A ban on storefront medical marijuana dispensaries that was supposed to take effect Thursday in Los Angeles remains on hold while the city clerk’s office works to verify thousands of petition signatures from activists trying to force a public vote on the issue.
According to a notice from the city attorney
“The ordinance may or may not remain suspended after the city clerk’s review, depending on whether the city clerk determines that the petition contains the required number of valid voter signatures,” according to the notice.
It goes on to say, however, that “the business of medical marijuana continues to be an unpermitted land use in the city.”
A group of activists last week submitted about 50,000 signatures to the city in hopes of forcing a referendum on the marijuana ordinance. A minimum of 27,425 valid signatures from registered city voters are required to get the issue on the March ballot.
City Councilman Jose Huizar, who championed the ban approved by his colleagues, said last week that while the submission of signatures puts the city’s ordinance on hold, state law still allows only “a qualified patient or their caregiver to grow their own (marijuana) or collectives consisting of three or fewer qualified patients or their caregivers.”
“State law is clear–selling medical marijuana for profit is illegal,” Huizar said. The referendum effort “does not change that and doesn’t protect dispensary owners from prosecution if they engage in illegal activity.”
The City Council voted in July to ban the dispensaries, citing conflicting court opinions about whether the city can legally regulate cannabis collectives. While banning storefront dispensaries, the city’s action would allow licensed patients or caregivers to grow and transport their own medical marijuana.
After the vote, the city attorney’s office sent letters to 1,046 suspected dispensary locations warning them to shut down by Thursday or face court action and a $2,500 fine for every day they remain open past the deadline.