Judge issues injunction against L.A.'s medical marijuana law

Judge issues injunction against L.A.'s medical marijuana law

A judge handed Los Angeles a setback in its faltering drive to limit the number of medical marijuana dispensaries, granting a preliminary injunction on Friday that bars the city from enforcing key provisions in its controversial six-month-old ordinance.

The decision, issued by Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Anthony J. Mohr, leaves the city with limited power to control pot stores, which opened by the hundreds, angering neighborhood activists when city officials failed to enforce a 2007 moratorium.

Near the end of his 40-page ruling, Mohr acknowledged "there is a good chance that a large number of collectives could open once this injunction takes effect," but said his order was warranted because the dispensaries that sued the city are highly likely to prevail in a trial.

The City Council first discussed regulating dispensaries 5 1/2 years ago. At the time, the Los Angeles Police Department could find just four of them. It was five years before the city's ordinance, one of the most complex and convoluted in the state, took effect.

More than 100 dispensaries have filed at least 42 lawsuits challenging the ordinance. "We're singing 'Happy Days Are Here Again,'" said Stewart Richlin, an attorney who represents nine dispensaries, while David Welch, an attorney who represents more than five dozen, described his clients as "ecstatic." He said Mohr's decision would curtail city enforcement efforts. "It means they can't use strong-arm tactics, such as arresting my clients," Welch said.

But Jane Usher, a special assistant city attorney, said, "I suspect that their exuberance will be short-lived." She noted that Mohr, in ruling against some provisions, also suggested ways to fix the ordinance. "He left 90% of it intact and gave us methods for quickly correcting the remaining provisions. I think we'll be gracious and accept," she said.

Councilman Ed Reyes, who led the City Council's drive to draft the ordinance, said he hoped to have a proposal to address the judge's ruling by Monday. "My sense of urgency is that great," he said. "I've already learned from the past that, if you open up the window a little, people just crash through. We have to close that window as quick as possible."

December 11, 2010|By John Hoeffel, Los Angeles Times