The Los Angeles City Council has a medical cannabis mess on its hands and continues to make things worse. Widespread inaction, bad press, and hasty moves surrounding the Golden State’s number one cash crop have council members flustered and community members, on both sides of the issue, outraged.
One of the biggest controversies surrounds the 800+ hardship applications and the Council’s blanket denial of the first 48. In September 2007, the City Council enacted a two-year moratorium, or temporary ban, on new medical cannabis storefront locations. No new locations were supposed to open while the city worked towards drafting medical cannabis regulations.
Two things happened. The city dragged its feet on regulations, despite having medical cannabis activists helping draft regulations similar to Los Angeles County’s, which were denied by the council. And 800+ locations opened or moved under a hardship loophole in the Interim Control Ordinance, which the Council enacted until permanent could be adopted.
Technically, the city never authorized any of hardship applicants to open for business and they have done so illegally. Some of the hardship applications come from locations that opened and operated before the moratorium but that had to move because their landlords received property-forfeiture letters from the Drug Enforcement Administration threatening to seize all of the landlord’s property if they did not evict the medical cannabis tenants.
Other locations filled hardship applications and opened, stating they did not open prior to the moratorium because of federal intimidation and interference in California’s medical cannabis laws. Many applicants claim Bush’s war on medical cannabis caused them so much fear and Obama’s campaign promises to end federal resources to circumvent state law caused so much hope they opened after the temporary ban was enacted.
Based on the City’s track record from the last few weeks, it looks as if they plan to deny all hardship applications, even the applications from storefronts that were forced to move as a result of the DEA-landlord letters. By doing so the city is creating more hardship for more than just storefront owners.
The City will cause hardships for medical cannabis patients. With fewer locations, prices will go up, patients will have to travel farther, and neighborhoods surrounding remaining locations will be congested with more patients. With so many current medical cannabis locations, many patients can walk to a nearby storefront which is not only good for them but it is good for the environment too.
These storefronts employ workers. These workers will be out of work in the toughest economic period since the Great Depression and may become more of a burden to the overburdened city, state, and nation. There will be more unemployed workers to add to the record number of unemployed.
Some of these medical cannabis storefronts hire private security services. If the City denies all the hardship locations, there will be even more unemployed people in one of the largest cities in the world. These security guards, like medical cannabis employees, have families and financial obligations that will experience severe economic hardships.
If the city shuts down these locations the landlords will be without tenants in this downward market. Without tenants, these locations may remain vacant and may drive down the value of the overall property and surrounding area.
Most of these locations also advertise. If forced to close, the advertising revues that these locations generate will be lost by publications and online sites that rely on these ad sales. Places that accept these advertisements will suffer as well.
As if those hardships are not enough, the Los Angeles and California will be losing sales tax, income tax, and other indirect city revenue from these locations. Each transaction at these medical cannabis locations generates sales tax. That money gets distributed through the city and state. Employees pay income taxes, which also benefit Los Angeles and California as a whole.
LA’s City Council should find a way to minimize the hardship for local patients, employees, landlords, security companies, advertisement companies, and the city in general.