THE LOS ANGELES CITY COUNCIL has repealed its ban on
medical marijuana dispensaries after opponents of the law submitted enough signatures to qualify a referendum on the ballot.

The Los Angeles City Council voted to rescind its ban on medical marijuana dispensaries Oct. 2, following an impassioned testimony from Councilman Bill Rosendahl about the benefits he has seen using the drug.
The council’s 11-2 vote, with Councilmen Joe Buscaino and Jose Huizar opposing, came after opponents to the ban had gathered the required number of signatures to force a referendum on the issue on the ballot.
The council was left with the options of repealing the ban or submitting the ordinance to a vote, either through a special stand-alone election or in the municipal primary in March. City staff estimated that the special election could cost up to $4 million, and some council members said the dispensary ban was likely to be overturned if put to the voters.
The ordinance approved by the council in July ordered the closure of hundreds of medical marijuana dispensaries operating throughout the city but allowed qualified patients and their primary caregivers in groups of three or less to grow the plant for medicinal purposes. Opponents to what some called a “gentle ban” have argued that many patients would have difficulty trying to grow the plant themselves and others lack access to licensed caregivers.
Medical pot advocates who urged the city to reconsider its decision applauded the council’s vote to rescind the ordinance.
“With the ban now repealed, we look forward to working together closely with the council to develop and pass an ordinance that regulates and restricts dispensaries while preserving safe access for patients, and good union jobs for dispensary employees,” said Rick Icaza, president of United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 770. “We are more confident than ever that we can achieve that goal.”
Rosendahl, who has been battling cancer of the ureter, the tube connecting the kidney to the bladder, spoke in a weakened voice as he supported the need for the city to provide access to medical marijuana. The councilman, who has a prescription for the drug, explained to his colleagues how he occasionally used to take it at night to alleviate neuropathy, a pain in his feet, and it has recently helped him while seeking treatment for cancer.
“Where does anyone go, even a councilman go to get his medical marijuana?” Rosendahl asked when pushing for the repeal. “If I can’t get marijuana, and this is medically prescribed, what do I do and what do all the people who have health issues and have been relying on it do?”
Rosendahl said he was gratified to see the council turn against the ban and believes that hearing from one of their own colleagues about the importance of medical pot access had an impact on their decision.
“They heard my message and heard it loud and clear,” said Rosendahl who represents Westside communities such as Venice. “That was extraordinary for me.”
Councilman Paul Koretz, who said he has known people personally that have received a great deal of help using medical marijuana, noted that other council members may not know of such people and he believes Rosendahl’s testimony changed that.
“I think most council members don’t know someone or at least a multitude of people who have had a need to use medical marijuana and now they all have someone who they know well and is close to them,” Koretz said of Rosendahl’s speech. “It certainly personalized the issue.”
With the repeal of the ordinance, the city is currently left without any regulations on the hundreds of dispensary businesses that continue operating. Councilman Mitchell Englander has introduced a motion to enforce existing city laws that he believes would effectively shut down all illegal retail marijuana businesses.
“The city must enforce our existing laws in order to address the crime and the other negative impacts on our neighborhoods of the illegal retail marijuana businesses,” said Englander.
Koretz said he is proposing an alternative plan that would call for shutting down the much newer dispensary operations, where much of the nuisance issue is reported, and allowing the ones that have been in compliance with city land use regulations to stay open. The proposal would provide adequate but not ideal access to the drug and help address the overabundance problem, he said.
Rosendahl has also supported a plan to allow dispensaries that opened prior to a 2007 moratorium and have been in compliance with laws to remain in operation.