By Gary Walker
More than 200 people gathered Tuesday in an attempt to keep a medical marijuana dispensary from opening in Mar Vista, but it remains unclear what — if anything — residents and city officials can do to stop it.
The proposed dispensary, 33 King, seeks to open later this year in a vacant commercial building at 3472 S. Centinela Ave.
Los Angeles City Councilman Mike Bonin answered public outcry that erupted during the special meeting of the Mar Vista Community Council with a pledge to fight.
“The message is pretty loud and clear: The city of Los Angeles, [my] council office and this community are opposed to this dispensary,” Bonin told the overflow crowd at the Mar Vista recreation center.
As for Justin Keirn, the businessman seeking city permits to open 33 King, “Mar Vista is coming after him,” Bonin said.
Keirn declined to comment for this story.
Deputy Los Angeles City Attorney Terri Kauffman Macias said the agency is investigating Keirn’s proposal — but apparently not under the authority of Proposition D, an initiative approved by L.A. voters earlier this year that put a cap on the number of dispensaries allowed to operate in the city.
Proposition D bans dispensaries other than the 135 that were already legally operating when the law was passed, but it does not allow officials to take action against dispensaries until they open, she said.
“I was rather surprised to learn that the proposition would allow someone to actually open [a pot clinic], and then I have to bring some staunch opposition” to try to have it closed,” said Michael Henderson, a Mar Vista homeowner who lives near the proposed dispensary site.
Despite the apparent catch in the law, “We’re going to have a muscular approach to medical marijuana and making sure that all medical marijuana businesses that are operating in the city are operating in accordance with the law, here in Mar Vista or anywhere else,” Kauffman Macias said.
Bonin and Mar Vista Community Council members said they believed 33 King would violate Proposition D restrictions on where pot clinics can be located.
“The city attorney’s office should not allow this business to open,” said Steve Wallace, a member of the Mar Vista Community Council’s Land Use and Planning Committee. “There are rules and regulations within Prop D which many Mar Vistans supported, but this does not conform.”
In an Oct. 8 letter to Keirn, Bonin wrote that he voted for Proposition D and continued to “support compassionate care and the legal use of marijuana for medicinal purposes” — but not at this particular spot.
“Although the property located at 3472 S. Centinela is zoned for commercial use, it is surrounded by single-family and multi-family residential zoning. Opening a dispensary there would clearly violate Proposition D and would be a slap in the face to residents who voted in good faith to support the ballot measure.”
Mar Vista resident John Marshall Jones agreed, saying increased traffic, a lack of sidewalks and customers under the influence of marijuana may combine to create a public safety hazard.
“I’m not against weed, but I am against stupid,” he said. “There’s not enough space in there for parking for a retail business. So those people who go to this place will be walking in the streets are on our properties.”
Saul Rubin, the lone Mar Vista resident to not speak out against the proposed dispensary during Tuesday’s meeting, said opponents are distorting safety risks much the same way the 1936 propaganda film “Refer Madness” linked pot use to violence.
“Linking medical marijuana to murders and high crimes? I understand that people are worried, but I just wanted to come tonight to have a reasonable discussion,” Rubin said.
Bonin said he would rather prevent 33 King from opening than see it open only to become a test case for challenging Proposition D.
But if the dispensary does open, “it’s going to be a legal battle royal,” Bonin said.