Los Angeles City Council Poised to Regulate Medical Marijuana Dispensaries

Press Release November 19, 2009
Media Contact

Stephen Gutwillig at (323) 542-2606 or Tommy McDonald

After years of discussion, the Los Angeles City Council will meet next Tuesday to consider a sweeping plan to regulate dispensaries that provide medical marijuana, legalized by voter initiative in 1996 as Prop 215. If approved, the proposed ordinance will add California’s largest city to three dozen local jurisdictions from Santa Barbara to San Francisco that have successfully regulated the distribution of medical marijuana through collectively operated dispensaries.

The Drug Policy Alliance joins other advocates in urging the Council to prioritize patient access and reject misguided provisions intended to eliminate the dispensary system altogether. City Attorney Carmen Trutanich has narrowly interpreted Prop 215 and SB 420, a state law passed in 2003, to forbid dispensaries from engaging in any cash transaction, a view not supported by law, not shared by any other California jurisdiction, and which most members of the Los Angeles City Council appear ready to reject. Trutanich has further suggested dispensaries must operate like cooperative communal gardens, requiring every member to physically participate in marijuana cultivation and that cultivation may only occur on the site of the dispensary itself. Another lethal proposal would impose geographic limitations so severe that they would be nearly impossible to meet.

“The City Council is on the verge of delivering much-needed stability and protections to medical marijuana patients in Los Angeles,” said Stephen Gutwillig, California state director of the Drug Policy Alliance. “As close as they are to adopting sensible dispensary regulations, it would be tragic for them to accept any of the poison pill provisions championed by the City Attorney who admittedly wants to close every dispensary in the city. Requiring sick people to garden or barter potatoes for their medicine is absurd. Thirteen years after the landslide adoption of Prop 215, Angelinos want reasonable regulation not cynical tactics.”

A young woman holds a sign that says "End the Drug War."

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