LA LAW: A Lottery of BS by Bob Selan, ESQ
Following years of non-action the Los Angeles City Council finally got around to regulating medical marijuana dispensaries in the city last year. The infamous, but for the most part now defunct, Los Angeles Medical Marijuana Ordinance, passed last year, came under legal scrutiny after dozens of lawsuits were filed by dispensary owners challenging its constitutionality.
Apparently, it seems the City Attorney who drafted the ordinance took a sick day from law school when they were learning about Due Process. As a result, a judge struck down key portions of the ordinance, painting the city council as inept, and enjoining the city from enforcing many parts of it.
However, this time the City Council, clueless as to what to do next after asking the same judge for his guidance, passed a half-witted temporary medical cannabis ordinance that caused an uproar amongst collective managers and patients alike. In the latest attempt to regulate dispensaries, the City Council, in its wisdom, has incorporated a lottery s the defining method of who, or rather which, collectives in the city may continue to operate and which must close their doors forever.
Didn’t the city already lose on Due Process grounds the first go around? In the latest ordinance, although be it a temporary one, the first 100 lucky collectives that win the lottery get to stay open. Everyone else must immediately close! That’s right,, win the lottery and open a pot shop. Go figure.
There appears to be a complete disconnect between the basic principles of Due Process and basing the entire medical cannabis industry in LA on a game of chance. There is no rhyme or reason as to why a lottery has been chosen to accomplish the regulation of medical marijuana or why 100 has been selected as the maximum number of collectives that will be permitted to survive. Nor is there any rational basis for using a ping-pong ball to determine which collectives will be permitted to continue to operate. While new applications were required to enter the lottery, nothing contained in the applications is being used by the city to determine who is best qualified to stay open, or, on the flip side, who is not qualified.
So this again puts medical marijuana in Los Angeles in a state of flux leaving already flustered patients frustrated and uncertain when and where they will be able to secure their medical cannabis needs in the future.
In the meantime, between the time the first ordinance was thrown out and the new temporary ordinance came into play, numerous brand new collectives have found spots to open throughout the city. If there was a problem with how many shops existed before the ordinance was struck down, Katie bar the door, because there are a lot of new contenders that the city will need to confront once the lottery has been completed.
The city on the other hand has filed an appeal to the injunction that was issued against the original ordinance, asking that the status quo be restored and to be able to enforce it as passed back in June of 2010.
At least one group (and there are sure to be more) has filed another wave of lawsuits against the city, again challenging it on constitutional grounds.
These are very confusing times for marijuana patients here in the Southland. It is probably safe to say that the city of LA, with its current city council constituency, will fail to get medical marijuana right. It is going to be up to the voters to promulgate and pass laws at the state level to once and for all fix the medical cannabis laws. While reasonable zoning regulations may be appropriate for where collectives can be located, local laws that take away peoples constitutional rights will never be. The city has not (as of the date we went to print) announced the date or details of the lottery.