Facts or No Facts, LA City Council Plows Ahead on Medical Weed

Whether they were taking their cues from medical marijuana advocates or still dreadfully ill-informed, several Los Angeles City Council members continued to throw around bad numbers and loose facts as they worked for hours on a medical marijuana dispensary ordinance yesterday.

After more than four years of supposed study, the City Council is still deliberating over how to regulate medical weed stores. L.A. Weekly has found there are some 545 pots shops in L.A.

City Council President Eric Garcetti said he hopes to pass an ordinance before the council takes off for winter recess at the end of next week. Councilman Ed Reyes, however, has said he doesn’t expect legislation to be completed until early next year.

Whatever happens, City Council members continue to over-inflate the number of operating medical weed clinics in L.A. and make blind assumptions about how certain pot shops have been operating.

In one case, those assumptions led to a confusing compromise on how to cap the number of medical weed stores in L.A.

To make matters worse, the Los Angeles Times continues to report the council members’ wildly inaccurate and totally unscientific count of medical weed shops without any kind of caveat for its readers.

The City Council’s fast and loose handling of the facts were on full display during a three-hour debate over a so-called medical marijuana dispensary “cap.”

Yet before council members took on the issue, several medical marijuana advocates unloaded their own shaky numbers on local politicians.

During public comment, advocates insisted that between 100,000 and 250,000 medical weed patients reside in the L.A. area. No one said where that data came from, or if those numbers were specific to the city of Los Angeles. Medical marijuana advocates then argued, without offering any kind of study, that if a cap was established, huge numbers of medical pot patients would not be properly served.

The facts only got murkier from there.

Despite an extensive, two-month-long investigation by L.A. Weekly, which found that some 545 pot shops are operating in L.A., council members Dennis Zine, Paul Koretz, and Richard Alarcon said the city has 1,000 medical stores open for business — nearly doubling the true number of that statistic.

The Times then reported the politicians’ estimates without question, even though city government has yet to create a central database to officially and accurately track the total number of operating pot shops in L.A.

That’s no small blunder by either the council members or the newspaper.

The number of pot shops has been an all-important statistic in how the City Council has been shaping its medical marijuana ordinance, and bad information often doesn’t make for good legislation.

City Council members Janice Hahn, Dennis Zine, and Ed Reyes also insisted that pot shops that opened before a 2007 moratorium should not be affected by a citywide “cap” on medical weed stores, saying those places registered with the city and have played by the rules.

“They opened up legally,” said Zine during the council meeting yesterday.

Council members Zine and Alarcon also assumed that those pot shots have been operating within state law, and Alarcon said they should be rewarded for their “good behavior.”

But Councilman Jose Huizar pointed out that pre-moratorium pot shops merely filled out a registration form with the city, were “not vetted” by city agencies, and city officials continue to have little idea of how those medical weed stores have been operating — for example, without a citywide auditing system in place to check their books, pot shops could be making huge profits against state law.

“There’s nothing special about (those pre-moratorium dispensaries),” Huizar told his colleagues. “We have good ones. We have bad ones.”

Zine and crew, however, would not back off.

So Huizar, who led the push for a cap, accepted a confusing compromise that allows 137 existing pre-moratorium medical weed clinics to stay open while also setting a supposed citywide cap at 70.

(The City Attorney’s Office came up with the 137 number by using an L.A. Weekly PDF as source material, which found that 142 pre-moratorium pot shops are open. A representative of the City Attorney’s Office said one possible reason for the slight difference between the two counts is that even though weed stores have the original name and location as when they first registered with the city, the pot shops changed owners and the City Attorney’s Office did not include them among the 142.)

Huizar told the Weekly he thought the compromise was the only way to get the needed votes to make some kind of cap a reality.

City Council members such as Richard Alarcon reasoned that a tough medical marijuana ordinance will shut down a number of those operating pot shops and therefore the city will eventually reach its cap of 70.

But that may prove to be only wishful policy making. In the end, the cold hard fact is this: The cap is not 70 … it’s 137.

Still in pursuit of passing a medical marijuana ordinance before the holidays, the City Council will continue deliberations this week.

– Article from LA Weekly.

Council Sets Medical Marijuana Dispensary Cap at 70

by Christina Villacorte, NBC News

The City Council is poised Wednesday to approve an ordinance that would cap the number of medical marijuana dispensaries in Los Angeles at 70, but would allow almost double that number to stay open — at least temporarily — provided they adhere to the new restrictions.

The City Council granted a reprieve to 137 dispensaries that opened before a moratorium was declared in late 2007. If any of those dispensaries closes down or goes out of business, it will not be replaced until the overall number is reduced to 70.

Dispensaries that opened after the moratorium by taking advantage of a legal loophole will be shut down immediately. Officials estimate that between 800 and 1,000 dispensaries are operating in the city, most of them illegally selling marijuana for recreational use.

Councilman Jose Huizar proposed the cap, saying, “We’ve got to do whatever we can to ensure we’re providing the most restrictive ordinance that we can eventually loosen up when we have to, (to increase) access.

“If we allow for permissiveness in this ordinance, people will take advantage of this and then we would not only see our communities being disrupted again, but also we could possibly see us encouraging the black market to get involved in this,” Huizar said.

The plan calls for spreading the 70 dispensaries among the city’s 35 so-called planning areas, according to population.

Huizar said each dispensary should serve about 57,000 residents — striking a middle ground between Oakland, which has one dispensary for every 105,000 residents, and San Francisco, which has one dispensary for every 35,000 residents.

A chart prepared by city planners showed that the Wilshire District would have the most dispensaries — as many as six. South Central Los Angeles and northeast and southeast Los Angeles would each have five dispensaries while Hollywood would have four.

