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Medical marijuana dispensaries could face closure

The Bulldog Cafe CollectiveWith hundreds of medical marijuana dispensaries in Los Angeles operating in violation of a moratorium, the City Council will start the process of shutting some down Tuesday by voting on exemption requests filed by 16 dispensaries.

Most, if not all, of the requests probably will be denied because the dispensaries did not register with the city by the moratorium’s deadline in 2007. A denial would allow the city to take legal steps to force them to close.

The city allowed 186 dispensaries to stay open under the moratorium. But since then, 533 dispensaries have asked for exemptions after most opened without waiting for permission. That triggered concerns from neighborhood activists.

The first set of dispensaries targeted by the council were selected because council members believe they are “creating a negative impact on the community,” Councilman Ed Reyes said.

Reyes, who heads the committee that oversees the moratorium, promised this week to start reviewing the exemption applications. The council has ruled on none, which has hampered enforcement. The city attorney’s office says it would be hard to make a case that a dispensary should be shut down if it had an exemption request pending before the council.

“I’m pushing as hard as I can because I am really bothered that we are in this predicament,” Reyes said.

Stewart Richlin, a lawyer who filed one of the exemption applications, said the dispensaries simply followed the advice of city officials who informed them that filing an application would allow them to remain open.

“The City Council dropped the ball,” he said, noting that it still has not adopted a medical marijuana ordinance.

Since Tuesday, when Reyes announced that he would work through the applications, 25 more dispensaries have filed for exemptions. The council also will vote Tuesday on whether to stop allowing hardship exemptions.

The council will consider these dispensaries: Atwater Alternative Care Collective, LA Collective, Friendly Collective, Global Meds Collective and Accurate Services Medical Dispensary in Atwater Village; House of Kush, Hemp Factory V and American Eagle Collective in Eagle Rock; the Vapor Room in downtown L.A.; Green Leaf Collective in El Sereno; Bulldog Cafe Collective in Hollywood; New Age Wellness in Venice; Aloha Spirit Organic Consumables in Reseda; West Coast Holistic Institute in Canoga Park; The Grasshopper 215 in Woodland Hills; and Hope Collective in Winnetka.

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