City officials and Marijuana advocates estimate that in the city of Los Angeles, there are as many as 1000 medicinal marijuana dispensaries (many located in neighborhoods and operating in a way which may be in violation of the nonprofit restrictions placed upon the dispensaries under California state law).
Tuesday December 8th, the LA city council- in a preliminary vote- indicated it's desire to cap the number of marijuana dispensaries to 70- roughly two per district. The cap number of 70 was come up by Councilman Jose Huizar, a civil servant claiming that his district is being overrun by these businesses, much to the chagrin of his constituents:
"People have been taking advantage of us for too long, and we want to strike a balance between providing access to those who truly need medical marijuana and neighborhood concerns."
Huizar wants there to be no more than two dispensaries per community planning area, a number he feels is more representative of the community demand as well as an amount that could be more easily regulated by the cash strapped city and state officials.
"I thought we need to start as restrictive as possible, get control of this out-of-control situation, and then we can start loosening up if we realize there's a greater demand or adjustments we have to make to provide people with access."
Many pro-marijuana advocates are viewing this as a subversive way of clamping down on the proliferation of the medically allowed drug and would prefer patient demand dictate the number of places where one could legally "score a lid". Advocates also site that with patient's registering with the state being a voluntary act (as it should be), it would be impossible for an elected official to use population numbers as a basis for limiting the number of dispensaries in a given area.
"It's the prerogative of local government if they want to establish regulations that limit the number of facilities in a city or county. We would prefer that the market, the patient demand, dictate the number of facilities that would exist, or that the quality of the operation did," says Kris Hermes, spokesman for Americans for Safe Access, an advocacy group for prescription pot.
"Now is the time to better evaluate what those caps mean. It may mean that demand is concentrated in a few spots in the city, and that can create its own set of problems and unintended consequences - perhaps lines out the door or lack of competition creating more of a monoculture. It's important to keep that competition going so that we can supply affordable medicine to patients and give incentives to operators to do their very best in terms of providing services to patients."
For now, there is no solution to the problem. Political lines are being drawn and- as any observer of any politicized issue has observed- once political lines are drawn on any issue, nothing productive will come out of it.
Hopefully 2010 will bring a truly decisive end to this matter as there are a few bills in the California state legislature regarding the decriminalization, taxation, and regulation of marijuana set to be debated and voted on in the early part of the year.