West Adams-Baldwin Hills-Leimert Park; North Hollywood-Valley Village; Van Nuys-North Sherman Oaks; Mission Hills-North Hills-Panorama City; and Canoga Park-West Hills-Winnetka-Woodland Hills would each have three dispensaries.

Boyle Heights; Westlake; Arleta-Pacoima; Sun Valley-La Tuna Canyon; Chatsworth-Porter Ranch; Reseda-West Van Nuys; and Palms-Mar Vista-Del Rey, would have two dispensaries each.

Silver Lake-Echo Park; Central City; Central City North; Sherman Oaks- Studio City-Toluca Lake-Cahuenga Pass; Sylmar; Granada Hills-Knollwood; Northridge; Encino-Tarzana; Sunland-Tujunga-Lakeview Terrace-Shadow Hills-East La Tuna Canyon; Westwood; West Los Angeles; Venice, Westchester-Playa del Rey; Brentwood-Pacific Palisades; Wilmington-Harbor City; San Pedro and Harbor Gateway would each have a single dispensary.

Bel Air and the Port of Los Angeles would have none.

Also under the ordinance, each dispensary must be located 1,000 feet away from any residential property, school, public park, religious institution, licensed child care facility, youth center, hospital or rehab facility and other collectives.

– Article from NBC Los Angeles.



  1. Anonymous on

    what Senator Ron Paul said today is right, he said it is up to the Senators to stop the new health care bill, stop the attack on our Doctors they save our lives, hello!
    why should Doctors not be involved in generating this new health care bill? I think Doctors should have their opinion be heard in this new plan they have to change the medical system WTF, last time I got hurt a Doctor took care of me not a Politician.

  2. Anonymous on

    Here in California and the rest of the country the government wants to make it as difficult to get medical cannabis like in Canada, the new health care program they want to pass will create a new group of politicians who will then decide what is best for patients in stead of their own doctors.
    our government is attacking doctors and taking away their right to prescribe medicine, most politicians have absolutely no medical training what gives them the wisdom and knowledge to decide what medication people should have the right to take? politicians only know politics, they want to make it like in Canada here, thank god we can still vote.
    but our president is making a bunch of new laws based on emergency dictatorial powers, it is sad that the constitution and the bill of rights have been overstepped.

  3. Anonymous on

    I’ve read that there are about 500,000 med pot users in California, which has a population about the same as Canada. So why are there only about 400 med pot users in Canada? How is it that 1000 times as many Californians are so ill that they require Cannabis? Obviously the vast majority got their exemption for something like hangnails. You can get a Cannabis exemption for just about anything in California. Only about 1 in a thousand Californian med users actually have a serious disease. The LA pot dispensaries really are just pot convenience stores under the guise of a medical service. There are no med pot dispensaries in Canada for the simple reason that there aren’t enough customers to support them. That’s because you actually have to have a serious illness in Canada to get med pot unlike in the US where all you have to be is a Californian with $75 to pay a doctor who cranks out exemptions for anything, and there’s plenty of them. What they should really do is simply tighten up the medical requirements to get the exemption in the first place, then they wouldn’t need 500 shops to supply them.

  4. Anonymous on

    Thats why…by the end of 2010, the UNION as issused this. As of 2010 if possiable to leave L.A. county, We will be selling or walking away from houses we will NOT be buying food weed gas, or clothes, or cars or houses? In Short the weed movement is LEAVING L.A.County and taking all oue real money with us? The new place ORANGE COUNTY!!,By 2011 ALL OF L.A. County will be Broke, and Broken. When there is no fire ploice, or anything and people die because of no services? Guess who the people will hang from the nearest tree then? The city council as KILLED THIS CITY!! The notice goes out today, LEAVE L.A. County and NEVER BUY ANYTHING FROM THERE AGAIN!! If the company that you ordered somthing from is in L.A. County cancell the order! If there broke they are powerless! and the people will do our dirty work for us!You fuck with us, now its OUR TURN?? Oh how many cops are willing to die for you and there pay check?/ WE are fighting for meds that keep us ALIVE!! you take it, to some it is the same as if you walk up to them and pulled the trigger yourself!! That what will happen to some because of there fuck up ways!! There reg doctors CANT CURE SHIT!! But there allowed to still have no ruling were and how they can push pills that even taking right, can, and still KILLS!! YOU!?! I dont see them putting distance limits on liquor stores or DRUG STORE as the same. This double standsrd as done only one thing doomed the counicl from living out a normal live, and this state next year is LEAVING THE UNION!! and forming the CALIFORNIA REPUBLIC!! AGAIN!! but here the sad new if ever a rep. you have to leave!! none of the party of bush shall be allowed to stay and fill anyone heads with there bullshit no more!Likw we said this is OUR FIGHT!, and FIGHT WE WILL somethign you cowards up there WILLNEVER DO!! hear that? that the sound of your ROYAL CAGE BEING READY FOR YOU ALL? enjoy cowards, you get what you fight for, subjects!! what a joke? well, at least you clowns were not in NAM then we whould really lost battles then.Stick to knitting.

  5. Anonymous on

    The councilman jose huizar wants a list of all patients age, gender, city of residence, medical condition, recommending physicians name, for every single patient, they are trying to attack our doctors, and single out the patients.
    also they dont want any dispensaries any closer than 1,000 ft from schools, homes, businesses, parks which basically narrows it down to the mojave desert in the middle of nowhere or the ocean, they want to ban the dispensaries by zoning it out of los angeles.
    Already cannabis dispensaries are generating huge amounts of revenue that was not there before, and helping the economy of the state, while the politicians are helping the economy by spending more and more, they still continue to attack the money that dispensaries want to contribute. WTF!
    you have got to have a realistic ratio between a dispensary and patients you cant have a dispensary helping one hundred thousand patients that is crazy it’s simple math.