Los Angeles approves long-awaited medical marijuana ordinance... But is it right for patients?

Jan 26, 2010 California, Los Angeles


After more than two years of deliberation -- and just plain foot-dragging -- on the issue, the Los Angeles City Council voted 9-3 today to enact an ordinance regulating the operation of medical marijuana facilities in the city. It's certainly a significant milestone that the second largest city in the nation (eighth in the world) has a law on the books allowing marijuana to be sold through locally regulated storefronts. However, upon digging into the details of the ordinance, it doesn't seem to be a great boon for the seriously ill and injured Angelenos who rely on medical marijuana.

The ordinance will restrict the number of medical marijuana facilities in the city to 70, but it does grandfather in about 150 collectives which were registered with the city prior to a moratorium which went into effect in 2007. The law will also require all marijuana products to be tested for contaminants and pesticides by an "independent and certified laboratory." Testing of this nature is a great idea and indeed some in California's medical marijuana community are working on developing such practices and standards, but finding a lab equipped for this type of testing overnight will be no small chore.

What's probably the most troublesome detail is that the new ordinance institutes 1,000-foot zones around "sensitive uses" where medical marijuana collectives cannot operate legally. These include schools, public parks, libraries, and even churches. This huge 1,000-foot radius and another requirement that facilities may not be located adjacent to residential zones -- which is not required of alcohol vendors -- will force nearly all to move.

Meanwhile, patients looking for a safe and open place to acquire their medicine in Los Angeles may just be finding life that much more difficult.