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LA Sued Over Medical Marijuana Dispensary Ban

By Andrew Chow, Esq. on August 22, 2012 6:45 AM

LA's medical marijuana dispensary ban is set to take effect Sept. 6, but a lawsuit and a petition drive are aiming to stop the law in its tracks.

Los Angeles' city council in July passed an ordinance that prohibits medical marijuana businesses, LA's KNBC-TV reports. At the time, more than 760 pot clubs were registered to operate in the city.

In preparation for the new law, the city has sent letters to more than 1,000 locations believed to be pot clubs, warning them about potential fines and jail time if they don't shut down by the deadline.

But what the city is trying to do is unlawful, one lawsuit asserts.

In the LA medical marijuana lawsuit, a group called the Patient Care Association along with 11 prescription-pot patients are seeking an injunction -- a court order that compels one party to act, or not to act.

In this case, the patients want a judge to stop the new Los Angeles law from taking effect, according to a copy of the lawsuit obtained by KNBC. The lawsuit asserts, among other arguments, that:

  • California's medical marijuana law pre-empts the city's ban on dispensaries;

  • LA's law violates dispensary owners' constitutional right to due process; and

  • The new law violates patients' constitutional freedom to associate and assemble for purposes of cultivating medical pot.

In deciding whether to grant an injunction, a court must consider the burdens and benefits for both sides. Typically a court may first grant a temporary injunction to maintain the status quo before deciding on a permanent injunction.

In addition to activists' injunction request, a petition drive is underway to potentially get the law repealed, the Los Angeles Times reports. If organizers can get 27,400 valid signatures, the issue could be placed on the March 2013 ballot; until then, the ordinance would be temporarily suspended.

If neither of these efforts are successful, then the days of LA's medical marijuana dispensaries are likely numbered. Clubs that don't shut down by Sept. 6 could face fines of $2,500 a day, and their owners could face possible jail time, according to the law.

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