number has grown from 186 to more than 600.”

    Can’t sum up the war on drugs much better than that.

  5. nakedscience says:

    Medical Marijuana stores are great. I have friends with cards in Cali. You know exactly what you’re getting, and the price is right. Oh, and no shady drug dealers. Thumbs up.

    • Mary Marsala with Fries says:

      @nakedscience: Yes, I’m so glad that my state keeps kids safe by making them go to bad neighborhoods and purchase from gun-toting thugs who have every reason to lace the marijuana with dangerous and addictive drugs — thanks, Michigan!

    • nygenxer says:

      @nakedscience: I’ve read that the prices are actually kinda high (no pun) but have not been able to find any examples of pricing…

      …you wouldn’t happen to have any examples of said pricing, would you?

  6. stevejust says:

    Where I live in Los Angeles, the house values hover about $1.2 million for a 3/2 2,000 sq. ft. house. (try http://www.redfin.com and search for 90048, my zip.)

    Even with some houses falling to 995,000, they’re still overpriced by about $700,000 more than they would cost anywhere else. So that’s what the neighborhood is like. Stupidly asinine, but certainly nice enough.

    There are now 3 farmacies within a 5 minute walk from my house. You see, “pharmacies” sell drugs. “Farmacies” sell pot. I guess ’cause it is grown on a farm.

    They’re like 7-11s, these things. Soon they’ll be more of them than Starbucks.

  7. jokono says:

    @nakedscience:

    The only reason it is illegal is because of political and racial issues.

    I understand the political. But, racial? What do you mean? Seriously, I’m curious to know what you mean.

  8. iluvhatemail says:

    the LA City Council is a complete failure! Our city is in debt over our heads and these guys still can’t comply to Prop 215 that was voted into law over a decade ago. Just like the CEOs of failed companies, the leadership in Los Angeles must step down and let some competent individuals take their place.

    • catskyfire says:

      @iluvhatemail: Is there such a a thing as competent leaders in government?

    • veronykah says:

      @iluvhatemail: @catskyfire: I don’t really think CALIFORNIA can be trusted to elect competent individuals to government, couple that with not being able to vote for anything beyond ones own self interest or see more than 6 months into the future and you have California as it is!

  9. fatetwister64 says:

    I’ll never get marijuana.

  10. HogwartsAlum says:

    Oh for heaven’s sake.

    ANY smoke is bad for your lungs. You’re not supposed to be breathing smoke!

    • -emory- says:

      @HogwartsAlum: :) I’ve been vaporizing it since I got one, as someone said earlier, no health problems (as in, zero.), more efficient, tastes better and doesn’t smell as long. :) Win win win win

      Wish More states would look towards adopting dispensaries. Admit it people, the war on drugs is doing more harm than good as far as marijuana is concerned, and yeah, it’s not going to be easy, but fixing the economy isn’t going to be easy, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try (By the way, taxing and regulating could go a long way to help our economy. Look at how the depression turned around after prohibition was repealed.) My point being:
      (a) people are going to smoke it, regardless of the laws
      (b) there hasn’t been enough evidence saying that it’s harmful, usually in fact the opposite
      (c)the laws now are then punishing (and often ruining the lives of) otherwise law abiding, tax paying, nonviolent citizens.
      So why don’t we admit where we have problems and use the money that is currently moving across borders to fund god-knows-who, or the money that’s being spent housing thousands and thousands of non-violent “offenders” and instead use that to build some schools. Or just put it back into our economy. Tax it, regulate it, you cut down on crime, cut down on prisons and open up a huge market for businesses.
      /rant

      • catskyfire says:

        @-emory-: Just because people ‘will do something, regardless of the laws’, doesn’t mean that something should not remain illegal. (A lot of people drive drunk. They do it despite the laws saying they shouldn’t. Most people would argue that the law is still appropriate.)

        On your C point, that the laws are punishing and ruining the lives of otherwise law abiding citizens. This is because that on the issue of marijuana, they are breaking the law. If someone breaks the law, there may well be consequences. Generally, we want consequences for lawbreaking. The general rule is that if someone feels a law isn’t right, that they work to get it changed.

        It isn’t a matter of the imagined non-severity of the crime. It is that it is a crime at this time. “He only had marijuana.” Well, it was a crime. “He only sold a musical instrument on a Sunday in Alabama.” Well, it was a crime. (According to a stupid law website, it is a crime.) If people think it should be legalized (marijuana, or selling musical instruments on a Sunday in Alabama), they should work through their legislative process. The same process that made the laws banning in the first place.

        • jamar0303 says:

          @catskyfire:

          “If people think it should be legalized (marijuana, or selling musical instruments on a Sunday in Alabama), they should work through their legislative process. The same process that made the laws banning in the first place.”

