L.A. Judge Clears Way For Pot Dispensary Crackdown

A Los Angeles Superior Court judge on Friday morning turned down a bid by medical marijuana patients and advocates to block the city’s new ordinance which regulates dispensaries from taking effect on Monday.

Twelve patients had sued the city, asking the judge to issue a temporary restraining order preventing Los Angeles from enforcing the ordinance, which is expected to result in the closure of more than 400 marijuana dispensaries, reports Victoria Kim at the Los Angeles Times.

The judge denied a flurry of 19 last-minute requests for restraining orders filed in the past 10 days, reports Troy Anderson at the Los Angeles Daily News.  Jane Usher, special assistant to City Attorney Carmen Trutanich, said the city can now begin enforcing the ordinance.

“I think this is great news for the residents of the city,” Usher said. “We can begin to process some of the applicants for the more permanent and regulated operations and the rest of today’s dispensaries, which are essentially selling marijuana to all comers, will be asked to close.”

“In about six months, we’ll sort out how many true collectives we have in the city, whether that meets the needs of the patients and we’ll reevaluate at that time whether it’s necessary to place further restrictions or to open the doors more,” Usher said.

According to the patients, the law would unconstitutionally bar patients’ safe access to their medicine, which was legalized by California voters 14 years ago, in 1996.

Judge James Chalfant said that since more than 100 dispensaries will be allowed to remain open in Los Angeles, patients will continue to have access, giving him no reason to issue an emergency restraining order stopping the city from instituting the crackdown.

“If the city can ban all dispensaries, which it can, this is not an issue,” Judge Chalfant said.

Chalfant’s decision clears the way for the city to begin its crackdown next week.

The dispensaries question the City Council’s decision to shut down all shops except those which registered with the City Clerk by November 13, 2007, which allows 187 shops to legally operate despite a moratorium on new stores.

According to city officials, 137 pre-moratorium dispensaries are still open. Those shops will have six months to come into compliance with the ordinance, which bans dispensaries from locating near numerous “sensitive use” areas including schools, churches, parks, and residences.

Last month, the City Attorney’s Office sent warning letters to 439 dispensary operators and property owners, warning that violations of the ordinance are misdemeanors which could result in criminal charges and penalties of up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Los Angeles attorney Eric Shevin said he expects most of the dispensaries to close over the coming month, with many of the AIDS, cancer and other patients who rely on them for their supply of medical marijuana will experience “real hardship and real suffering.”

“When you start taking medicine away from patients, those patients are going to rise up and I don’t think the court, the police or the city attorney can anticipate what an uprising they are going to see,” Shevin said.

“They are denying access to potentially 100,000 medical marijuana users from the city of Los Angeles.”

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