A Venice medical marijuana dispensary is among the plaintiffs who have filed a lawsuit against the City of Los Angeles claiming that its not-yet-effective medical marijuana ordinance will force the vast majority of collectives to shut down.
In the lawsuit filed in Los Angeles Superior Court March 2nd, the Venice Beach Care Center, the Purelife Alternative Wellness Center and Americans for Safe Access, the nation’s largest medical marijuana advocacy group, allege that the city’s law regulating dispensaries severely restricts access to medical marijuana. Venice Beach Care Center’s manager Brennan Thicke and Yamileth Bolanos, operator of Purelife Alternative Wellness Center, are also listed as plaintiffs.
The City Council approved the ordinance in January which establishes permanent regulations on the cultivation of marijuana for medical purposes and drastically reduces the number of dispensaries allowed to operate throughout the city.
The law limits collectives to at least 1,000 feet from schools, parks, religious institutions and other sensitive areas, as well as from other collectives. Dispensaries are also prohibited on lots adjacent to or across the street from residential areas under the new ordinance.
The number of city collectives allowed to operate will be capped at 70 under the law. However, the total that remain could be up to 140, as collectives that previously registered under the temporary moratorium and moved once due to federal enforcement would be able to register if they meet other requirements.
The plaintiffs, which include two dispensaries that opened prior to the moratorium, allege that the ordinance divests them of their right to operate, saying that they would be required to close despite making diligent efforts to find another location.
“The dispensary ordinance passed by the Los Angeles City Council might have been reasonable, if not for some onerous provisions,” Americans for Safe Access Chief Counsel Joe Elford said. “The requirement to find a new location within seven days is completely unreasonable and undermines the due process of otherwise legal medical marijuana dispensaries.”
The complaint additionally alleges that the city did not create maps of approved locations for collectives prior to passing the law, which has not allowed the plaintiffs to identify new locations where they could relocate within one week.
City attorney spokesman Frank Mateljan said the office believes that the lawsuit is premature considering that the ordinance has yet to take effect, but the city is prepared to defend the regulations.
“We are capable and ready to defend all legal challenges,” Mateljan said in response to the complaint.
City Councilman Bill Rosendahl, one of three council members to vote against the measure in January, said he predicted that the ordinance would face litigation. He called the approved law unclear and believes that the 1,000-foot limitation to sensitive areas is “too restrictive” and will dramatically impact the existing dispensaries.
While he has argued that dispensaries should be regulated and taxed, helping to generate much needed money for the city coffers, Rosendahl believes the law should have been more clear in regards to identifying locations where the collectives could operate without limiting access.
The lawsuit plaintiffs said they understand that the city is in the midst of a significant budget crisis and they hope to strike a fair balance between the concerns of elected officials and the needs of thousands of patients who rely on local collectives.
“We want to work with the city to comply with its regulations, but such unreasonable requirements make compliance impossible,” plaintiff Bolanos said. “We are more than willing to negotiate a compromise that would cut short costly litigation.”
City attorney spokeswoman Jane Usher has said the law does not interfere with a patient’s right to use the drug for medical purposes and the city continues to provide access at a favorable rate compared to other large cities and many municipalities.