Los Angeles has sued nine medical marijuana dispensaries to force them to close immediately and permanently, even as more boldly open throughout the city, often in prominent locations.
With hundreds of dispensaries in L.A., City Atty. Carmen Trutanich decided to target those within 600 feet of a school, a violation of state law. The city is seeking civil penalties of up to $5,000 a day if the dispensaries defy the lawsuits and remain open.
“These are the ones that have been brought to our attention. There could be others that are within 600 feet of schools,” said Asha Greenberg, the assistant city attorney who leads the effort to shut down illegal dispensaries. “If we do see more of them cropping up this close to schools, or we become aware of them, then we certainly are going to take action against them.”
The lawsuits, which were filed Nov. 15, may be followed by more next week. The city has already sued about 40 dispensaries and about a quarter have closed, Greenberg said.
It is unclear how many dispensaries Los Angeles has, but 372 marijuana businesses filed by the Oct. 31 deadline to begin paying the city’s 5% business tax on gross receipts. City officials estimate that there were once as many as 850, but they believe the number has since dropped.
Recently, however, more have started to open, irritating neighborhood councils. The East Hollywood Neighborhood Council voted unanimously to support a ban. In January, a ban may be debated by the City Council. Some council members are concerned by the costly legal battle to shut shops down and a court decision that raised doubts about whether cities can regulate medical marijuana sales.
“We do get complaints literally every day, so we’re trying to catch up,” said Greenberg, who acknowledged that the ongoing legal battles are expensive and time-consuming. “It’s very resource intensive, and these cases are very heavily litigated.”
In the lawsuits, the city argues that the dispensaries violate a state law that prohibits them within 600 feet of a school. Montana Caregivers on Victory Boulevard in Valley Glen, for example, is in a corner strip mall next to Laurence School, a private elementary campus with 315 students.
The city’s ordinance excludes dispensaries within 1,000 feet of a school, but Greenberg said the city did not sue based on that requirement because the ordinance has been the target of extensive litigation.
The city also sued Absolute Herbal Pain Solutions and La Brea Collective in Mid-Wilshire, Greencare Givers and Organic Heaven Cooperative in Hollywood, Colorado Quality Pain Relief and Organic Healing Center in Eagle Rock, My Green Garden in Sherman Oaks and Kind Meds Collective Care in Encino.