L.A. and Orange Counties Ban Medical Marijuana Shops

Supervisors in Los Angeles and Orange counties moved in sync Tuesday to ban medical marijuana dispensaries in unincorporated territories.

The bans, affecting an area with 1.5 million people in L.A. County and 120,000 in Orange County, were approved in 4-1 votes in both counties.

“Attracting crime and other nuisances, these facilities have a negative impact on the communities where they’ve operated — leading more than 100 cities and nine counties in California to pass similar ordinances,” said Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich, who wrote L.A. County’s provision.

In Orange County, Supervisor Shawn Nelson voted against the measure because he said it would exacerbate the black market for the drug. In Los Angeles, Zev Yaroslavsky was the lone no vote.

“This is not some sort of scheme or scam. This is not some sort of joke,” Yaroslavsky said, noting that he had seen marijuana help friends afflicted with cancer.

Gary Kearns, a 59-year-old Los Angeles County resident suffering from AIDS, was among many members of the public who came to speak against the ban. “I submit to you that compassion is an element of successful public policy, and I would suggest that the intent of this ban is not compassionate,” he said.

Yaroslavsky said the board should instead focus on dispensaries that operate illegally without a permit and wrote a motion to step up enforcement.

That measure, approved unanimously, directs county staff to take advantage of their ability to fine illegal dispensaries $1,000 a day. Although the county has used other tools in attempting to close unauthorized shops, assessing hefty fines has never been done, according to county staff.

“I’m going to say there’s two bad actors,” Supervisor Gloria Molina told county staff. “There’s the lousy marijuana suppliers who are illegally setting up and making all the medical marijuana look bad and … [there’s] you all. If you would enforce the rules, these folks wouldn’t be out there operating illegally.”

Molina said her office has been flooded with calls from residents saying that the illegal dispensaries have brought crime and blight.

“Why don’t you use everything you have to get them the hell out of unincorporated areas?” Molina asked county staff. “I’m going to support the ban right now because you guys aren’t assisting us in getting rid of the illegal operators. All of the residents are complaining, and in my area, it’s really bad.”

County officials said a tally of illegal dispensaries was unavailable.

– Article from The Los Angeles Times

Medical marijuana shops face banning in unincorporated L.A. County

by Michael Martinez, CNN

Los Angeles, California (CNN) — The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors took a major step Tuesday toward banning medical marijuana dispensaries in the county’s unincorporated areas.

A proposal for the ban in unicorporated areas was unanimously endorsed by the county supervisors and is scheduled to be formally adopted on December 7, officials said. The ordinance would then take effect 30 days later, officials said.

Meanwhile, the Orange County Board of Supervisors also approved Tuesday, by a 4-1 vote, a first reading of an identical ban. A second and final reading is scheduled, also for December 7, a spokeswoman said.

“Attracting crime and other nuisances, these facilities have a negative impact on the communities where they’ve operated — leading more than 100 cities and nine counties in California to pass similar ordinances,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael Antonovich. “Since many municipalities in Los Angeles County currently have either a ban or moratorium, adjacent unincorporated communities would become the obvious location of choice for dispensary operators — creating an undue burden for residents in these areas.”

Both measures address a growing number of illegally operated medical marijuana dispensaries in unincorporated areas of the two counties. Officials cited health and safety concerns, saying food products containing marijuana that are produced without regulation could contain potentially harmful ingredients, food borne disease and pesticide residue.

The proposals in the first and third largest counties in California mark another setback for advocates seeking to advance marijuana into mainstream society. Earlier this month, California voters rejected a proposal to legalize the drug, though medical marijuana is legal throughout the state.

The Los Angeles County ban affects unincorporated communities with a population of 1.5 million people. In Orange County, the ban would affect 119,000 people, a spokeswoman said.

In 2006, Los Angeles County revised its zoning regulations to allow for medical marijuana dispensaries. But Los Angeles County officials are now concerned about a growing number of illegally operating dispensaries.

Los Angeles city officials recently began a crackdown on such illegal dispensaries within the city.

Almost all Orange County cities have taken a hard line against medical marijuana dispensaries, partly because officials contend that criminal activity is prevalent near the storefronts, according to a November 17 memo by Orange County Public Works Director Jess Carbajal.

No cities within Orange County allow for marijuana stores except for Laguna Woods, Carbajal said. Twenty-two cities have prohibition ordinances, and nine more have urgency moratoriums against the dispensaries, Carbajal said.

Tuesday’s legislative action occurred as the National Cannabis Industry Association was formed the same day, as the first national trade group representing the interests of the multi-billion-dollar cannabis industry and its consumers. The group materialzes in the wake of Arizona voters legalizing medical marijuana this week, becoming the 15th state to do so.

“It’s hard to believe that either county would take such an action when we’re sitting in the midst of an economic depression and they’re turning down good jobs in the county — not to mention the millions in sales taxes — and then putting in their place vacant buildings,” said Aaron Smith, the association’s executive director.

As for the illegal stores, Smith said he understood such concerns but questioned a ban to remedy the problem.
“It’s such a legitimate concern but they are using a sledgehammer approach. If they are concerned about them operating illegally, then have oversight,” Smith said.

– Article from CNN.