After years of controversy over the growth of medical-marijuana dispensaries in Los Angeles, its City Council has voted to ban them.
According to reports, L.A. council members voted 14-0 to pass an ordinance on Tuesday (July 24) that will make dispensaries illegal by modifying language in the city’s municipal code.
However, they also voted to have city attorneys prepare a separate ordinance that would allow more than 100 dispensaries that were open before 2008 to remain in business.
After Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa signs the ordinance, marijuana shops will have 30 days to shut down their operations.
The Los Angeles Times reports that 762 dispensaries registered in the city will receive letters ordering them to shut down immediately. However, other reports said as many as 900 dispensaries would be effected. But, it’s unclear what the punishment will be if they disobey the order.
The vote has sparked outrage by medical marijuana supporters, who vow to help overturn the ban.
“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,” said Don Duncan, California director of Americans for Safe Access, a medical-marijuana advocacy group, in a statement.
The new ordinance, however, allows patients and their caregivers to grow and share marijuana in groups of three people or fewer. But activists complain that few patients have the time or skills for that, with one dispensary owner saying it costs at least $5,000 to grow the plant at home.
A California state law, which passed in 1996, allows people with a doctor’s recommendation to obtain medical marijuana from such dispensaries. Pot outlets, typically small storefronts, have sprouted up around California since the bill was passed.
The city of Los Angeles previously tried to block the opening of dispensaries when they passed a moratorium in 2007, but hundreds opened anyway, exploiting a loophole in the regulations.
While the issue over legitimate marijuana use is still confusing in California, federal law is consistent: marijuana sales remains a federal crime.