In an attempt to crack down on allegedly illegal medical marijuana dispensaries, the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office has sent letters to more than 200 operators and landlords, ordering them to close. If they refuse to do so, the City threatened to sue them, seek financial penalties and forcibly padlock the properties. The operators could also face drug charges.
The letters went out to 141 dispensaries on March 7 and to 60 more on March 23, although the City admits it is not entirely sure that all of the targeted businesses are operating illegally — or that they are marijuana dispensaries at all.
“These were locations that we were unclear about,” said Assistant City Attorney Asha Greenberg. Although the letters from City Attorney’s Office do not threaten immediate action to bring drug charges against medical marijuana dispensaries it deems illegal, selling marijuana without a license could be prosecuted as either a state or federal offense. Greenberg said that the City would work with the police to gather evidence that could be used on court proceedings.
City employees did check to determine that all of the businesses who received the latest round of letters were, in fact, open. Two dozen of the businesses have responded to the letter. Eleven said they have closed, as ordered, and six said they were in the process of closing. One of the businesses has denied that it is a medical marijuana dispensary at all.
City focusing on businesses not registered for the marijuana dispensary lottery
According to the Los Angeles Times, the City Attorney’s Office is focusing on closing down medical marijuana dispensaries that did not register to participate in a lottery that will select 100 businesses to legally dispense medical marijuana. As that lottery has not yet been scheduled, those who distribute medical marijuana within the city are currently in legal limbo.
The city received 228 applications for the lottery, and an LA Times analysis showed that none of those who applied has been ordered to close.
Greenberg told the Times that there is no way to know whether all of the allegedly illegal marijuana dispensaries have been identified. “I hear all the time that there are new ones opening and old ones reopening,” she said. “It will always be a moving a target.”
The City has not said whether any individuals involved with Los Angeles medical marijuana dispensaries will face drug charges.
- Los Angeles Times, “Dozens more L.A. medical marijuana dispensaries ordered immediately closed,” John Hoeffel, March 26, 2011
- Los Angeles Times, “Status of L.A. medical marijuana dispensaries,” John Hoeffel, March 23, 2011