Information about candidates and issues in the May 21 Southern California elections

Hundreds of LA Pot Shops to Close Under New Law

Proposition D caps the number of pot clinics in the city at 135, far below the roughly 1,000 that operated several years ago.

By Beverly White and Jason Kandel
|  Thursday, May 23, 2013  |  Updated 10:59 AM PDT
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Voters this week did what LA leaders could not do for years: they decided on the future of the city's medical marijuana dispensaries, and opted to limit the number of shops to 135. One dispensary owner believes lax policies enabled the explosion in the first place. Beverly White reports for the NBC4 News at 11 p.m. on May 22, 2013.

Voters this week did what LA leaders could not do for years: they decided on the future of the city's medical marijuana dispensaries, and opted to limit the number of shops to 135. One dispensary owner believes lax policies enabled the explosion in the first place. Beverly White reports for the NBC4 News at 11 p.m. on May 22, 2013.

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All kinds of medical marijuana dispensaries dot the Los Angeles landscape.

Since voters approved Proposition D with around 63 percent of the votes in Tuesday's election, officials say hundreds of pot shops will have to close.

It’ll take a month for the new law to kick in and another month for closure notifications to go out.

"At that point we'll need our partner the LAPD to be at our side,” said Jane Usher, a special assistant deputy city attorney in Los Angeles.

Calvin Frye, who owns Compassionate Caregivers Of Studio City, said he plans to stay open. He feels lax policies enabled the explosion in pot dispensaries.

"They were lucky to be open this many years,” he said. “Now we gotta get some rules and regulations and hopefully some of them will be able to come back in."

Attorney David Welch said he anticipates lawsuits on behalf of his more than 80 client dispensaries.

"I'm suggesting they close when the law becomes law,” he said. “When the vote is certified by the City Council, I suggest they close unless there's something in place that allows them to stay open."

A list of the 135 dispensaries that the city believes will be able to continue to operate under the new law will be published as early as next week, Usher said.

Proposition D caps the number of pot clinics in the city at 135, far below the roughly 1,000 that operated several years ago. It also increases taxes on the dispensaries and sets rules about their hours and distances from schools and parks.

The measure was backed by both mayoral candidates.

Medical marijuana has been legal in California since voters approved it in 1996. However, regulation of so-called pot shops has been haphazard in many communities, none more so than LA. The number of dispensaries in the city surged since 2007, prompting a series of unsuccessful efforts by city lawmakers to bring order to the industry.

Those failures led to the three propositions that qualified for Tuesday's ballot.

Proposition D's major rival, Proposition F, contained no limit on the number of marijuana clinics, but it would have imposed stringent controls such as audits and background checks on employees. It was defeated by a "no" vote of around 59 percent.

Proposition E, which also contained a cap on dispensaries, received a "no" vote of more than 65 percent. Its defeat was expected after its backers threw their support to Proposition D.

California law is at odds with federal statutes, which outlaw marijuana possession and sales, even for medical purposes. Raids on dispensaries have continued under the Obama administration, disappointing medical marijuana supporters.

In LA, the outcry for oversight of pot shops intensified as the number of dispensaries grew. Residents complained that some shops were nothing more than fronts for drug dealers.

Three years ago, an ordinance was passed that slashed the number of shops from roughly 1,000 to 70. But the city was bombarded with dozens of lawsuits by dispensaries and the law expired last year, leading to another surge of pot shops.

Last summer, the city approved a ban but two months later repealed it after enough signatures were gathered to get the measures on the ballot.

Earlier this month, communities were given better guidance on the issue when the state Supreme Court ruled cities and counties can ban dispensaries.

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