Judge clears way for L.A. to begin marijuana dispensary crackdown


Medical marijuana patients and dozens of dispensaries lost an eleventh-hour bid Friday to stop a city ordinance from going into effect next week, but a judge indicated that both groups may have a legitimate basis for an injunction at a later date.

Medical marijuana: An article in Saturday’s LATExtra section about a court hearing on challenges to Los Angeles’ medical marijuana ordinance misspelled the last name of Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge James C. Chalfant as Chalfont. —

Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge James C. Chalfont cleared the way for the ordinance to take effect Monday by denying more than a dozen requests for a temporary restraining order to bar the city from enforcing the law, which would force more than 400 shops to shutter their doors.

Attorneys for patients using medical marijuana had filed a class-action lawsuit against the city last week, contending that the law would unconstitutionally bar patients’ access to their medicine.

The patients, who estimate that more than 100,000 Los Angeles residents are in their ranks, suffer from illnesses ranging from anxiety and menopause to lupus or AIDS, according to their lawsuit.

In court Friday, attorneys presented a map to the judge that they said showed most dispensaries will have to close if forced to comply with the ordinance, which prohibits them from being located within 1,000 feet of “sensitive use” areas, including schools, churches and parks.

Chalfont rejected that argument, saying because patients can grow their own marijuana and an estimated 137 shops will be allowed to remain open at least temporarily, there was no reason to issue an emergency order stopping the city from implementing the law.

“I believe access to medical marijuana … is supposed to be limited,” the judge said. “It is not supposed to be freely available on the street to anyone who wants it; that was the intention of the people.”

He said, however, that patients may have grounds to ask for an injunction based on their privacy rights — the city ordinance says police will be able to obtain patient lists and doctors’ recommendations without a warrant.

The judge also denied requests from lawyers representing dispensaries to stop the ordinance. The lawyers had contended that their clients’ rights as property owners and their due process rights would be violated when the city’s law takes effect.

Chalfont ordered attorneys to file additional papers on whether allowing certain dispensaries to remain open while closing others would be a violation of the equal protection clause of the California Constitution.

Hearings for the patients and the dispensaries were set for early July.