          And that’s why it’s legal in CA in the first place.

        • pz says:

          @catskyfire: Ah, but St. Augustine said an unjust law is no law at all, didn’t he. :P

        • Mary Marsala with Fries says:

          @catskyfire: Of course it was robber barons, the paper industry, and racist politicians, not people, who first made it illegal…

          • catskyfire says:

            @Mary Marsala with Fries: No, it was regular politicians who made it illegal. They may have been influenced by other entities, but that’s always a risk with politicians. (Cocaine banning had a strong racist aspect, but not so much marijuana.)

            Hooked: A history of illegal drugs and how they got that way from the History Channel had an interesting point that I agree with. Substances will be illegal as long as the middle class feels they should be. The poor can be punished and the rich can get away with it.

            To really legalize marijuana, those in favor of it need to convince Mr. and Mrs. America that it is no more harmful than smoking (and ideally less, since smoking is ‘evil’ right now), and will not screw up the lives of little Timmy and little Janie. Unfortunately, the only media most folks see on the matter are stoner movies that don’t make people feel secure about the drug.

    • Mary Marsala with Fries says:

      @HogwartsAlum: And yet cigarettes are sold at every gas station, even though nicotene is almost as physically addictive as heroin.

    • chocogray says:

      @HogwartsAlum:

      the dispensaries also sell edibles for those that don’t want to, or can’t smoke. or you could purchase a vaporizer.

  11. bxbrett says:

    The city council action the other day was nothing more than show.

    None, I repeat, NONE of the collectives that lost their hardship exemption cases has closed. It is a process that can take from 6 months to several years.

    As others above have stated our city is in the dumps and medical marijuana collectives are a source of tax revenue as well as a source of tenancy for many landlords in this tight economy.

    I am a local medical marijuana activist here and have been following this closely in my medical marijuana newsgroup at [health.groups.yahoo.com]

    For the record we have over 900 medical marijuana collectives here in Los Angeles, the city clerk is about 2-3 weeks behind in processing all the hardship exemption applications that have been filed and I chuckle when I keep hearing the 600 number and people having a cow over it.

    Yes we cannabis!

  12. Trai_Dep says:

    It burns me to my core that the 3,000 billboards, illegally cranked up in the dead of night, aren’t torn down with chain saws by the city the next day. EVERYONE – except the outlaw corporations polluting the city – hates them, yet the pols sit on their hands and gleefully suck up Clear Channel $$$. And not even much $$$: a couple grand per member.
    Yet farmacies are Public Enemy #1.
    Great sense of priorities, LA City Council.

  13. grapedog says:

    if over half the country were not an apathetic failure at anything involving politics, working within our system of government to get things changed might actually produce good results.

  14. Clark D Rutledge says:

    I’ve never really understood the mentality in the ‘war on drugs.’ Call me crazy, but I don’t see how a prison sentence is going to get someone to stop using drugs. I would think that better social programs and rehab clinics in low income areas would help curb crime rates and drug use.

    • RobertBaron says:

      @Clark D Rutledge:

      The theory of the Wart on Drugs is two-fold:

      1. Wipe all illegal drugs out of existence in the US. If cocaine is impossible to obtain, it will therefore be impossible to do.

      2. The threat of incarceration would deter people from doing drugs.

      Obviously, it’s been a failure of ideas and a failure in practice.

      • chocogray says:

        @RobertBaron:

        I don’t know if they still do it, but when i used to live in Amsterdam they would take a portion of the profit from marijuana sales and use it to fund totally free rehab clinics that could be accessed by any type of drug user. Subsequently they had some of the best success rates in the world at moving people off of hard drug addiction. they also used funds toward drug education and had one of the world’s lowest new user statistics about a decade ago. I don’t keep up with the stats anymore but i suspect they are still relatively successful.

  15. chocogray says:

    In this economic crisis we sure could use the tax dollars and the jobs. One of the spots up here Northern Cali is so large on any given day they have 8 people working service, 2 managers, 2 maintenance guys, and 5 security guards. they are open 7 days a week from 8am to 8pm. Also, I grew up in the same neighborhood that they operate in and it has become 2,000 times safer! West Oakland, and Downtown Oakland have use the dispensary tax money to renovate the area, and wow white people aren’t scared to go into west and downtown Oakland anymore!!!

  16. gaywolverine says:

    Marijuana is less dangerous than alcohol, or tobacco. It should be legal period. If you do not want to use it, DONT. It is easier for a high school student to get illegal substances than it is to get alcohol. Controlling the usage to adults is more important than keeping people who use pot away from your kids. I don’t care about usage rates, because quite honestly, if somebody CHOOSES to get high, then let them make that CHOICE.