L.A. may close hundreds of medical marijuana dispensaries

A California dispenser displays marijuana.

by Eve Troeh

Shops along Venice beach hawk all kinds of funky things, from big sunglasses and dreamcatchers -- to marijuana.

"We basically have the best deals on the beach," says a young woman chatting up potential customers outside a store called Dr. Kush. Buff guys wave signs behind her that say "420 Evaluation" and "The Doctor Is In", implying that doctor will write you a prescription for pot.

California legalized marijuana for medical use 14 years ago. In the past few years, Los Angeles City Council member Ed Reyes says the number of stores that sell it exploded. "We had as many of these establishments as we had Starbucks."

Actually, more than that. The LA Weekly counted 545 medical marijuana stores last year. The city aims to weed out 80 percent of them with a new ordinance. Dispensaries that opened after a certain date will have to close by June 7.

California Alternative Caregivers sells medical marijuana from a tan stucco office building about a mile from Venice Beach. Owner Carl Clines says patients have to get buzzed into the building, show ID, then go through winding hallways.

"And it's kind of a maze in here," he says. "I had a couple of retired DEA agents help me select a facility."

In a back room, volunteers sell different strains of pot in sealed plastic bottles. "This is an eighth, and this is a gram," notes one volunteer. "All it is is just buds."

Clines says he was the first in the city to get "medical marijuana" printed on his business license. His shop will stay open. Under the new ordinance, though, he did have notify every residence within 1,000 feet about his business. "We sent out 941 letters. We gotta a whole lotta new patients came in and said, 'We didn't even know you were there!'"

The crackdown on medical marijuana has already prompted some businesses to close. Hundreds more pot store owners are seeing their investment go up in smoke. Those that make it through the hazy regulations will be busier than ever.

About the author

Eve Troeh is News Director at WWNO-FM in New Orleans, La., helping build the first public radio news department in the station’s 40-year history. She reported for the Marketplace Sustainability Desk from 2010 to 2013.
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At one point, there were more mmd's then starbucks and am-pm's combined.

these crackdowns have been going on for years, google it.

there will be less locations, which will be better for the merchants who are donig this right, and following the laws....for example, NOT opening across from a school, NOT selling to undercover cops who do not produse a prescription...but you sell it anyway...i mean, geez luise, are you for real? they make it LEGAL and you still go against the grain, so heck with the ones that cant play by the rules. in the mean time, back to deliverys and they will all be open again in 3 months across town.

we should not even be concerned with this shizz. we should all be at the ocean with a freaking sponge and a BP hat. club a baby seal while were at it. I just thought of a "true use"...for spongebob squarepants.

have a great saturday. go outside. f the popo

As a MM patient in Montana, I have seen the city struggle to make it as difficult as possible for patients to obtain their medicine. They went as far to close all offices where you could meet with your caregiver. Now one must meet in a parking lot. What is wrong with this? You are made out to feel as though what you are doing is wrong. The voters spoke. In 2004, no doubt. It is time to focus energy and attention on more important issues. I read in the local paper, putting the MM back on the ballot, in hopes that it will not pass once again.

There is no way that LA County has more medical marijuana dispensaries than Starbucks...I don't care what anyone says. Also notice the wording in that part...very deceptive.
Here's what I don't understand...isn't making an ordinance that says that any stores that weren't open before a certain date going to effectively destroy any and all chances for future business growth in this area? If you have to have been open before a certain date then that means the stores that exist now are the only stores that will ever exist. As a patient I think that's ludicrous and it doesn't seem to be in keeping with the free spirit that this country was founded upon. Sounds like more typical bullsh*t from local LA politicians to me....(nothing new there for LA residents)...and all the while what rages out of control across California?


I agree with Erin Kennedy. The "crackdown on medical marijuana" "up in smoke" puns are distracting the reader from the seriousness of the issue. Can we focus on the story please?

The author states that California legalized medical marijuana 14 years ago. How much longer will we have to wait before the news media can do a report on the issue without silly puns like "up in smoke" or "hazy regulations" ?

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