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Details hazy on marijuana dispensaries

A bud tender at a non-profit co-operative medical marijuana dispensary displays various types of marijuana available to patients in Los Angeles, Calif.

TEXT OF STORY

Kai Ryssdal: According to the Associated Press, 14 states now permit some kind of access to medical marijuana. Five of them -- that'd be California, Colorado, Maine, New Mexico and Rhode Island -- allow retail dispensaries. But even those places are still wrestling with the specifics of what amounts to marketing marijuana.

The Los Angeles City Council took up the issue today, amid growing political pressure to shut down most of its thriving pot business. Marketplace's Bob Moon reports, when voters approve the idea of medical marijuana, they often leave the details kind of fuzzy.


BOB MOON: With marijuana dispensaries sprouting up across L.A. like you-know-what, could one be coming soon to a neighborhood near you?

KRIS HERMES: I think we've developed a fairly effective model in California.

Kris Hermes speaks for the advocacy group Americans for Safe Access.

HERMES: We have been helping patients and advocates work with their local governments over the last few years to adopt sensible regulations for these facilities.

It's been 13 years since California voters became the first to legalize medical marijuana. But what's legal and what's not remains in doubt, and largely unregulated.

In San Diego, Will Johnson told our affiliate KPBS that his Kind Gardeners Collective grows its plants -- wherever.

WILL JOHNSON: We have somebody's patio. Somebody's spare bedroom. We have an area in a commercial office. This next month we'll have the basement of a residential home.

Some city officials here contend many of L.A.'s roughly 1,000 outlets are just illegal drug dens reaping big profits. San Francisco has tighter rules and only about 30 such outlets.

Patient advocate Kris Hermes says that's because L.A.'s a much bigger city. And he insists most have a legitimate reason to be open.

HERMES: These facilities are indeed providing medical marijuana to qualified patients and their primary caregivers. That is not in question.

But KPCC reporter Frank Stoltze found out the definition of qualified is itself an open question. He spoke to Antonio Gracia, a 19-year-old patient with a prescription outside one L.A. dispensary.

ANTONIO GRACIA: My prescription is for stress.

FRANK STOLTZE: What's stressing you out?

GRACIA: Probably 'cause I've been smoking medical marijuana all my life. So when I don't use it, I stress.

In Los Angeles, I'm Bob Moon for Marketplace.

About the author

Bob Moon is Marketplace’s senior business correspondent, based in Los Angeles.

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